Are cork floors a good choice for a home in a high desert climate?

Asked by Mary Beth Welch
Buhl, ID

We will be replacing our floors soon in our 14 yr old home. We live in south central Idaho which is considered high desert. The climate is very dry, and the winter/summer temperatures are more towards extreme than moderate. One salesman I talked to said exotic woods were not a good choice here, but I think he was more interested in selling me what he had, than answering my questions.


Cynthia Phakos

Answered by Cynthia Phakos

Los Angeles, CA

Koffka Phakos Design

February 26, 2013

In looking at the weather in your region I found that your summers are very dry, with clear skies and sunny days. We too, live in a desert – though not a high desert, and share the clear skies in the summer, with many sunny days.

A problem with your climate and the use of cork is something that we have experienced here -- cork will fade with the UV rays of the sun. We installed a cork floor in an office where the windows and doors faced south and though the windows had window coverings the cork faded significantly where the door was left open for ventilation in the summer.

  • I was astonished with how much it faded after only a year. 
  • A dark brown cork floor went to a light yellow where it was hit by the sunlight, making for a sharp contrast under the area rugs.

I looked up a cork flooring manufacturer, Wicanders, which has a super hard aluminum oxide finish, similar to what is used on engineered wood flooring, thinking that if any manufacturer has solved this problem it would be Wicander’s. But I found that they too warned against fading.

And so, if you are going to be getting direct sunlight into your spaces I would say this cork is not the best choice, and a wood floor a better choice.

Cork does have advantages in that it is a good insulator, thermally as well as acoustically and works well for footfall, something that wood flooring is not. Cork can be refinished with sanding and staining as wood can be.


For more information:

Read "Why is cork flooring considered better for the environment than wall-to-wall carpet?" a Q&A answered by Patrick Sheaffer.

Tagged In: cork flooring

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.