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Green, Sustainable Cork Flooring

Cork Tiles and Planks for New Home Construction and Remodeling Projects

© 2012 by Kelly R. Smith

Photo of Kelly R. Smith

Cork bathroom flooring; photo courtesy Mike1024

Cork bathroom flooring; photo courtesy Mike1024

This article was updated on 05/22/21.

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Because it’s a product that comes directly from nature, cork flooring can be found in a vatiable selection of both colors and patterns. Just like the ever-popular granite natural stone quarried for countertops, these are just two of its appeals.

In fact, no two installations are identical. You can find it in shades as dark and deep brown as fine chocolate, or as light tan as pine or poplar.

Another interesting quality that it possesses it is a unique density. Cork’s cellular structure is noticeably different from the typical hardwood flooring traditionally used for residential and commercial application.

Instead of having a rigid and unforgiving feel, it offers more of a “spongy” quality. Not only does this give it a comfortable cushioning effect (nice in an area where you work on your feet), but it allows it to absorb sound rather than transmitting it.

The Two Common Types of Cork Flooring Materials

The two most common styles are planks and tiles. Regardless of which style you choose to install, it’s critical that you stay away the “no name” materials.

Tiles are the way to go when your goal is achieving a specific pattern, like wood parquet floors you may have seen. A prime advantage that tiles offer is that any damaged areas can be more easily replaced and less expensively than planks.

So plan ahead and purchase one or two extra boxes and store them in your closet. Almost any kind of construction material is more likely to be a match when it originated from the same lot number and manufacturer.

Planks seem to be more popular with some homeowners than tiles. You can buy two basic styles. The way they differ is in the method of installation. The older kind is glued down to the plywood or OSB subfloor.

The newer kind, as you might imagine, is the floating floor version. The planks snap together just like laminate flooring planks do. This style is usually easier to install and is less messy since no glue is involved. It also comes up easier for repairs or remodeling projects. Win-win!

The cork should be either finished following installation or installed pre-finished from the factory. Finishing after installation has the advantage of choosing from a number of woodworking finishes. Many homeowners apply three to five coats of a water-based urethane.

Why can Cork be an Expensive Product?

Here in the in the western hemisphere, all the cork available must be imported as it is not indigenous, or native, to this region of the world. The end product you install started as the bark of the tree that grows in the Mediterranean region countries. These countries include Spain, Tunisia, France, Italy, Morocco, and Portugal.

Unlike hardwood flooring like mahogany, oak, and pecan, cork is not simply harvested, milled, and replanted. Only the bark is harvested from the tree. This is done approximately every nine years. As you might imagine, much of the market is determined by the wine industry. Many wineries have gone to synthetic bottle corks but there is some consumer resistance to that.

Like bamboo flooring the life cycle of natural cork makes it sustainable and eco-friendly. But, if the seasons are not favorable, the harvest will not be plentiful, and market prices will escalate.

Green, sustainable cork floors are desirable for multiple reasons and they represent a great choice for the homeowner seeking good looks, durability, ease of maintenance, and a wonderful method of boosting home equity.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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