Cork vs Rubber Underlayment: Reducing Sound & Value for Money

Feeling confused about the differences between cork vs rubber underlayment?

Don’t worry, most of us have probably experienced this at some point. But the good news is that in this article, you’ll learn all about their differences.

Rubber underlayment is typically more expensive, but it can also be more effective at reducing impact noise, though it may have a noticeable smell. Cork underlayment, on the other hand, is a more affordable option, but a thicker layer may be needed to match rubber’s sound reduction.

Read on to learn more about their differences and make the right choice for your home!

Cork vs Rubber Underlayment

When it comes to choosing between cork and rubber underlayment, it can be a bit tricky to know which is the best option.

To make things easier for you, in this section we’ll compare both materials across 3 categories.

#1 Acoustics and Sound Reduction

Hardwood flooring comes with drawbacks, and one of the biggest is how noisy it is. Even the softest of footfalls will cause a vibration, and vibration equals sound. Homes and rooms full of echoing sounds aren’t exactly relaxing or comforting.

This is why keeping in mind the sound reduction of cork and rubber underlayment is essential.

Cork underlayment is naturally capable of insulating sound, thanks to its cellular structure.

Brown Corkboard
The cellular structure of cork is why it’s so great at sound reduction

We’ve all seen the memory foam commercials where it’s compressed and then pops back up and regains its original shape. Cork has the same characteristics, just not to the same extent. But that ability is what provides the barrier against sound waves.

The millions of cells in cork are laid out in a honeycomb pattern and are filled with air. Just a single cubic inch of cork can have up to 100 billion of these air pockets—all providing insulation, but more importantly in this case, these pockets of air will deaden sound in any and all directions.

Here are some sound-deadening stats for cork underlayment:

ThicknessSound Reduction Capabilities
12mm corkCan reduce sound by up to 48 decibels
6mm corkCan reduce sound by up to 23decibels
3mm corkCan reduce sound by up to 13 decibels

Something else to look out for is an STC score. This stands for Sound Transmission Class. The score is based on how sound travels through a variety of building components including floors, wall, windows, doors, and more.

While this score is often only important in multi-family and commercial buildings, it does have relevance for single-family homes as well.

At 6mm or 1/4 inch think, most cork underlayment has a STC score of 50. Double the cork (i.e. going to 12mm) more than doubles the STC score. So in this case, thicker is better.

But, what about rubber underlayment?

When it comes to sound reduction, rubber underlayment wins against cork. While cork is capable of reproducing the same amount of noise reduction, it needs significantly more material to achieve it. To get the same benefits, cork needs to be 30% thicker than rubber underlay.

But that’s not as bad as it sounds, since rubber underlayment is way more expensive than cork.

#2 Cost

Moving on, it’s important to consider the cost of the materials, so you can make the choice that best fits your needs.

The cost of cork underlayment will vary depending on how thick it is. Typically, the range is between $0.55 and $1.30 per square foot.

Thickness in InchesPrice Per Square Foot

Sure, there are cheaper options, but cork has great advantages that other materials may not have. So while your initial investment might be to reduce sound, the relatively low cost of adding cork will also provide other benefits.

High-quality rubber can be more expensive than cork. Good EPDM sheet rubber underlayment can cost between $2 and $4 per square foot at 4 mm thickness. But remember what I said above about needing 30% more for cork to be equal to rubber in noise reduction?

Using the cork pricing info above we get this.

Cork12 mm (1/2”)$1.30 per sq f
Rubber8 mm (1/3”)$4 to $6 per sq f

Granted, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t need underlayment that thick, but it’s a helpful comparison.

And remember, this is on top of the cost of your flooring. Are you prepared to add the cost of rubber to your installation? Many say no and go for cork. And that really isn’t too surprising.

Rubber underlayment will offer the same type of additional benefits you’ll get from cork.

#3 Added Benefits

When talking about added benefits, both have similarities.

Hardwood flooring is, well, hard. That means there is an impact on your body with every step you take. Having an underlayment like cork or rubber reduces some of that impact since it adds a layer of softness.

Cork and rubber underlayment can also reduce stress cracks caused by moisture in the air, which is great if you want to protect your flooring investment.

Hard Wood Floor
Cork and rubber underlayment reduce stress on hardwood floors

Both materials are also eco-friendly, durable, and resistant to mold and mildew. However, it’s worth noting that rubber underlayment can be more difficult to install and can have a noticeable smell, which is a bummer if you’re sensitive to odors.

Overall, both cork and rubber underlayment are great options. The ultimate decision will vary depending on your needs and preferences.


That about covers it! Hopefully, with the help of this article, you’ll be able to choose between cork vs rubber underlayment.

Remember, you should buy cork underlayment if you’re looking for a cost-effective option to reduce sound. Choose rubber if you want a thinner underlayment that does a better job at noise reduction and you’re not sensitive to odors.

It all depends on your needs. Whichever one you choose will help to silence the echoing noise in your home.

Thanks for reading to the end! Why not check out below to see if there are any other questions, we can help you with.

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more