Cork Flooring: An Environmentally Sound Flooring Option Cork Flooring: An Environmentally Sound Flooring Option
Cork flooring comes from the bark of the cork oak grown in Spain and Portugal, so, like bamboo, the entire tree is not harvested in order to make the flooring product. 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 better for both sound and for temperature. 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.
Cork flooring 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 cork is a large percentage air, it is quite flexible and is softer underfoot than other flooring options. 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 probably have one in your home or office). Cork flooring is processed with a few more steps than these other uses. Cork that is to be made into flooring is ground and then molded into large blocks for baking. This creates a very durable material that can be cut into the desired sizes and shapes. Finally, the cork is sealed and able to be used for flooring.
You may have some concerns about the sealant as it is usually polyurethane or wax, but there are more environmentally sound products available, such as a water-based urethane. When choosing cork flooring, be sure to do your homework.
With recent innovations you have a wide variety of options in cork flooring. It comes in a wide variety of colors, styles and methods of installation. Cork comes in planks, like traditional hardwood flooring, and also in tiles. You can get glue-down flooring, interlocking (glue-less) or floating over sub-floor.
Just as with hardwood, wet mopping is not recommended 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. Wet mopping is never recommended and may cause the seams to swell.