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How To Install Cork Flooring

Cali Bamboo offers in house technical support as a courtesy to our customers. Consult with one of our bamboo flooring experts to find answers to your specific installation questions unique to your application. Contact us by: [email protected] or by 1-877-352-2254 ext. 2

GreenClaimed Cork Flooring Installation (5″ Wide)

  • Upon ordering of Cork floor materials consider adding an additional 8% to allow for cutting waste(5%) and grading allowance (3%).
  • Cali Bamboo® flooring is manufactured in accordance with accepted industry standards, which permit manufacturing, grading and natural deficiencies not to exceed 5%. If more than 5% of the material is unusable, do not install the flooring. Immediately contact the distributor/retailer from which the flooring was purchased. No claim will be accepted for materials with visible defects once they are installed. Installation of any material serves as acceptance of the material delivered.
  • Installer/Owner assumes all responsibility to inspect all flooring before installation. Planks deemed unacceptable in appearance can be placed in closets, near walls or simply not be used. Pieces with glaring defects that can be seen from a standing position should be cut off or not be used as use constitutes acceptance.
  • It is the responsibility of the installer/homeowner to determine if the job site conditions, environmental conditions and sub-floor are acceptable for the installation of Cali Bamboo® Cork flooring. Prior to installation, the installer/owner must determine that the jobsite meets or exceeds all applicable National Wood Flooring Association Installation Guidelines. Cali Bamboo does NOT warrant against failure resulting from or connected with subfloor, job site damage, or environmental deficiencies after installation.
  • Cali Bamboo does NOT warrant against failure resulting from or connected with the subfloor, job site damage, or environmental deficiencies after installation.
  • Floor noise is normal and will vary from one installation type to the next. Occasional noise is due to structural movement and may relate to sub-floor type, flatness, deflection, and/or related to the fasteners, changes in environmental conditions, relative humidity and/or the amount of topside pressure applied to the flooring.
  • Prior to installation, it is the installer’s responsibility to document all jobsite conditions and measurements including the installation date, site relative humidity, temperature, and subfloor moisture content. This information must be retained by the installer and left with the property owner as a permanent record. For a complete list of points to address prior to installation, refer to the NWFA Jobsite checklist
  • Do not install flooring under permanent or fixed cabinetry.
  • Never nail or screw anything through a FLOATED floor.
  • Cork Floating floors are intended for indoor use only.

Transport, Storage, Acclimation

  • Transport and store cartons in lay down, flat position.
  • Stack boxes no more than 8 cartons high. Keep away from direct sunlight.
  • Remove plastic wrap from cartons and allow flooring to acclimate as close to the installation area as possible for at least 48-72 hours prior to installation. Pieces can be left inside the box.
  • Room temperature must be at least (65ºF) before and during installation. Relative Humidity should be maintained between 35% – 65% for optimal performance.

 Control Home Conditions Accordingly – Acclimation should occur at normal living conditions. Before opening the cartons, the indoor environment should reflect the room temperature and relative humidity levels expected to be present before, during, and most importantly, after installation. Operate temperature / humidity control systems as normal. Allow normal ventilation through rooms.

Pre-Installation Preparation

Prior to installation, inspect planks in daylight for visible faults/damage. Check if subfloor/site conditions comply with the specifications described in these instructions. If you are not satisfied do not install, and contact your supplier. Cali Bamboo is not responsible for flooring that is installed with visible defects.

Recommended Tools for Cork Installation

Tape measure


Chalk line

3M Scotchblue 2080 tape


⅜” spacers

Utility knife

Table Saw

Rubber mallet

Double Sided Prybar

Miter Saw

Tapping Block


Before layingMeasure the room at a right angle to the direction of the planks. Planks in the final row should be at least 2″ wide. For this purpose, planks in the first row can be cut to smaller size. Shuffle planks in order to obtain a pleasant blend of shades. Lay planks preferably following the direction of the main source of light. Over wood subfloors, we recommend laying the planks crossways to the existing joists. Skirting boards must not be fixed in a way which restricts the movement of the floor.

Expansion gaps: Since cork can expand with any increase in moisture content, we require leaving at least 3/8” expansion space between flooring and all vertical objects (walls, cabinets, pipes, etc.). If the installation area exceeds 30 feet, a greater expansion space is required; approximately 1/16” for every additional ten (10) feet. If the floating installation flows into other rooms, a T-molding must be used in doorways and openings between rooms (halls, archways, etc.) to allow separate areas to move without interference. We consider a doorway or opening any area that is 5 feet in width or less.

  • Note that proper expansion space depends not only on the size and flow of the installation, but also on expected seasonal changes in temperature and humidity that may cause the flooring to gain or lose moisture content over time. For example, if an installation takes place when humidity conditions are low, it’s likely that the cork flooring will gain moisture and expand later during humid seasons. In those cases, incorporate additional expansion space through use of spacers or transition moldings.
  • Cork floors must be able to expand/contract without interference. NEVER install flooring against any vertical or fixed object such as fireplace, columns, islands, door jambs, floor outlets, etc. Failure to follow this guideline may result in tenting, separation or buckled floors. Do not install cabinets or other permanent fixtures on top of the floor. Never nail or screw anything through a FLOATED floor. It is never recommended to put objects or furniture weighing over 500 lbs on top of a floating floor.
  • Undercut door casings and jambs. Remove any existing base, shoe mold or doorway thresholds. These items can be replaced after installation. When undercutting door casings the installer should confirm there is the recommended expansion space. The floor must have 1/16″ clearance under the door casing to be able to float freely without vertical restriction. The installer should ensure that the plank can move freely under the door jamb.
  • To cover your expansion space, Cali Bamboo carries matching cork flooring moldings that include reducers, t-moldings, baseboards, quarter rounds and thresholds. Matching stair noising is also available. Cali Bamboo also provides all the adhesives you will need to complete your project. Please visit Cali Bamboo’s Flooring Accessories webpage.
  • If you have extremely heavy furniture items (500lbs. or greater), install the floor using the glue-down method as opposed to floating the floor.

Subfloor Requirements


• Floating floors can be laid on top of most hard surfaces (e.g. concrete, ceramics, wood)
• Soft subfloors (e.g. carpets) must be removed
• The subfloor must be level – Flat to 3/16” per 10-foot radius
• The subfloor must be clean = Thoroughly swept and free of all debris
• The subfloor must be dry
• The subfloor must be structurally sound

Acceptable subfloor types

  • CD Exposure 1 plywood (grade stamped US PS1-95)
  • OSB Exposure 1subfloor panels (grade stamped US PS1-95)
  • Underlayment grade particleboard
  • Concrete slab
  • Existing wood
  • Ceramic tile
  • Resilient tile or sheet vinyl

Wood subfloors must be securely fastened.  A best practice is to nail or screw every 6” along joists to avoid squeaking.  If leveling is needed, sand down high spots and fill in low spots with a Portland based leveling compound.

Concrete subfloors must be fully cured and at least 60 days old, preferably 90 days old. If leveling is needed, grind down high spots and level low spots with a Portland based leveling compound.

Slabs on or below grade must be free of hydrostatic pressure.

Ceramic Tile, resilient tile and sheet vinyl must be well-bonded to subfloor, in good condition, clean and level.  We do not recommend sanding existing vinyl floors, as they may contain asbestos.

Crawlspaces must have a minimum of a 6-mil polyethylene sheeting covering any exposed earth. Crawl spaces must have adequate ventilation and a minimum of 18” of air space between the ground and the floor joist.

Protect your Floor from Moisture

  • Moisture/Vapor Barriers are required when installing cork flooring. It is the customer’s/installer’s responsibility to check the subfloor for moisture prior to installing the floor and always install a moisture barrier capable of protecting the amount of moisture coming from the subfloor. When installing over a plywood subfloor the basic vapor barrier used would be a Silicon paper or equivalent. When installing over all other approved subfloors (concrete, tile, vinyl ect.) use a minimum 6 mil Polyethylene moisture barrier. When overlapping seams make sure to tape with a construction grade Duct tape or equivalent to ensure moisture blockage.
  • Crawlspaces must have a minimum of a 6-mil polyethylene sheeting covering any exposed earth. Crawl spaces must have adequate ventilation and a minimum of 18” of air space between the ground and the floor joist.

Radiant Heat Systems

Cali Bamboo® flooring is only recommended for use over radiant heat systems if the special requirements specified by the National Wood Flooring Association are met (please refer to the NWFA’s Radiant Heat Guidelines). Ensuring stable job site conditions, subfloor suitability and proper acclimation are especially important when installing over a radiant heat system. It is the responsibility of the installer to ensure that the recommended environmental conditions are met for installation. Refer to your radiant heat system manufacturer to determine its compatibility with bamboo flooring, and to learn the specific requirements for installation.

  • Because of the wide variety of systems on the market (Hydronic, embedded in concrete, electrical wire/coil, heating film/mat) each with its own features and applications it is recommended that the user consult with the radiant heating provider for best practices, installation methods and proper subfloors.
  • Typically the floating installation method is the most suitable for use with radiant heat systems.
  • Radiant heat system must be turned on and in operation for at least 6 days before installation.
  • The flooring must be acclimated per Cali Bamboo’s Cork acclimation instruction ( over the radiant heat with the system turned on throughout the acclimation timeframe.
  • The system must be turned down to 65°F and maintained 24 hours prior to installation.
  • Once install is complete, turn system back on and slowly bring back up to normal operating temperature over a period 4-5 days.
  • Floor should never be heated over 82°F. Consult with your radiant heating system manufacturer to successfully limit the maximum temperature.
  • Always remember that rugs placed over radiant heated flooring can increase the surface temperature in that area by 3°- 5°F degrees.
  • Relative Humidity must be maintained between 35-65%. The use of a humidifier may be necessary to achieve this.
  • When turning off the radiant heat system it must be turned down slowly at a rate of 1.5° degrees per day. You should never just turn the system off.
  • For additional information on radiant heating systems please refer to  or the NWFA’s Radiant Heat Guidelines

Installation Steps – Drop Lock System

* The use of a taping block can, in some cases, make installation harder with a drop lock system as the end joints should be able to (drop) into place.

Installing the first row


•Start in the corner.
•Turn the tongue side of the plank to the wall.
•Maintain a gap of 3/8” on the short side.


•Hold the next plank at an angle against the first one and lay it flat on the floor.
•Complete first row in the same way.
•Cut final plank of the first row to correct length.
•Start next row with the piece leftover (must be at least 8″ long).
•Ensure that end joints are staggered at least 8″.

Installing Cork Flooring

Continuing the Installation


  • Place first plank of the new row with the tongue side at an angle against the groove side of the plank in the previous row.
  • Press forward and lay it flat at the same time.
  • Place short end of the plank at an angle against the previous installed plank and fold down.
  • Ensure that the plank is positioned on the integral locking strip of the plank in the previous row.


  • Begin installing the second plank of the second row by aligning the long edges of the plank at a slight angle (just over 1”).
  • Slide the plank over until the end joints of the first and second planks are aligned.
  • Press down lightly to lock in place.

Additional Tips

  • Make sure your final row is at least 2″ wide.
  • Always remember to undercut your door jambs, rule of thumb is there should be 1/16″ from where the door jamb stops and where the flooring starts.
  • When cutting around pipes, always make sure to leave 3/8″ gap in all directions.

Installing the Final Row

• Proceed installation as described above until reaching the opposite wall.

After Install

  • If work activity will take place in the room where the floor is installed, protect with craft paper, plywood or hardboard.
  • Do not drag furniture across the floor, use felt pads on chair and furniture legs.
  • Place quality walk-off mats at all entrances to retain tracked in dirt, grit and moisture, never use latex or rubber backed mats as they can permanently stain the floor.
  • Avoid moisture on the floor.
  • Ideal and proper room conditions are 35-65% relative humidity at 68°F. If necessary ,use a humidifier/dehumidifier to manage the relative humidity level on a consistent basis.
  • Cork, as a natural material, tends to fade when exposed to sunlight. Use blinds, curtains or other sun screening systems to minimize this effect.
  • Cork flooring products are based on natural materials, and will expand and contract through heating and non-heating seasons, thus experiencing some separation between the planks/tiles at different times during the year. Such separations are not considered a product defect.
  • Heavy Furniture (500+ lbs.) may obstruct the free, natural movement of a floated floor.  Restricting this movement in certain areas can lead to problems such as buckling or separation when the floor experiences natural expansion and/or contraction.

Care & Maintenance

  • Cali Bamboo recommends you vacuum or sweep the floor on a regular basis or as needed to remove dirt, sand or grit.
  • Soak up spills immediately using a dry towel or dry mop.
  • For general cleaning, use Bona Pro Hardwood Floor Cleaner & Bona Pro Hardwood Floor Mop.
  • Fit furniture legs with felt tips or protective caps. Fix rolling furniture with soft rubber casters. Pick up heavy furniture or appliances; do not slide.
  • Keep pets nails trimmed to avoid excess scratching.
  • Limit direct sunlight on floor by using curtains and blinds in areas that are exposed to high UV rays.
  • Never wet-mop a cork floor. Standing water may cause permanent damage.
  • Never use any of the following products on your floor: ammonia-based cleaners, mineral spirits, acrylic finishes, wax-based products, detergents, bleach, polishes, oil soap, abrasive cleaning soaps, or acidic materials such as vinegar. Never apply wax treatments to your floor.
  • Use interior and exterior doormats at entrances to prevent dirt and moisture from being tracked onto the floor.
  • Area rugs are also recommended in front of kitchen sinks and in high traffic areas.
  • Do not use rugs with solid rubber or vinyl backings. Rugs must be made of a breathable material to prevent moisture entrapment. We recommend using a breathable rug underlay. Mesh or grid patterns are best.

Learn More about Cork Flooring

Need help or have any questions?

Call our Flooring Installation Specialists at: 1(888) 788-2254