Refinishing Real Cork

Discussion in 'Cork Flooring Q&A' started by BarryF, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. BarryF

    BarryF New Member

    Original Cork Tiles 12" x 12" purchased through Dodge-Regupol and installed 20 years ago. Cork all the way through and Polyurethaned.
    Can they be professionally refinished (sanded and re-polyed)?
    Who does this in the Connecticut area?
    I'd like to hear from people who have had this done and their experiences.
  2. Grant H

    Grant H I'd rather be patting my dog.

    Easily done. Being "older" tiles I expect they are nice 6mm(ish) ones and not the thin peal n stick variety we sometimes see now. We use a Progy sander, basically a floor polisher with sander paper on it, to remove the bulk of the poly and finish the edges with a smaller sander and blocks. Then it's just a matter of getting the right poly and you're as good as new.

    Although this can be a "DIY" job I'd recommend a pro . Cork is soft to sand, therefore easily damaged and messy (very fine dust). A Pro can also deal with any problem tiles, water damage, loose perhaps etc.
  3. Sorry Barry - I was on holidays so I missed this one. Grant is correct about this being a possibility.

    The 12" x 12" tiles of 20 years ago were often 4mm (or 3.2mm if working US system of inches = 1/8"). The approach you take will be dependent on the thickness. If they are thicker than 4mm you have a chance of getting a full sand and refinished down.

    If they are the thinner, garden variety tiles which were very common 20 years ago, then a buff and coat (light abrasion + 1-2 coats of finish) will be your best bet.

    In essence, this is relatively straight forward for someone with the training. The trick is finding the "someone". I would highly recommend working with the NWFA Certified professionals in your area. You can use their website to (National Wood Flooring Association: Find a Professional) to find professionals in your area. Give yourself a radius of 100 miles (throw a wide net) and then start making calls.

    The older guys, with all the experience will know what you are after and will have a better chance of getting the work done. Or if they don't do it themselves, they will know someone who can.

    Once this is done, you should get another 20-30 years out of them. In essence, this is how we get a cork floor to "live" for 100 years - we keep adding a bit more finish and off we go.

    Chemical compatibility might rear it's ugly head (solvent based finishes vs water based finishes) but a well trained NWFA Certified Installer/Sand and Refinisher will have all the knowledge to deal with old finishes.

    Go ahead and find a cross section of your floor (like around a heat vent) and measure it up. That is the fastest way for you to find out which direction is the most appropriate way to do this.

    Good luck. Keep us posted. And yes, I have a contact in Canada who has flown all over the world to do this type of work so if you are at the point of pulling your hair out, feel free to updated me on your progress. I might be able to hook you up with this gentleman. He likes "working holidays" whenever he can get them;)
  4. BarryF

    BarryF New Member

    Thank you Grant and Stephanie.
    The 12 x 12 tiles measure 5mm so I have adequate thickness, I guess, for full sanding. Am I correct using a water-based Poly (many coats? a sealer coat?)?
    I have a call out to a NWFA member...waiting to hear back.
    I have about 840 sq. feet to do and one company that I spoke with wants to use their dustless trailer system (of course, a lot more money)....but we do need to live while they do this kitchen and dining room area.
    Again, many thanks.
  5. Hi Barry. Sounds like you have an above average cork floor there! The full sand and refinish is also dictated by whether or not your floor "needs" it. When we see wear through and areas of raw cork that have turned brown/black/purple then we really should be working with a full sand and refinish.

    If you have a patterned cork with a veneer, then the full sand becomes less agreeable. Sanding will most likely take off the veneer/pattern.

    If you have the ability to load some photos of the floor (bad spots, good spots and all spots in between) that would be awesome.

    I'm a fan of the 2 part products - mainly because I sell them and understand them. The Loba 2K Supra AT has an AWESOME wear surface with some excellent properties that homeowners and flooring professionals like about it.

    But the main thing is working with a product that is a GOOD match for cork AND your professional understands. The two need to be matched.

    Sealants will be dependent on the finish used. Some require a sealant applied first, others do not. Some require 3 coats over raw cork, others only 2.

    It is all down the the product the professional can bring to the table when working with cork. Not everyone knows this, but not all hardwood finishes "like" cork. Even though it might say it on the can, it may not be a good fit at the end of the day.

    Some of these hardwood finishes (like Bona and Streetshoe) have a hard time handling the "stretch" of cork. Some of the lower level products can crack and haze when used over cork. They just don't have the bounce and the stretch that is needed.

    The European based products often have a line specific for cork. Loba-Wakol (German coating manufacturer) has 2 cork products for sale in the USA: WS 2K Supra and the 2K Supra AT (the AT indicates it has ceramic nano particles in it that increases the scratch resistance - well worth the extra money in my view). I've had people use the WS 2K Supra (slightly cheaper product) as the FIRST coat and then applied 2 coats of the more expensive 2K Supra AT as the final wear surface. That works REALLY well.

    Rigo Step (Netherlands) also has a super nice product which works very well - if you can find it.

    I'm hearing back from cork specialists that they are not so fond of the Bona Mega as they first thought. A product called Polywhey (Vermont Natural Coatings) is a great product if you do a FULL sand and refinish (but not a great choice for a buff and coat).

    There are several options out there...but they need to have a bit of stretch so that they don't crackle and haze. That's the biggest problem with "hardwood" finishes being converted to "cork finishes".

    Your on the right track. I would love to see some photos if you can figure out the website (I'm so bad at that part I can't even begin to help you...but JIM is always willing to help).
  6. BarryF

    BarryF New Member

    Stephanie, you are sooooo helpful. Many thanks. I've attached two pictures...I hope it works. The worst area is around my desk where the chair wheels made a mess over the years. With that same picture, you can see a much brighter area where there was a area rug over the cork and very little wear. The other picture is our normal 20 year wear...not bad!
    You didn't remark about the dustless system of sanding. Is this common and even effective? Again, many thanks!

    Attached Files:

  7. Chris 45

    Chris 45 Director of P.R. on some deserted island. I Support TFP

    Dustless is totally worth it!
  8. Hi Barry. Dustless is the way to go. As far as I can tell you have wear through in around the desk (to be expected) and then the rest of the floor looks to be in decent shape.

    It is **possible to go with a bit of an patch in the area by the desk and then a buff and coat everywhere else, but that won't "fix" the discolouration around the desk. In fact, it will seal in the discolouration. To get rid of the discolouration, you need to full sand/refinish option.

    The dirt between the seams (which tells me this wasn't site finished when installed - just factory finish tiles glued in place and left) will also be sealed into the floor no matter which way you go with your choice of refinishing. You are welcome to go hands and knees with a tooth brush (children's tooth brush works the best with cork) to carefully remove all the dirt in all the seams if it bothers you. If you've lived with it this long and you're not concerned about it, then you can skip that step. A professional refinisher will NOT clean the seams for you. So if you want to do it, you will have to do it yourself. Just a little FYI on that.

    This floor is in good just needs some love. And if you remove the rug for a year or so, the colour will start to even out once again.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing. You should be good to go with a full sand/refinish.

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