Cork Building Material Costs: Is It Worth It for Your Build?

Photographs of the bark on a cork oak tree, a roll of cork underlayment, and a cork tile. Across the bottom of the image are the words, "Cork Building Material Costs: Is It Worth It for Your Build?"

Building materials account for 70% of the total cost of an average residential house. Cork materials are often on the higher end in terms of cost and can represent a substantial portion of the overall cost.

Therefore, knowing cork building material costs upfront is very important to ensure your construction project stays within budget.

You may need cork building material for flooring, wall structures, insulation, and underlayment. These cork applications vary in cost, depending on the size of your project, the type of cork used, and installation complexity. This begs the question, “Is cork building material worth the cost?”

In this article, I’ll discuss cork building material costs. From cork flooring and insulation to underlayment and structural elements, you’ll find out if cork is worth the cost and how to save money when using it.

So, let’s dive deeper into this topic!

The Cost of Cork Flooring

A hallway with beautiful natural cork flooring. The stairs have a strip of carpet leading up them with stylish painted wood on either side. White wood paneling is on the right-hand wall.
Cork adds a touch of natural beauty to any room.

Besides its sustainable nature, more and more people are turning to cork flooring for its excellent resistance to wear and tear and impermeability to gas and liquids. These features mean that cork makes a durable floor that can last more than 40 years if properly maintained.

Cork flooring (material and labor) costs between $5 and $12 per square foot. However, the cost reduces to between $3 and $10 if you’ll be installing the floor yourself.

Based on these costs, most homeowners in the U.S. pay between $1,500 and $4,500 for cork floor installation over a 500-square-foot space. On average, you should expect to pay $3,000 for such a space.

The table below will help you estimate cork flooring cost based on your home’s size:

Flooring Space in Square FeetAverage Cost (Labor and Material)

Table 1: Average costs of cork flooring

Factors That Affect the Cost of Cork Flooring

It’s impossible to give you exact costs of your specific cork flooring project because it’s determined by the following factors:

The Type of Cork Floor

A photograph of a cork tile on the left and a photo of a worker installing a cork plank on the right.
The type of cork flooring significantly impacts the cost of your new floor.

Cork flooring comes in different types. Each type has unique features that affect its cost.

The common types of cork flooring include:

  • Tile cork flooring: This is the most common type of cork floor, costing between $3 and $7 per square foot. Although it’s slightly cheaper than the other types, it needs gluing to a concrete subfloor, a process that increases installation costs.
  • Luxury vinyl cork flooring: It combines the features of tile cork and luxury vinyl, making it more durable. It costs between $3 and $7 per square foot.
  • Plank cork flooring: This is the most expensive option since planks incorporate a fiberboard bottom layer that makes the floor more durable. It costs between $4 to $10 per square foot.

Type of Installation

Cork flooring is installed in two ways:

  • The floating method: It involves snapping cork planks together and locking them into place. This is the most common method that costs between $2 – $4 per square foot because it’s easier to install.
  • The glue-down method: Applying an adhesive/glue layer on the cement subfloor before laying tiles or planks. This installation process is more expensive — costing between $4 and $9 per square foot.


Cork flooring comes as either natural or colored. The colored option is more expensive, costing between $7 and $8.50. On the other hand, natural cork flooring costs between $3 and $6.

How to Save Money on Cork Flooring

The best way to save money on cork flooring is by taking advantage of the factors that affect its cost.

Here is what you can do:

  • Choose cork flooring with basic colors.
  • Select products that allow for floating installation.
  • Go for tiled or luxury vinyl instead of cork planks.

The Cost of Cork Insulation

Rolls of cork insulation stacked in neat rows. Individual rolls are wrapped in plastic.
Cork insulation often comes in rolls for easy handling and transportation.

Continuous wall insulation is essential, especially in climate zones 3 to 8, where energy efficiency is critical.

Besides lowering thermal bridges, insulating a home with cork also provides noise reduction, structural stability, and improved air quality.

Cork is an excellent insulation material, thanks to its high R-values (R-3.6 to R-4.2 per inch) and air-filled cells.

Cork insulation costs between $3.57 and $6.50 per square foot. This is expensive compared to fiberglass ($0.30-$1.50 per square foot) and sheep’s wool ($1.10-$3.10 per square foot).

Although cork insulation is pricey, it has higher R-values than other insulation types. Therefore, it’s the best option for a more energy-efficient home.

The cost of cork insulation is mainly affected by the type and thickness.

Types of Cork Insulation

Cork insulation comes in the following types:

Boards, Panels, or Sheets

This is the most common cork insulation ideal for wall and roof insulation.

Cork panels with a density of 7 lbs per cubic foot are preferred for exterior wall insulation due to their high R-value.

Cork boards, panels, and sheets for insulation usually come in thicknesses ranging from 10 to 50mm (0.39 to 1.97 inches).

Spray foam Insulation

This type of cork insulation is ideal for attics, crawlspaces, and other hard-to-reach areas. It comes in liquid form and can be sprayed into a wall or roof cavity. This process helps reduce thermal bridging significantly.

The advantage of spray foam cork insulation is that it can be applied onto the surfaces directly without the need for fixing and preparation.

Cork Insulation Rolls

The main difference between cork insulation rolls and panels or boards is that the former is thinner.

Cork insulation rolls have a thickness of less than 5mm (0.20 inches), making them ideal for smaller structures with limited spaces. However, their thinner nature offers less insulation than boards, panels, and sheets.

It’s worth mentioning that the thicker the insulation, the higher its cost, and vice versa. Therefore, if you want to save money on cork insulation, opt for rolls because they’re thinner. Alternatively, you can go for boards, sheets, and panels less than 15mm (0.59 inches) thick.

Expert Advice: You don’t want to compromise insulation by going for very thin cork insulations to save costs. A good way around this is to strike a balance between thickness and cost. A medium thickness of 3mm (0.12 inches) for rolls and 13mm (0.51 inches) for boards is often the sweet spot.

The Cost of Cork Underlayment

A worker is installing cork underlayment on a subfloor. The room's walls are white, and the worker wears a red T-shirt and protective gloves. In the top right corner is a drawing of stacks of coins to indicate cost.
Cork underlayment is more expensive than other options but does a great job and is worth the cost if you want to minimize the environmental footprint of your project.

Cork underlayment is essential to most flooring installations as it provides cushioning and soundproofing effects on hard surface flooring such as laminate, vinyl, and engineered wood.

Cork underlayment costs around $0.55 to $2.30 per square foot, depending on its thickness and quality.

Generally, the thicker the cork underlayment, the higher its cost.

Cork underlayments come in ½, ¼, and ⅛ inch thicknesses. Thinner cork underlayments have less soundproofing and cushioning than thicker ones.

Nevertheless, thin cork underlayments are ideal for light foot traffic areas such as bedrooms and dining areas.

On the other hand, thick cork underlayments provide greater insulation and soundproofing, ideal for high-foot traffic areas such as living rooms, hallways, and staircases.

The Cost of Cork Blocks/Bricks

Cork blocks or bricks are perfect for commercial and residential buildings. They offer superior insulation capabilities, strength, durability, lightness, and ease of use.

Besides, cork bricks and blocks are aesthetically pleasing and can add a unique touch to any building.

On average, cork bricks and blocks cost $17.50 per square foot.

The cost of cork blocks and bricks depends on the type and design. Sold by the case, these products come in the following quantities.

  • Cork Bricks: $5.81 sq. ft. / case.
  • Beveled Bricks: $10.75 sq. ft. / case.
  • Stick Bricks: $20.4 sq. ft. / case.
  • Grand Bricks: $11.19 sq. ft. / case.

The total cost will depend on the number of cases, the size of your space, and the type of cork blocks/bricks you choose.

So, Are Cork Building Material Costs Worth It for Your Build?

In many cases, the short answer is yes. Cork building materials are highly energy-efficient, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.

Moreover, cork insulation comes in many forms with different costs so that you can find the right type for your budget.

While cork underlayment offers excellent soundproofing and cushioning effects without breaking the bank, cork bricks and blocks are perfect for a unique design that stands out.

Although costly in most aspects, it’s worth investing in cork building materials for long-term energy savings and an improved look.

Besides cork building materials, here are the five lowest carbon footprint materials to use today.

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