Cork flooring has become popular in recent years as an eco-friendly alternative in home building and remodeling. It's been touted as sustainable, natural, and comfortable. People ask about using cork flooring, and I hear the experiences of those who choose cork flooring. So what's the real deal on cork?
Cork used for residential and commercial flooring comes from the bark of cork trees. While cork trees shed this bark naturally, cork flooring material is hand-harvested from the trees. Cork oak trees, found mostly in Southern Europe and Western Mediterranean countries, are protected by harvesting regulations to save the trees, which live for up to 500 years. Since the tree is not destroyed in the harvesting process, that means cork is a renewable and sustainable material.
Frank Lloyd Wright used cork flooring in several of his buildings and it was quite popular in the 1920's until new materials such as vinyl were developed. In banks and other older buildings, cork floors remain from the 1920's and 1930's, demonstrating just how durable this flooring is.
Cork Flooring has Several ‘Pros'
No wonder cork flooring has made a comeback as the focus has shifted to green products for your home. Here are the thumbs up aspects of cork flooring:
- It's an environmentally-friendly flooring choice.
- Cork flooring can be used in most rooms in your home.
- Cork requires lower maintenance when compared with several other flooring choices.
- Cork's cellular structure provides excellent insulation, which also acts as a sound barrier and a thermal insulator.
- No worries about mold, mildew or harmful organisms, because cork is naturally resistant and high on the list of affordable hypoallergenic flooring options.
- Cork flooring has a slightly spongy attribute making it more comfortable to walk on than other flooring options such as hardwood; it also stores warmth and is easy on bare feet.
- Since its comeback as an eco-friendly option, cork flooring is now available in a wide variety of colors and designs to please any home owner or designer.
- Cork flooring is durable, handling repeated foot traffic.
So What are the ‘Cons' of Cork Flooring?
Nothing is perfect, including eco-friendly cork flooring:
- You can't put heavy furniture on cork for long periods, because it can become permanently marred or indented. This can be addressed with coasters to help spread the weight of the heavy objects.
- If you've got cats or dogs, you can expect your cork floors to become scratched from their nails.
- Cork flooring can discolor in direct sunlight over time (many other flooring options have the same problem).
- Even though cork flooring is generally very water resistant, spills have to be addressed quickly so they are not absorbed and don't stain. This ‘con' can be helped (but not completely eliminated) with a polyurethane coating on the cork flooring planks or tiles.
- Some experts say cleaning cork flooring is tough because you can't use wet mopping, while others say a damp wet mop can be used. It may be that the polyurethane can make the difference? You have to decide for your home.
Cork Flooring Info You Should Know Before You Buy
- Click together floating cork planks or panels.
- Unfinished cork tiles that generally are 12 by 12″
Either style of cork flooring can be installed, sanded and finished like a hardwood floor. Be sure to check the materials used to make the cork flooring if you want a totally green floor, as some have a thin cork coating on top and a composite base.
Another option is the size of the cork granules within the cork flooring tile. The look of your flooring will differ depending size – small, medium or large granules. Both the planks and the tiles can be installed in a straight or traditional pattern, or you can create ‘cork art' by mixing it up to create your own pattern. Generally, home cork flooring is 1/4″ thick, while commercial (or a child's playroom) locations go with a studier 1/2″.
Aside from natural cork colors (similar to what you see on cork bulletin boards), there's a wide variety of finished cork in both custom (more pricey) and predetermined colors and patterns. There's even one style made of cork bottle tops, backed by mesh and filled in with water proof grouting.
Unless you have lots of handyman experience, you're better off leaving installation to the professionals. Installation costs (we've got several articles on other flooring, including wood floor installation and maintenance) depend on the type of room, whether you choose planks or tiles, glue down or floating systems, and are generally similar to other flooring choices with similar installation steps.