Flooring

The A-Z Cork Flooring Guide

Cork flooring has had a rough patch over the years in the market. The reputation of the material was quite damaged and so were sales of the product. This was not only because cork flooring failed to meet the expectations of the market, but also because of the increasing demand for other alternatives such as carpets and tiles. However, cork flooring has made a comeback – a rather successful one- to the industry in recent years. The resurgence in its popularity has increased its demand in the market to a great extent. For instance, cork flooring outlets currently experience better sales than they’ve ever had over the past decades. This development has mainly occurred because of the advancements that have been made in both manufacturing and maintenance. Which is why, it is time for DIYs to be exposed to this emerging market.

The origin

Cork is known to be a highly renewable natural resource. It is manufactured from an evergreen known as ‘Quercus Suber’ which predominantly grows in Northern Africa and Southern Europe – especially in the Mediterranean regions. These trees are grown specifically for their barks since they are the most valuable part of the plant. The harvest process does not harm the tree at all since the bark naturally grows back after it is cut.  After the harvesting, the barks are granulated. Binding agents are used to press the material into a flat condition. The most commonly used type is resin. These are later baked into the shape of sheets in order to be used as flooring materials.

The benefits

Those who have pulled corks from wine bottles would know how soft the material is. It is even softer when it is beneath the feet, offers extreme comfort and is thus preferred over hard surfaces such as tiles and stone. Cork is also a natural insulator which will efficiently block out noises resulting in a more peaceful atmosphere. This benefit is experienced because the surface of corks consists millions of cells that are air-filled which enables them to act as tiny sound cushions. The impact created on cork flooring is also kept at a maximum level due to the softness of the material. For instance, the floor will not produce creaking noises when furniture is moved across the floor. These are also highly environmentally-friendly since they are renewable and biodegradable. The surface cannot be easily dented or cause slips due to the material’s ability to bounce back.

The disadvantages

Even though cork comes in a wide variety, they cannot be applied to all types of floors due to various restrictions. For example, it requires high maintenance in areas with heavy moisture and traffic. The regular cleaning and maintenance can cost you dearly in the long-term. It can also be easily stained by various damages such as spills, dust and dirt. If used in moist atmospheres, they must be properly sealed and also be reapplied regularly to prevent condensation. Due to softness of the material, it is important to place mats under heavy furniture to protect the flooring from damage and divots. Cork flooring, unlike certain others with high durability, has to be replaced every few years since it eventually fades away due to wear and tear.

The availability

Cork naturally look brownish or tan in colour. Each flooring type will differ in terms of looks because the appearance is highly dependent on the natural conditions of the tree. Stained cork is usually more preferable since they are available in various colours such as green, red, blue and honey. The most common method of installation is the tile form with a standard size of 12” X 12”. It is also possible to purchase them in plank form (12” X 36”) if your room is widely spaced. In order to increase its market demand, cork flooring is currently available in sheet materials as well. Even though it is effective just as much as the others, the installation process seems to be more difficult.

Cork can look extremely beautiful on any type of flooring, but only if it is maintained properly and regularly. In the least, it must be free from dirt to maintain its natural appeal. This can be easily achieved through regular sweeping and vacuuming. If not, the quality of the flooring can deteriorate and become more susceptible to damage and such as cars and scratches.