Cork trees are a variety of the oak tree species. While most other wood or grass (bamboo) flooring materials are made by utilizing the stalk of the plant, cork is the outer layer of bark. Harvesting the bark of the cork tree is environmentally friendly, as it does not kill the plant. In fact, cork trees grow a fresh layer of harvestable bark every six years. The cork tree can continue to grow new bark for decades if not centuries. Very little of the harvested bark goes to waste.
Figure 1 - Cork Flooring
Selection of cork flooring
No other material has the visual detail that is found in cork flooring. It is an excellent flooring material in both homes and offices. Cork has been used as a floor covering for many centuries because of its durability and appearance.
Cork flooring is available in tiles and in strips, similar to laminate flooring where the top layer of the product is cork glued under pressure to less expensive materials. Cork flooring can be installed with adhesive to a properly prepared subfloor or in some cases it can be laid as a floating floor.
As a DIY home handyman, read the manufacturer's instructions on installation of their cork flooring. The installation of cork flooring is a home improvement project that requires an intermediate level of abilities.
Durability and Resilience:
Cork provides resilience and comfort. Unlike many of the ceramic flooring materials, standing on cork does not lead to sore and stained calf mussels. Many people believe that cork is soft, elastic, can be compressed, and hence should not be used if you want a long life floor. This not the correct and the proof is, that there are many century old European estates that still have their original cork floors. When cared for properly, as is necessary with any hardwood flooring, it is capable of providing decades of service.
An excellent flooring material for both kitchen and bathroom floors, cork is extremely resistant to any penetration by a liquid and it provides a non-slip surface (somewhat dependent on how it has been finished).
Note: Cork should be sealed when installed as a kitchen or bathroom floor.
Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and antistatic. Homeowners who are concerned about the allergenic effects of any building materials should consider cork as it resists the growth of mildew and mold and will not attract pollen or dust particles. Cork floors are easy to maintain and do not release fibers nor do they emit any toxins into the air making it an excellent flooring for individuals with respiratory ailments.
Cork has outstanding insulation characteristics. Its naturally low thermal conductivity provides a barrier to excessive heat or cold. It reduces energy costs in both heating and cooling. Its thermal properties make it an excellent flooring over above or below grade cement subfloors. Even without under floor heating a cork floor is warm to the touch. An excellent solution to cold, basement, family room floors.