Cork may seem like an unusual choice for flooring, but cork is one of the best sources of truly renewable flooring available today! Harvesting the bark from the cork tree and converting it to flooring does not kill the tree, when done properly.
“In fact, cork has been harvested for hundreds of years in Portugal and Spain and has become literally a science,” says Melissa Clements, owner of Eco Friendly Flooring, “When cured properly, it is one of the cleanest, if not greenest options available to homeowners.”
How to Select Cork Flooring
There are five areas to consider when considering cork for flooring. These include country of origin, how the cork is prepared, pre-finishing, patterns, and pricing.
1.) Country of Origin
It is important to know where the cork you are considering comes from. For example, European cork is the finest in the world and must pass strict environmental testing. China and the United States also have cork industries, however, the cork industries are much younger. As a result, the curing processes are not as refined, which can occasionally lead to quality issues. Additionally, the standards in these countries are much less rigorous than those set in Europe.
2.) Out Gassing
Out gassing occurs when chemicals, such as adhesives, release vapors that are known to be unhealthy. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that can make you nauseous, create nerve damage, and may even cause cancer. When cork is properly prepared, there is very little (if any) volatile organic compounds or VOCs. Cork from Europe tends to be the best in this area.
3.) Pre Finishing
Cork flooring can be finished in one of two ways: using water-based polyurethane or using acrylic. Using water-based polyurethane makes finishes flexible. These finishes won’t split and they hold up to furniture the best. Additionally, it is easier to repair should the flooring get damaged. In comparison, acrylic provides a great looking finish, but it is more brittle and can actually split. It is also more difficult to repair should a split occur.
The beauty of cork flooring is that there are many patterns and colors to choose from. Colors of cork flooring can range from traditional golden tans to deep blues. The best advice before selecting a cork floor is to visit a local flooring store to see what they have in stock and what is available to order.
The retail pricing for most cork flooring options range between $5.00 and $7.00 per square foot. Note that the thickness and the finish of the cork determines how much the cork costs.
Naturally Engineered for Superior Performance
Compared to many other types of wood flooring, cork is a better insulator and is frequently used as an under-floor. Also, it provides more cushioning (which is why it’s often found in kitchens, playrooms and rec rooms), is fire-retardant, anti-static, anti-microbial, and sound deadening. In short, cork flooring has many natural qualities from which you will benefit.
Standard cork floor tiles are typically 1/8″ thick. However, when you select thinner widths, you will lessen some of corks natural sound absorbing and cushioning advantages as well as make the floor more susceptible to scrapes and gouging.
Caring for Your Cork Floor
Caring for a cork floor is similar to caring for a wood floor. Best floor caring practices include:
♦ Not dragging heavy, sharp-edged objects across the floor as this can cause gouges.
♦ Installing pads on table and chair legs.
♦ When cleaning, floors should be vacuumed with the beater brush off, swept, or mopped with a barely damp mop.
♦ Making sure the floor is properly sealed. An improperly sealed or worn floor can soak up moisture and stain resulting in damage to the floor.
♦ And, every four-to-six years, cork floors should be refinished with an environmentally friendly water-based finish. Floors may be refinished as needed.
Cork floors are a great option for any home. They are durable, comfortable to walk on, offer sound dampening to help create a quieter environment, and are a greener option than other types of flooring.