With the increasing focus on environmental-friendliness more and more people are looking towards natural, renewable materials for their flooring options. One of the most popular choices is cork, which is incredibly eco-friendly and one of the most easily renewable resources in the world. It also has a host of wonderful qualities which make it an ideal flooring choice in many situations. So here are some frequently asked questions about cork:
What is Cork?
Cork comes from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, which is indigenous to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Southern France and Northern Africa. This tree is unique in that the outer bark (cork) layer can be stripped off several times in a 200 year lifespan with no harm to the tree, thus providing a steady supply and a completely renewable resource of raw material.
What is so Special About Cork?
Cork is unique in so many ways: it is light, buoyant, compressible and elastic, rot-resistant, fire-resistant (in its natural state), impermeable and yet soft. Yet it is a completely natural material which cannot be emulated by any synthetic material. It is no surprise that it is highly sought after in a variety of applications, in particular stoppers and floats, due to its honeycomb structure, flexible membrane and lightweight properties.
Why is Cork Suitable as Flooring Material?
In many respects, cork is the perfect floor, in particular for families with pets and children:
- It is soft and warm.
- It is durable enough to handle wear and tear and heavy traffic. In fact, cork floors are more durable than many other flooring types. One reason is because of its elasticity and its ability to recover well from compression. This means it has the ability to spring back and regain its original size and shape. Having said that, the use of furniture pads is recommended and a polyurethane finish will help protect the cork floor further and make it easier to maintain.
- It insulates against both temperature and noise: the honeycomb structure of cork provides tiny cell-like compartments which seal bubbles of air; these in turn provide a layer of insulation which means low conductivity for heat, sound and even vibrations. This makes cork one of the best insulating substances in the world.
- It is easy to clean and maintain and beautiful to look at.
- Ideal for people with allergies as it does not absorb dust and is also anti-static.
- It is environmentally-friendly and cost-effective.
Can you use Cork in Kitchens and Bathrooms?
Yes, cork can be used in all rooms and in both residential and commercial settings. In fact, kitchens are one of the most common rooms to install cork floors, in particular because it is comfortable to stand on and very easy to clean. Although cork is absorbent, surface spills will not penetrate cork floors and can wiped off, in the same way as any other type of hard flooring. Cork can be used in the bathrooms and is especially good for providing a warm surface underfoot, compared to tiles. However, if there is likely to be heavy water spillage (e.g. children splashing in the bath), then special precautions are needed during installation to make sure that the room perimeter is caulked before installing the molding or base boards.
Is it True that Cork Does not Rot?
Yes, cork contains a natural substance called suberin which enables it to be impermeable to gases and liquids. It is therefore also naturally anti-bacterial.
Can you Still have a Choice of Colours with Cork?
Of course – cork can be available in its natural honey tones (and remember, as with all natural products, some variation in shades or texture is normal and part of its inherent beauty) or stained in a variety of colours, from red to green to chocolate to black.
How do I Install Cork?
You can call upon a professional manufacturer and installer or for DIY enthusiasts, cork tiles are easily installed using any water-based contact cement. For cork floating floors, normal carpenter glue will suffice. These types of cork flooring will usually come with detailed manufacturers’ instructions for installation.
Where can I use Cork?
Cork can be used anywhere in the home, from the child’s bedroom to the kitchen, living room to the bathroom. Because it is so abrasive-resistant, anti-allergenic, insulating and resilient as well as being naturally anti-microbial, cork is frequently used in public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, shops and even offices.
Cork has been used since the early 1900s, with Europe having a long history of using this product as flooring while North America and Australia are more recent converts. The popularity of cork has now spread around the world.