Cork is worldwide recognized as a bottle stopper. You may also be familiar with it from the cork board in your office. However there are lots of other uses to cork and cork flooring is just one of them.
Cork flooring is, then, a product made from the bark of the cork oak tree, a material which is ground and processed to produce tiles that serve as flooring for commercial, public or residential buildings.
Although cork flooring is not a new concept, only now you see it everywhere. Since around the turn of the century it is possible to see cork flooring in churches and libraries.
In some buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, in the early years of the 20th century, it is still possible to see the original cork flooring he used.
After harvesting the cork oak tree, the cork undergoes several processes to become production apt. The first product to be extracted from the best pieces of cork is the cork stoppers. After that, the leftover material, or post-industrial waste, and the less quality cork are grounded and then compressed using adhesive resins. This product can be cut and used as flooring or in many other different applications.
Cork flooring is installed in two different ways. The traditional method is trough adhesive connection, used for cork flooring in tile form. The floating floor installation process is usually preferred for residential settings because of its versatility and ease. Unlike the adhesive method, that requires exact specifications, the floating floor installation allows the installation of the cork flooring on top of existing surfaces as well as to be easily removed and replaced.
Recently, cork flooring has been proclaimed as a green flooring option. As people are looking for more environmentally-friendly options, cork is becoming more and more popular.
Cork flooring is environmentally-friendly since the start. From the harvesting of the cork, to the finishing passing through the production process, everything is green. Most of the cork flooring available in the market is made of waste from the production of cork stoppers, and thus can be also considered as a recycled product. Also, more and more companies are utilizing adhesives that have few VOC (volatile organic compounds) or don't have them at all.
The process of harvesting the cork oak is strictly regulated. The cork oak is hand harvested by skilled men and remains unaffected by the harvesting process. The health of those cork oaks must be ensured during the whole process. The bark of the cork oak grows back again, leaving the cork oak as healthy as ever. For this reason, cork flooring is one of the most eco-friendly and renewable sources for flooring there is.
The characteristic resilience to pressure and impact of cork gives cork flooring the ability to resist foot traffic and the pressure of furniture legs, returning to it's original shape after impact. For a better resistance it is advised to put felt protectors on the furniture legs.
There is no known wood floor that can be claimed as completely scratch-resistant. However, cork flooring's resilience makes it more adaptable to claws and scratches than other natural wood floors.
Warmth is held inside the natural cells of cork, turning cork flooring into a very warm floor even in the cooler months of winter. Cork flooring also provides a good insulation in terms of sound. Footfalls become almost silent thus, cork flooring is perfect for areas where echoes and other distracting ambient sounds are common.
Suberin, a waxy substance that is the main component of cork cells, gives cork flooring the moisture-resistance characteristic. This substance is also insect-resistant and fire-resistant providing cork with a high level of resistance to these two situations. Even though cork flooring is highly moisture resistant it is still best to clean bigger amounts of wetness as soon as possible.
Cork cells are filled with an air-similar substance responsible for it's lightness and, at the same time, for it's elasticity and resilience. These characteristic turn cork-flooring into a cushion-like material which is really great if you, or your children, happen to fall or drop a dish or glass.
Cork's natural look is everything but homogeneous. It's color and even natural marks vary from piece to piece, so, naturally, the tiles will not be all completely equal. However, this is usually considered an advantage by those with an eye for design, which can "play" with those varieties of colors and make creative applications. The usage and exposure to light might also change the color of cork over time.
To clean your cork flooring you should avoid harsh cleaning agents and avoid over wetting the floor. In fact, a simple damp mop should be sufficient to keep your cork flooring clean. The sooner you clean obvious mess and/or spills the lesser the possibility of getting permanent stains on your beautiful floor.
Cork's natural abrasion resistance gives cork flooring the resilience and high friction coefficient needed to last for long. However, the way you treat it and the attention and care you pay to it will definitely play a decisive role in its duration.