Tools and Tips: Cork Floors, Demystified

From on April 17, 2008 in Flooring

Cork FlooringIn a word association exercise, most people would hear “cork” and burst out with words like, wine bottle, coaster or bulletin board. But here’s a new one: my new kitchen floor!

Cork floors are rapidly gaining in popularity. Perhaps the biggest reason for that is the eco-friendly nature of cork products. Cork trees are prominent in Spain, Portugal, and Tunisia and can live up to 800 years. Cork comes from the bark of the tree only. The bark is harvested about every nine years and then grows back, doing no harm to the tree itself.

The bark is ground into very small pieces and coated with a non-toxic resin binder. It is then manufactured, in various thicknesses, as tiles or planks. Because the cork is ground into such miniscule pieces, it does not need to look like a wine cork or a bulletin board. In fact, manufacturers are able to achieve quite a medley of patterns and textures.

Cork flooring also comes in a broad array of colors. Yet this variety is not due to any stain or dye. Cork, as part of the manufacturing process, is baked in ovens; the longer it bakes the darker it becomes. Also, unfinished cork floors can be painted or stained.

There are several benefits to cork flooring in addition to its environmental impact, or lack thereof, and its unique manufacturing process. Cork flooring is also very pliable and quiet. Roughly 50% of its volume is made up of air, which acts as a natural shock and sound absorber. Cork also makes for an excellent insulator due to these pockets of air, allowing the floor to stay warm on cold surfaces such as concrete floors.

Cork flooring does have a few snags though. Its softness leaves it susceptible to damage. Thus it can be permanently dented by heavy furniture. However, the use of furniture pads beneath table and furniture legs can easily prevent this. As is typical of most any wood floor, cork is vulnerable to water damage and should not be used in bathrooms or basements where seepage and flooding are problems.

Cork flooring is installed using adhesives. It can be cut with a utility knife so it is easy to fit around corners and along uneven walls. After installation, a cork floor will need several coats of a urethane sealer. This will make it last for many years and if the floor begins to dull, it can be recoated to bring it back to life.

Maintaining a cork floor is fairly standard work. Regular sweeping and/or vacuuming will fend off scratches. Spills may be wiped up with a damp sponge, and if you feel the need for a heavier duty cleaning, you can use a mild detergent and damp mop to refresh the finish.

On average, cork flooring costs about $4-6 per square foot. This is comparable to imported hardwood or high-end laminate flooring.

Cork is certainly a very interesting, unique trend in flooring. Its ease of installation and maintenance make it a very practical addition to the home. Also, the benefit of an environmentally friendly and renewable resource in flooring make it all the more attractive.
Contact CalFinder today to get free home estimates on your cork flooring installation.