With the myriad of flooring types available, shoppers tend to lean toward those that are most popular at the time. Unfortunately, this practice can cause a consumer to miss out on some great flooring options.
One of these hidden gems is cork flooring. Imagine a floor covering that is attractive, comfortable, environmentally friendly, durable and affordable. When most people think of cork, they think of a wine bottle or a cork board, and due to this lack of consumer awareness, this product is commonly overlooked. In order to appreciate this material, you really need to understand its unique characteristics.
Cork is actually the bark of the cork oak tree found in the Mediterranean. Portugal is the largest supplier with over 30% of the world’s cork trees and 70% of the world’s cork production. Every nine years the bark is harvested by hand with the average tree yielding about 4,000 corks.
The bark is honeycomb in nature, containing 90% air that can be compressed to 40% and then quickly returning to its original shape. This feature creates a natural shock absorber.
Due to its air like composition, walking on cork is like walking on air. Its comfortable walking surface is perfect for kitchens where you are standing for lengthy periods of time.
Cork has a natural beauty with a rich, varying grain, similar to wood. It also comes in many different patterns and tile sizes from various manufacturers.
The same feature that makes the floor comfortable creates a natural noise reducer. It’s extremely quiet to walk on and reduces the impact if an object is dropped on its surface. It’s insulating effect make cork a great choice in a bathroom over radiant floor heating or even installed over cold concrete floors.
Cork is an environmentally friendly product in many ways. Since the bark from the tree grows back nine years after harvest, it’s a reusable and sustainable product. It also contains suberin, a substance that is resistant to insects, mold and protects cork from rotting when exposed to moisture. Suberin is naturally fire resistant and cork doesn’t release any toxic gases when it burns.
The durability of cork makes it a perfect choice for virtually any room in the house, including those high traffic areas. It has been successfully used in churches and other public buildings since 1898.
Due to its resilience, heavy furniture can dent the flooring, so it’s important to use castors or furniture pads under table legs. Just as with wood, an excess of water can damage the finish. It shouldn’t be used where you have problems with moisture or flooding.
The cost of cork flooring compares to high-end laminate or hardwood and runs approximately $4 to 6$ per square foot.
Cork floors are extremely easy to maintain with regular sweeping or vacuuming. Damp mop the floor monthly with a mild detergent and very little water and avoid using abrasive or ammonia-based cleaning products.
The flooring requires up to five coats of urethane sealer, which will last several years. A dulling floor can be refreshed with another coat.