Cork Flooring: Natural Beauty with Style and Comfort

by  Raymond Alexander Kukkee

image of cork floor types

A sampling of beautiful cork flooring choices

Natural cork flooring is rapidly becoming one of the most popular floor covering choices made for residential flooring today, and with good reason. Cork is a totally natural material, the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus Suber)  . When a layer of the bark has been carefully harvested, it grows back again, replacing itself in less than ten years. Being a renewable, sustainable, rapid-growing crop, it is an environmentally sound and logical choice.

Cork is a tough, pliable material that is naturally resistant to bacteria and molds, and is also an excellent insulator, making cork flooring a warm, comfortable surface to walk on. Natural variations in color make every cork floor totally unique; and one of it’s best features is it’s resilience, making it forgiving if something is accidentally dropped upon it. Instead of leaving a dent, cork will return to it’s natural shape, unlike a classic hardwood dent, or a ceramic tile that gets dinged.  Occasional spills and water do not seriously affect a well-installed, glued cork floor that has been properly sealed, so relax. Overall, cork is a user-friendly material.

Cork flooring is manufactured and may be assembled as planks, or interlocking strips similar to laminates, or made a stand-alone product as a tile.

“Cork might easily be the beautiful flooring you’ve been searching for.”

Installation of cork flooring depends on the type of cork flooring you choose. It may take the form of a plank-type prefabricated interlocking panel or strips, which may be installed as floating floor in the fashion of any laminate product over any reasonably level, even surface. Let’s rip out the old carpet though; the substrate surface should be solid.

Alternatively, cork tiles can be glued directly to any sound, dry substrate using a full glue spread. Use a notched trowel for that process.  If you don’t want to rip up the old vinyl tile underneath, that is fine if you have chosen the floating type of installation; but  if you prefer to glue the cork down, substrate should be level, smooth, clean and dry for optimal adhesion. Fill up any gaps or big holes in your sub-floor with appropriate filler too. Glued installations of cork are more labor-intensive and installation is usually more expensive than a free-floating installation. It is also harder to repair if damaged.

Durability of cork is very good because it is pliant, and bounces back when compressed. To some degree it is even considered ‘self-healing’ and doesn’t retain evidence of minor pokes or dents.

Warranties and guarantees of performance for cork flooring vary with the manufacturer and product you have chosen–anywhere from 10 to 25 years with limitations,  so it’s always a good idea to choose well and read the fine print.

Best applications for cork flooring include kitchens for comfort, hallways for traffic resilience, bedrooms for warmth, and recreation rooms for toughness.  The glued method of application is suitable for bathroom applications, if recommended top polyurethane sealants are applied. It’s probably good to note that  the plank-laminated variety of cork product with a fibre core is not recommended for bathroom applications or in any location that is excessively damp or where the flooring might be subjected to standing water such as foyers. The plank-type flooring cork product has a fiber core which is not waterproof and is susceptible to damage from standing water. Extended exposure to water will swell the fiber core and cause buckling and may cause early flooring failure.

Bottom line, cork flooring is an excellent environmental choice if you have a flooring renewal project area where you want natural-looking, easy-to-install and comfortable-to-stand-on flooring. Cork might easily be the beautiful flooring you’ve been searching for.

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