Q&A / 

Cork Floors are Captivating

cork flooring

These cork flooring planks were used to cover the steps as well as the entire recreation room that’s at the bottom of the staircase. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

DEAR TIM: I am looking for an exciting flooring material for my home. I am not interested in carpet, hardwood or ceramic. I have looked at the new floating floor systems that feature laminate products but they just look like wood and cheap marble. Is there an alternative material? I need a product that is long lasting, easy to care for and unique. Can you fill the bill? Stanley - Baker City, OR

DEAR STANLEY: I can tell you who will fill the bill for you my friend. They are the harvesters who strip the bark from the cork trees in several Mediterranean countries. I only wish I could be with you when you visit a store that carries cork flooring. You are not going to believe how attractive and durable cork flooring can be. A friend of mine has had cork flooring in his kitchen for nearly 40 years. It is beautiful!

Cork flooring is very likely the most environmentally friendly material I know of besides wool carpeting. Just like wool, cork is a renewable resource. Bark is stripped from the cork trees approximately every 10 years. The average life span of a cork tree is 150 years. Imagine how much cork can be harvested in that amount of time!

cork flooring

If you desire a flooring product that is not only quiet to walk across but will help muffle room noise, cork must be considered. There are over 100 million air cells or pockets per cubic inch of cork. These built in shock and sound absorbers make it an excellent sound deadening material. Perhaps this is one reason cork was used in the main library in my own home town.

The cork flooring can be purchased in glue down 12 inch by 12 inch tiles or it can be purchased in planks that feature a tongue and groove interlocking feature. The planks almost all have a fiberboard core and are installed in nearly the same fashion as the new laminate flooring products. You simply glue the edges and tap the pieces together. The cork planks become one giant piece that floats across the sub-floor. The square tiles are glued down with conventional adhesives.

Author's Note: If you want a cork floor of your own and want to see how easy it is to install, you should consider buying my Cork Flooring eBook. It has wonderful step-by-step color photos and easy to follow directions. I guarantee your satisfaction!

You can purchase cork with factory applied clear acrylic, urethane or wax finishes. The acrylic finish is very similar to that used by the pre-finished wood floor companies. Under normal residential use it can withstand nearly four years of foot traffic. Urethane finishes are the same as you might apply to a traditional hardwood floor. You can renew acrylic or urethane finishes by simply applying a periodic coat of clear floor urethane. Urethane finishes tend to be harder than the acrylic finishes.

The cork flooring products come in a variety of patterns and colors. The texture of the flooring is extremely unique. Try to block the image of a bulletin board from your mind. Some cork flooring patterns resemble burled lumber. Other cork products have a speckled appearance. Trust me, it is very smart looking. The coloration of cork ranges from light to deep browns. It can also be purchased in a brilliant white color.

Cork, because of its closed cell nature, is unaffected by moisture. However, some cells on the bottom and top of flooring pieces get opened up during the sanding process. Water that enters these open cells can cause cork flooring to discolor and/or expand. If you can avoid floods or massive quantities of standing water, kitchens and bathrooms are excellent places to use cork flooring.

If you decide to use the new laminate flooring materials, be sure to consider using cork underlayment beneath them. This is how the laminate flooring products are installed in Europe. The cork underlayment takes away the hollow sound these floors sometimes exhibit.

The people who own your home 50 - 75 years from now will thank you. Cork can easily last that long. If you don't believe me, just visit the First Congregational Church in Chicago, Illinois. The cork floor you will walk on was installed in 1890!


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