Cork is a durable, versatile, and affordable type of flooring that can look great in your home. But as with other flooring materials, it can wear down over time, and needs a little rejuvenation to restore its former glory.
With this in mind, you may be wondering whether you can sand cork floors. Thankfully, the answer is the resounding yes, but there are a few considerations before you jump in. Here’s our guide to sanding cork floors.
What to consider before you sand your cork floor
Before you start sanding your cork floor, there are a few things that you need to consider:
Whether the cork flooring is tiled, or planked. This can change how you check for evenness while sanding (more on this below).
The structure of the cork floor like its thickness, density, and chip configuration. Thickness is particularly important because you need to ensure there’s enough cork to sand back. You can determine the thickness of the tile by pushing a Stanley knife through it to see where the subfloor is (it will stop when it hits the subfloor).
How level the subfloor is—an uneven surface may bring out imperfections when a high gloss coating is applied after being sanded (particularly drum sanding).
Whether it’s actually a 100% cork floor. You can buy laminated tiles that use cork with a PVC layer, which can’t be sanded.
Newly-laid floors need to consider the adhesive used, because “wet lay” adhesive may need longer to set (more on this below)
How to sand cork floors
Here’s a basic guide on how to sand cork floors. Be aware that cork is a softer material than timber, so extra care needs to be taken not to damage it with heavy-duty sanders.
Before you start, check the following:
If the floor is newly laid, find out what type of adhesive has been used. If the installer used a wet lay adhesive, you’ll need to refer to the product’s drying times before starting sanding.
Find out whether the floor was rolled when being installed. If it wasn’t rolled, there will likely be some raised tile edges that need to be fixed before sanding. This ensures that the cork tiles are properly secured to the subfloor.
A low-speed rotary sander, as this prevents the cork from becoming overheated and expanding, which can spoil the subsequent coating process. If the cork is still warm/hot when being coated, the particles in the cork may shrink over time and ruin the coating.
40, 60, 80, and 100 grit paper for the rotary sander.
An orbital palm sander with a 100 or 200 grit paper.
Once you’re clear on the pre-steps and have the equipment you need, complete the following steps to sand your cork flooring:
Use a 40 or 60 grid paper, and initially cut the floor in both directions using the rotary sander. Once complete, change to an 80 grit paper and repeat this process. You can get better results if you use a hard base plate. To sand the edges of the floor, you can use an orbital palm sander with a 100 grit paper. If there are areas you can’t reach with this, you can try a triangle sander with a 100 grit paper, or sand it by hand.
Look for shadow lines along the cork tile’s edges to identify any low-lying tiles, and fix them with the orbital palm sander. Then go over the entire floor again with the rotary sander and a 100 or 120 grit paper, and a more flexible base plate.
When you’re done, you’ll need to thoroughly vacuum the floor and skirting before coating.