Hardwood vs. Cork- Which Is the Better Value?

As you search for the best flooring options for your home, you may wonder about the overall value of the materials. These days, there are innumerable choices regarding material, style, finish and design that makes filtering and narrowing down options difficult. There is cork, laminate, hardwood, engineered hardwood, bamboo, vinyl, porcelain, stone, and many more options.

This post focuses on a timeless popular flooring option and a contemporary one, namely- hardwood and cork, and draws a detailed comparison between the two.

An Overview

Hardwood Cork
Durability Highly durable but prone to scratches Sufficiently durable but prone to punctures and tears
Comfort Cold under feet without radiant heaters Warm under feet and cushioned feeling
Sound insulation Echoes and creaks when stepped on Absorbs noise and quieter under feet
Maintenance Sweeping, and occasional cleaning necessary. Can be refinished Sweeping and damp mopping- certain types can be refinished, others can be restored with oils
Cost Generally expensive with some variations between wood species Comparatively cheaper than hardwood
Sustainability Not eco-friendly, except for certified harvested sustainable species Eco-friendly, chemical-free and made from the bark of cork trees


  • Durability

This is the foremost concern of most homeowners while investing in any flooring material as durability is directly proportional to its longevity.

Hardwood flooring is highly durable and hard depending on the wood species. However, it is susceptible to scratches and dents. Friction from heavy or sharp objects like furniture legs, pet’s claws, or dropping heavy utensils on it can lead to visible marks which can be very unsightly. Moreover, it can get easily damaged from moisture and spills, if not immediately cleaned. But on the brighter side, this material can be refinished periodically which makes it as good as new, covering up any minor marks.

Cork flooring is not as durable. Its softness can become a weakness if you are not careful with your high heels and similar pointed objects on the floor. But it can withstand against moisture better and unless there is a major spill that left unattended for hours, it will not get damaged easily from effects of moisture.

  • Comfort

The comfort of stepping on a flooring material depends on its softness, warmth, and insulation. Cork is the clear winner in this department. The squishy texture of cork is just hard enough to qualify as a durable flooring material, but still imparts a cushioned feeling when you step on it. It also has natural acoustics and thermal insulation properties which make it quieter and warm enough to step on.

On the other hand, hardwood has a reputation as one of the coldest variants of flooring. It can be very uncomfortable to step on during a winter morning unless you are using an area rug or carpets. Quality underlayment with cushioning effect and radiant heaters can make it a bit more comfortable. But on the downside, the cost of installation increases by thousands of dollars.

  • Sound Insulation

Under feet noise can be annoying and many homeowners see this as a major drawback. The spongy texture of the material absorbs sound well and hence is quieter under feet. Hardwood generates a hollow echo and tapping noise when you walk on it. This can be muffled using an area rug but if you are inclined towards having a bare floor, be prepared to deal with the added noise.

  • Maintenance

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity of the floor material. On the other hand, a high maintenance material can be troublesome to homeowners who are hard-pressed for time. Luckily, both hardwood and cork are easy to maintain.

Sweeping daily is enough to keep the hardwood clean. You can also invest in a vacuum cleaner for a more thorough cleaning. Occasional deep cleaning with cleaners specifically designed for hardwood will ensure the floor looks appealing for years. When it loses the lustre, you can invest in refinishing the surface.

Daily cleaning for cork flooring is like wood and sweeping and vacuum cleaning is all you need to do. For deeper cleaning, use suitable cleaners that are wax and ammonia free and are non-abrasive. Certain types of this material can be refinished while others must be restored to its original lustre using oils. Since it is much more moisture-resistant, you can also use a wet mop on it, provided the area is thoroughly dried after cleaning. This is a slight advantage that cork enjoys over hardwood.

  • Cost

Your budget has a major influence on your choice of flooring and is the primary factor based on which you decide the best. Hardwood is one of the most expensive materials available and the most desired one for its durability and beauty. The price range varies depending on the species and some common and softer wood species are available at a price lower than cork.

The installation cost should also be considered and professional contractors charge for installation per sq. ft. Installation cost is higher and depends on the method of installation, location and the overall difficulty of the job.

While cork is the clear winner regarding being budget-friendly, this is entirely the buyer’s perception and dependent on your budget limit.

  • Sustainability

Floorboards made from sustainable species are certified accordingly and marked on their packages. Some of the most sustainable species include ash, black cherry, mahogany, maple, and oak.

Cork is slowly becoming a very popular flooring choice among homeowners looking for natural, chemical-free and sustainable materials. Cork is made from the bark of the tree, and it is not cut down in the process. The bark keeps regenerating throughout their lifetime for up to two centuries.

The choice of material depends on the buyers’ personal preferences and budget. Both cork and hardwood have certain benefits, and drawbacks and your choice will be influenced by the priorities you have regarding flooring. The above-mentioned are some basic criteria that buyers should consider while exploring the store.



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