Cork flooring presents a beautiful option that is both practical and environmentally sound. In a market where sustainability is crucial, cork is an excellent choice. As far as cost, cork flooring is usually comparable in price to traditional hardwood, and is frequently far less expensive than bamboo. Cork is easy to install and is an increasingly popular flooring option in the United States. Plus, cork’s distinctive look offers unrivaled beauty and style. With these great options available, why not go green?
Cork flooring is harvested strictly from the bark of the cork oak tree grown in Spain and Portugal. The cork bark is removed from living trees – no trees are cut down during the harvest. Cork is harvested on a nine-year cycle by hand in a process that is very carefully regulated to protect this renewable resource from long-term damage. This time cycle allows the cork oak to continue growing in a healthy way so that harvesting the bark does not invite disease into the tree. Generally cork is only allowed to be harvested when the tree is in a dormant cycle, during the winter months and even then only up to 50% of the bark is allowed to be harvested.
Cork flooring is superior to other flooring options in that it insulates for both sound and temperature far more efficiently. If you are thinking of installing cork flooring this may be a very important consideration, especially in an older home where heat loss can be a very big concern.
This incredible flooring material also has the benefit of being naturally antimicrobial and resistant to mold and mildew. Cork is also extremely resistant to scratches and water, so using it in an entryway or kitchen would be perfectly acceptable. Because the composition of cork includes a large percentage of air, the material is quite flexible and is softer underfoot than nearly any other flooring option. It is a popular choice for high-traffic areas and in businesses where people are required to stand for long periods of time.
You may be familiar with cork in the form of wine bottle corks and the ubiquitous cork board (you may have one in your home or office). Cork flooring is processed with a few more steps than these other uses. Cork that is destined to become flooring is first ground then molded into large blocks for baking. This creates a very durable material that can also be cut into the desired sizes and shapes. Finally, the cork is sealed with a durable finish. Then, it’s ready to be installed.
Manufacturers such as APC, Globus and Wicanders use various sealants, usually polyurethane or wax. Other, more environmentally sound sealant products, such as a water-based urethane, are also available. When choosing cork flooring, always be sure to research the product thoroughly so you can be sure that the sealant matches your needs.
With a host of recent innovations there are a wide variety of options in cork flooring. It is available in a stunning array of colors, styles and methods of installation. Cork is available in both planks, like traditional hardwood flooring, or in square tiles. Glue-down, interlocking (glue-less) or floating over sub-floor installation options are all available.
Just as with hardwood, wet mopping is not recommended for cork flooring as it may cause the seams to swell. Sometimes cork will react to changes in humidity and heat and does tend to yellow somewhat with age. These minor issues aside, cork flooring can be an excellent material to use throughout the home or in commercial spaces. It’s renewable and sustainable, responsibly harvested, and simply looks stunning.