Vinyl Plank vs Cork Flooring

Vinyl Plank vs Cork Flooring

When comparing vinyl plank versus cork flooring, which comes out on top? Both of these flooring types are growing in popularity, but which is the better choice for homeowners?

Before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on flooring, it’s important to know the benefits and drawbacks of each. After all, no one wants to spend their hard-earned cash on flooring that’s just not up to par.

This guide will give an overview of the pros and cons of each type of flooring, helping every homeowner decide which is the most practical investment.

Side-by-Side Comparison

 Vinyl PlankCork Flooring
DurabilityExtremely durable. Heavy furniture can cause denting. Can be prone to rips and tears. Can dent or be punctured. Prone to scratches.
WaterproofYesNo but is resistant to some water
CleaningCan be cleaned using steam mops or wet mops. Non-abrasive, mild cleaners should be used. Should be cleaned with mild cleaners. A damp mop can be used but floors should never be drenched.
MaintenanceNo wax should ever be used on vinyl. No-wax polishes can be used to restore shine. Floor coasters should be used to prevent dents in flooring
Pet-FriendlyYesNo
Self-InstallationYes, requires few tools and little expertiseYes, but requires more tools and special considerations for expansion
Installation TypeFloating floor or peel-and-stickFloating floor or adhesives
Eco-FriendlyNo, made with PVCYes
Sealing Not requiredSealing is required for water-resistance
RefinishingVinyl plank cannot be refinishedSome cork floors can be refinished if needed
Flooring GuideVinyl Plank Flooring GuideCork Flooring Guide

Durability

One of the key features that means the most to homeowners when it comes to new flooring is durability. Is the flooring good for children or pets, or will it need to be replaced in the near future? Will it withstand daily use, or will it become easily damaged?

Homeowners that have avoided hardwood flooring because they have children or pets can rejoice because they have an alternative. Vinyl plank flooring looks like hardwood flooring, but it isn’t prone to scratches, dings, and other damage that mars the beauty of hardwoods.

Vinyl plank flooring is surprisingly durable. It won’t scratch from daily use, even with children or pets in the house. Even if minor scratches do appear, repair pens are available to easily conceal them.

However, there are drawbacks to vinyl plank. Because it is vinyl – a softer material – it is prone to rips and tears. Though this won’t occur just by walking across the floor, dropping something sharp or sliding furniture across the floor will cause the vinyl to rip and will require a replacement plank.

Vinyl will also dent when furniture or heavy appliances sit in one place for a long period. Moving furniture frequently can help with this problem. Vinyl may also fade with prolonged exposure to sunlight, so area rugs should be used to protect the flooring, as well as window drapes, shades, or blinds in sunnier rooms.

On the other hand, cork flooring may not be the best choice for homes with children or pets. Because it is a soft material, it is easy to damage. Sharp objects or high heels can puncture cork floors, while dents can be left by appliances or heavy furniture.

Scratches from pet claws can be a problem with this type of flooring. Although trimming the nails helps, it’s very rare that a house with cork flooring remains scratch-free when pets are in the home. Chairs can also cause scratches and damage when moved across the floor, such as being pushed under a dining room table.

Although both floors have their flaws, vinyl flooring is the most durable when compared to cork flooring. Even though dents or rips can occur, changing out a vinyl plank is easier and less expensive than repairing a damaged cork floor.

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Water Resistance

One of the major drawbacks of hardwood flooring is that you should not get it wet. Not only does this make it more difficult to clean, but it also prevents you from being able to install it in rooms where moisture is present. This is when vinyl plank proves to be a great choice.

Vinyl plank is water-resistant. You can install it in bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and any other room without fear of warping, staining, or buckling like hardwoods.

Wipe up spills immediately to prevent a slippery floor. That way, you won’t have to worry about long-term damage.

However, it is important to note here that if vinyl planks aren’t installed correctly, water may cause a big homeowner problem. If there is gaping between improperly-installed planks, water can seep down underneath the plank. This can lead to the growth of mold or mildew, as well as the loosening of adhesive on peel-and-stick plank floors.

Cork floors are more resistant to water than hardwoods. However, they are not quite as water-resistant as vinyl flooring. While spilling some water on a cork floor won’t completely damage it if wiped up immediately, too much water can lead to staining or warping.

Cork flooring that is not sealed will also not be as resistant to moisture. It’s important for a homeowner to know about the specific flooring product they are purchasing to know if it can be installed without damage in rooms where there is moisture.

Homeowners should avoid installing cork flooring in rooms with high humidity. High humidity can cause cork flooring to expand and pop out of place in some cases.

Though both are more resistant to water than hardwood, vinyl flooring – when installed properly – is truly the most water-resistant when compared to cork flooring.

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Ease of Installation

When a homeowner is purchasing new flooring, one of the factors they will consider is the total overall price, which includes installation costs. Many homeowners opt to take on installation themselves in order to potentially save thousands of dollars. However, sometimes, the process can be more expensive and time-consuming than hiring a professional installer.

Vinyl plank is a hit with most homeowners because it is so easy to install. Even homeowners with no prior experience installing flooring will find that they can finish a room in just hours, with very little expertise and just a few basic tools.

There are two ways to install vinyl plank. The first way is to install it as a floating floor. This means that you can click together the pieces and keep them in place without the use of adhesive or nails.

Another way to install vinyl plank is by purchasing peel-and-stick planks. These planks have adhesive backings that you stick directly to the floor. This method is quick, easy, and most homeowners can complete it. It just takes a little bit of time to measure, cut, and line up the planks.

Cork flooring can also be easy to install, but it requires more planning and tools. Like vinyl plank, most flooring comes with a click-together design that makes it easy for homeowners to install their own flooring. However, there is also flooring that you lay with adhesive.

After filling and sanding the subfloor, you measure cork flooring, cut it if needed, and click it together or glue it to the floor underneath. Cork will expand, so take that into account when installing it. After you install the floor, you can sand and seal it if you need to.

Though cork flooring is easier to install than traditional wood flooring, you will need careful preparation and planning. Because it can be time-consuming and may require a bit of skill, cork flooring is not as easy to install as & is more costly than vinyl plank flooring.

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Care & Maintenance

Caring for a vinyl plank flooring is as easy as it gets. Because this flooring is resistant to water, you can easily clean it using a mild, no-wax cleaner and warm water. You can do everyday vinyl plank cleaning using a broom or dust mop, while wet mopping is no problem for bigger messes.

Over time, vinyl can look a little bit dull. Though homeowners may be tempted to use wax, this can lead to a build-up that will need to be stripped. Instead, special polishes designed for use on vinyl are available at almost any local home improvement store.

Because vinyl flooring can dent, using furniture coasters is a must underneath any furniture that will remain stationary for long periods of time. These are extremely low-cost and will provide added protection for vinyl floors.

Cork flooring is also not difficult to clean. You can clean cork flooring on a daily basis using a soft-bristled broom to remove dirt, dust, and debris. When you need to do heavier cleaning, you can use a mild cleaning product.

It’s important to remember not to use products with strong chemicals, as this can strip the sealant on the floor. It’s also important to use a minimal amount of cleaning products, as too much can lead to a hazy film after the floor dries.

You can clean the flooring using a slightly damp mop. Never saturate the mop or dump water or cleaning products on the floor. Once you have mopped an area, you can use a dry microfiber cloth to dry the floor.

As with vinyl, cork flooring can be prone to dents underneath furniture. Use furniture coasters to prevent these dents from occurring.

Both vinyl and cork flooring are easy to clean and maintain, but vinyl wins this round. You do not need to take special considerations when cleaning vinyl plank, making it quicker and easier for homeowners to keep their floors looking beautiful.

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Comfort

One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing flooring is how comfortable it is. After all, no one wants to stand or walk around on flooring that’s hard, uncomfortable, and bad for the back, knees, and legs.

While vinyl flooring has its appeal because of its beauty and affordability, many don’t think of it as being a soft, comfortable floor. When you install it directly on the hard subfloor, it offers no real padding to provide comfort. However, you can fix this by installing underlayment or padding underneath the flooring.

Cork, on the other hand, is one of the more comfortable flooring types. While it isn’t soft and plush like carpet, it is softer than hardwoods and even vinyl flooring. In fact, many believe that cork is the most comfortable type of hard-surface flooring.

Because it is naturally softer and more comfortable, cork flooring is the clear winner for comfort. In addition to providing a softer walking surface, it also has sound absorption properties that make it quieter than other types of flooring, including vinyl plank.

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Sustainability

Many consumers today worry about their impact on the environment. With so much waste and pollution, it’s up to every person to make sure they do their part in protecting the environment. This starts with using sustainable, eco-friendly products.

Vinyl flooring, unfortunately, is not a sustainable product. Vinyl planks are made using Poly Vinyl Chloride. When this is manufactured, it releases harmful toxins known as dioxins. They could pose potential health hazards.

Other toxins including ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride are also produced when making PVS, which could be harmful to people and the environment.

Cork flooring is rising in popularity because it is a sustainable flooring. Unlike hardwoods, manufacturers do not cut down millions of trees to create this type of flooring. Instead, they create cork through the bark of trees.

Once they have harvested the bark, the trees will regenerate it. Therefore, they do not kill any trees in the production of the flooring, and they do not make it with potentially-harmful PVC.

When it comes to sustainability, cork flooring takes the win. People tout this flooring as one of the best types of flooring because it is eco-friendly, and the top choice in flooring for use in “green” homes.

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The Verdict

When going head-to-head in these six categories, vinyl plank comes out on top. It is a great choice for homes with children and pets, is low-maintenance and easy to clean, and is durable and water-resistant. However, anyone that is looking for an eco-friendly flooring option that offers great comfort will be happy with cork flooring.

Both types of flooring have their own sets of pros and cons. It is up to the homeowner to weigh these pros and cons and decide what is most important when choosing their upgraded flooring.

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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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