Installing Cork Tile

This story covers how to install cork tile on concrete.


Because cork tile is so porous, it requires a longer acclimation period (three to four days) than many manufactured materials. That means if you normally run the air-conditioner in the summer and you're setting the tile in July, you should turn the air-conditioner on during the acclimation period. The same goes for the furnace in cooler seasons.

Like vinyl tile, the resilience of cork tile dramatically reveals subfloor defects. Some manufacturers require priming the subfloor (no matter what kind it is) before applying one part of a two-part adhesive (the second part is already on the cork tile). Other brands don't require a primer.

One thing is consistent throughout the industry: The mastic used is a reciprocal adhesive. That means it's a contact cement and sticks only to itself. Although it allows you some minor movement to line up the tiles, once you apply pressure with your hand, a roller, or a mallet, you will not be able to move the tile. If you've misaligned a tile, you will have to cut it out and replace it.

Mix up the tiles from several boxes before you lay them to spread any variations randomly across the floor.


20 minutes per square yard, not including subfloor preparation

Fans, utility knife, tape measure, metal straightedge, chalk line, roller, pan, putty knife, mallet, beater block

Measuring, laying, cutting tile

Repair and level subfloor.

Primer (required by some manufacturers), adhesive, cork tile, cork tile finish

Step 1

Locate the center of the room or its largest rectangular surface by snapping chalk lines at the midpoints of opposite walls. Don't worry that the adhesive will obscure the lines; it will dry clear. Adjust the lines so the layout has edge tiles of even width.

Step 2

Using a brush so you don't splash adhesive on the wall, start applying adhesive along the walls of one quadrant only. Then work from this line back toward the center of the room, applying the adhesive with a paint roller. Let the adhesive become tacky (45 minutes to an hour).

Step 3

Set the first tile with its edges lined up with the intersecting layout lines. Hold the second tile with its edges next to the first and lower it into place, keeping the bottom edge on the layout line. Tap the entire surface of the tiles with a rubber mallet to secure them in the adhesive.

Step 4

Using the same techniques apply the remaining tiles in the row, tapping them with a mallet and a carpet-covered beater block. Start the next row on the offset lines and proceed across the quadrant. Always work from the installed tile to the corner. Don't worry about kneeling on the tile; you won't dislodge it. However, kneeling or placing anything on the bare adhesive will weaken its bond. After you've laid the field tile, mark, cut, and install the edges.

What If a Tile Is Misaligned When Setting?

To remove a mislaid tile, use a wide putty knife inserted under a fresh corner. Slice the adhesive by moving the putty knife from side to side and prying it up at the same time. Reapply the adhesive to the floor and to the tile if it survives the removal process.

Comments (2)
sgfsd wrote:

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6/9/2016 01:31:57 PM Report Abuse
thornton.ryan wrote:

I found a great deal on cork tiles

11/30/2009 07:20:13 PM Report Abuse
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