Ceramic Tile vs Cork Flooring

Ceramic Tile vs Cork Flooring

You’ve narrowed down your bare flooring options and you’re stuck between two types of flooring: ceramic tile vs cork. Both look amazing, both are growing in popularity among homeowners, and both have their benefits (and, of course, their drawbacks). When it really comes down to it, though, which is right for your home?

When selecting your new flooring, you have to look beyond just physical appearance. A floor that looks great in the store may not hold up well in your household over time. You want to consider other factors, such as how durable the flooring is, whether it’s a good choice for homes with pets, and how much cleaning and maintenance the flooring requires.

In this guide, we’ll compare ceramic tile and cork flooring in multiple categories to help you make the smartest decision for your household. We’ll do the research for you so you can invest your money wisely in flooring you’ll love for years to come.

In this guide, we’ll explore:

Side-by-Side Comparison

 Ceramic TileCork
DurabilityExtremely durable. May crack with force. Can be scraped or punctured by furniture, high heels, sharp objects, etc.
Good For Allergies?YesYes
CleaningDaily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner for bare floors. Can be wet or steam mopped for deeper cleaning. Daily cleaning with broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner for bare floors. Can be cleaned with a mild cleanser but should never get saturated and should always be dried.
ComfortHard and can be cold, if not heatedCushioned and naturally insulated
Self-InstallationPossible, but special tools are requiredFloating and glue-down installations
Pet-FriendlyYesYes, but nails should be kept trimmed to avoid punctures/scrapes
Price$2 to $30+ per square foot$3 to $8 per square foot
Installation Costs$4 to $8 per square foot$4 to $8 per square foot
Lifespan75 to 100+ years10 to 20 years with normal wear and tear
WaterproofYesNo, can be damaged by water
Flooring GuideTile Flooring GuideCork Flooring Guide

Durability

Unless you plan to never walk on your floors, you’re most likely looking for a flooring that is durable. This is especially important for homes with children, pets, or heavy traffic. After all, you don’t want to spend a fortune on new floors only to have them scratched, faded, or damaged in just a few short months.

Ceramic tile is a great choice for homeowners looking for a durable floor that holds up well under daily living. Unlike other hard floor options like hardwood flooring, ceramic tile is not susceptible to scratches or dents.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t damage ceramic tile at all. Over time, ceramic tile can chip and you will need to replace it. Tile can also crack, which would also result in needing to replace your flooring.

The softness of cork flooring may feel good on the feet, but this is also a potential drawback. Sharp objects can puncture the floor, furniture legs can scrape it, and even high heels can gouge the surface.

Another risk that comes along with cork flooring is that it can dent, especially under the heavy weight of furniture or appliances. You can use furniture coasters to help prevent this type of damage.

Even grits of sand can damage the surface of cork flooring. If liquids are spilled, staining may also occur.

While cork flooring looks great, it falls short in durability. Ceramic tile flooring, on the other hand, is extremely durable and can easily last in your household for many years.

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Water Resistance

Your child spilled juice on your new flooring. You installed your new flooring in the kitchen. After a round of washing dishes, there’s water everywhere. Your flooring is ruined … or is it?

One of the best things about ceramic tile flooring is that it can be wet without damaging the floor. This makes it a great choice for rooms where there is high moisture or humidity, such as bathrooms or basements.

Spills won’t damage this waterproof flooring. However, the grout can become stained over time. There are products that you can purchase to remove stains, or you can use a grout paint to recolor the grout if you can’t remove stains.

Cork flooring that is sealed is slightly more resistant to water than other types of hard flooring, such as hardwoods or bamboo. However, spills may cause the cork to become stained, while excessive water can lead to warping or plumping of the flooring.

When it comes to water resistance, ceramic tile is the winner. This waterproof flooring can get wet without any damage, making it a great choice for any room of the home.

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Comfort

Whether you’re walking around the house cleaning up a mess or standing in place, you may want a floor that’s comfortable. This is especially true for anyone with back, knee, or joint problems.

One of the drawbacks of ceramic tile is that it’s an extremely hard floor. While this is great in terms of durability, it is not comfortable to walk or stand on for long periods of time.

Another drawback of tile flooring is that it is cold. Imagine getting out of bed on a winter morning, only to have an icy floor under your feet. Unless you spend thousands to install an underfloor heating system, this is the reality with ceramic tile.

Cork flooring is extremely soft and cushy. While this is a drawback in terms of its durability, it’s excellent for comfort. Homeowners that have installed cork flooring find that it is much softer and more comfortable than other bare flooring types, including ceramic tile and hardwoods.

Cork floors are also naturally insulated, so they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. No expensive heating system is required to keep floors warm and comfortable.

When it comes to comfort, few flooring types can match up to cork. This flooring is one of the most popular options for anyone that wants a soft floor but doesn’t want carpet.

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Price

While it would be nice to have an endless budget for our home improvement projects, for most of us, this isn’t the case. We may love a certain type of flooring but its priced well beyond our budget. For the budget-minded consumer, which flooring is the most affordable: ceramic tile or cork?

Ceramic tile flooring is available at multiple price points. Expect to pay anywhere from between $2 to $30+ per square foot for ceramic tile.

Why such a big difference in tile flooring pricing? Manufacturer, quality, design, and even size all play a role in how ceramic tile is priced.

On the lower end, you shouldn’t expect to find a huge selection. Most budget ceramic tile comes in sizes of 12-inches by 12-inches and may come in basic colors such as brown, tan, white, or black.

As you go up in price, you’ll have more of a selection of ceramic tile. This includes larger 18” x 18” tiles, beautiful designs and textures, and even ceramic tile that mimics other materials including hardwoods and marble.

Cork flooring is fairly inexpensive. In fact, it’s less expensive than other types of bare flooring like solid hardwoods. You should expect to pay around $3 to $8 per square foot, with the average cork floor cost being around $5 per square foot.

Although you can find inexpensive ceramic tile, most of the best quality tile that will last for many years is more expensive than cork flooring. If you’re looking for an affordable bare flooring option, cork is one of the most cost-efficient choices on the market.

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Installation

If you’re the type of person to take on do-it-yourself projects, you might want to tackle the installation of your new flooring yourself. Maybe you’re not about the DIY life and would prefer to hire a professional installer. Between ceramic tile and cork flooring, which is the easiest to install … and which is the cheapest if you opt to hire a contractor?

Installing ceramic tile yourself can be a challenge, but it certainly isn’t impossible. In fact, reading or watching online tutorials can help you get through the job with ease, provided you take your time and have the right tools for the job.

To install ceramic tile, steps include preparing the subfloor, applying mortar to adhere the tile, using spacers for the grout, spreading the grout, and cleaning up. You’ll also need to cut ceramic tile as needed using a wet tile saw, which you can purchase or rent from a home improvement store.

The job isn’t too difficult, but it does take time and patience. As mentioned, you will need several tools, including the tile saw and a trowel. The job is also very messy, so be prepared in advance.

If you don’t want to take on the job yourself, you can always hire a professional to do the job. The cost for professional installation of ceramic tile flooring is between $4 and $8 per square foot, although costs can vary based on your region and the difficultly of the job.

Installing cork flooring isn’t difficult at all, but you should know what to expect before taking on the job. There are two main ways to install cork flooring: glue-down and floating.

With glue-down floors, adhesive is used to stick tiles or planks to the floor. With a floating floor, each plank or tile has a tongue-and-groove design that snaps together, eliminating the need for adhesives or nails.

If you don’t feel like getting your hands dirty, you can hire a professional flooring installer to do the job for you. To install cork flooring, the average contractor charges between $4 and $8 per square foot. Pricing varies based on your location, the size of the job, and the difficulty of the job.

The cost of professional installation for both cork and tile flooring are comparable. However, if you want to do the job yourself, you’ll find that installing cork flooring is typically easier and less of a mess than installing ceramic tile.

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Cleaning & Care

Let’s face it: floors get dirty. However, some floors are far easier to clean than others. If you’re looking for a floor that’s easy to clean and care for over the years, which is the better option between ceramic tile and cork?

To clean ceramic tile on a daily basis, you can use a broom, dust mop, or vacuum designed for tile floor use. This will pick up everyday dirt, dust, and debris.

When you need some extra cleaning power, the great thing about tile is that it’s waterproof, so you can use a wet tile mop with a mild, non-abrasive cleaner. To clean dirty grout, you can use a mild cleaner with a soft brush. If the grout is stained, you can purchase affordable grout restoration products or use a grout paint to renew the look of your grout.

You will need to take some extra care to clean cork floors. You can do daily cleaning with a broom, dust mop, or vacuum cleaner specifically for hardwood floors. It’s important to choose a vacuum without a beater bar, which can dent and damage cork.

If there’s a mess that you can’t clean up with a broom or vacuum, you can clean cork using a mild cleaner or even liquid dish soap with water. You can apply this with a mop or a cloth. Note that the hardwood mop should only be damp and never excessively wet.

Once you’ve mopped or wiped the floor, you will need to promptly dry each small section with a dry microfiber cloth. Failure to dry the floor can result in staining of the cork.

Although both types of flooring are easy to clean, ceramic tile is slightly easier to clean. You won’t have to worry about getting this type of flooring too wet, unlike cork which can potentially be damaged if care is not taken.

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Lifespan

If you’re like most consumers, you want a floor that’s going to look its best year after year. No one wants to waste time or money replacing flooring over and over again. Between ceramic tile and cork flooring, which has the longest lifespan?

As we’ve already discussed, ceramic tile is one of the most durable flooring types on the market today. It comes as no surprise that with proper care and maintenance, this flooring can easily last for 50 to 75 years before you need to replace it.

With normal wear and tear, cork flooring has a lifespan of about 10 to 20 years. While this is still a long time, it falls far short of ceramic tile, which comes out on top in this category.

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Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with purchasing either ceramic tile or cork flooring. Both look great and have a range of benefits. However, deciding what you want in your new flooring will help you decide which works best for your household and your lifestyle.

If you want a very durable floor that can be installed in damp, humid rooms like basements or bathrooms, is easy to clean and maintain, and can last for a full century with proper care, ceramic tile is a great option.

If you want attractive flooring that’s affordable, easy to install, and provides a soft cushioned surface, cork flooring definitely fits the bill.

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Nikki Seppala

About Nikki Seppala

Nikki is an experienced writer and editor and has worked in industries that range from home improvement to entrepreneurship. For over 10 years, she's used her unique talent and love of the written word to uncover the stories that people want to read.

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