Facts about cork flooring, its care, and properties that are helpful in installation.
Cork has become a very popular flooring material for several reasons, it is a renewable product, it is very durable, and it has good insulating properties. Harvesting the bark from the cork tree does not damage to the tree or the environment. Cork is a variety of evergreen oak that is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa. The bark of the cork tree grows so quickly that it can be harvested every 9 to 12 years after the tree is 25 years old and a tree will produce harvestable bark up to 200 years. There is also very little waste from the cork as large pieces are used for flooring, smaller cuts are used for wine corks, and the remaining cork crumbs can be glued together to form cork mats for corkboards.
A cork tree after harvesting
Cork makes a beautiful surface flooring but because of its low sound transfer characteristics it is often used under laminate and hardwood flooring, especially in multi-story condominiums and apartment buildings to reduce sound transfer to suits below. Cork underlayment provides some of the best noise-reduction characteristics available in today's home improvement and construction market. Some engineered flooring uses a layer of cork for sound deadening and cushioning.
Van Gogh Cork
Durability and Resilience
Cork is elastic and is compressible which makes it a good choice if you need a durable flooring material. Numerous homes in Europe built in the last century still have their original cork floors. Cork is considered to be resilient flooring, much like linoleum or vinyl that will provide decades of service to a home or office.
Cork is an excellent choice for kitchens and since cork flooring is highly resistant to spills and it has a natural non-slip surface depending on the finish. However the seams should be sealed in kitchens and baths to prevent any liquids from seeping between the tiles and loosening the bond.
There is a naturally occurring chemical in cork called suberin. Suberin is a wax-like substance that in nature inhibits the growth of mold or mildew in the bark of the cork oak.
Cork is naturally hypoallergenic since it resists the growth of mildew and mold so it is an excellent material if family members suffer from asthma or allergies. Cork is also an antistatic material, so it will not attract and hold pollen or dust particles. Cork floors do not shed their fibers, meaning no flooring material dust and they are relatively easy to maintain.
Cork flooring feels warm due to its excellent insulation properties. It will block the transfer of cold when installed on concrete slabs or above basements. Cork is an ideal flooring material for below grade concrete floors and basement rooms.
Cork absorbs vibration which in effect makes it a highly efficient sound barrier and crack suppression underlayment under hardwood or any other hard surface floor dramatically reducing the transmission of sounds from one floor to another.
The installation of cork flooring is a project well within the capabilities of most home handymen. You can apply cork over any sub-floor, and you can apply it over nearly any existing flooring with the exception of carpet. In most installations of cork flooring it is wise to install 6 mil poly sheeting over the sub-floor to act as a moisture barrier.
Different trees produce cork of different densities. The less dense the cork, the more easily it is damaged and the shorter the life of the floor. Density is measured in a given weight per cubic foot of material and it will be available from the manufacturer.
Cork that weighs 30 pounds or more per cubic foot is sufficiently dense to withstand many years of foot traffic. Low quality cork that is less dense is being sold in some home improvement stores. It is sold in thin tiles and appears to be just like the good cork. Durable cork measures at least 3/16 inch thick or more.
Care and Maintenance
Keep cork floors clean by routine vacuuming.
Occasionally, damp mop the cork floor using wood cleaners formulated for pre-finished hardwood or laminate floors diluted in a bucket of water.
Never wax or oil your cork floor if it is natural or has a urethane-based finish.
Wipe up spills immediately.
Use walk-off mats at entrance doors and in front of kitchen sink is encouraged.
Protect your floor from everyday use by installing felt or plastic protectors under the legs of furniture.