|Back up to Flooring home page||Cork flooring is an environmentally friendly choice that's durable,
comfortable and beautiful.
Cork Flooring Basics
Used for centuries, cork's beauty, durability and additional benefits make it an ideal flooring choice for residential and commercial applications.
Besides beautiful surface flooring, cork underlayment is also available for use under laminate and hardwood floating floors to reduce sound transfer. At our vendor partner, we recommend cork underlayment over any other kind of noise-reduction product on the market today.
Durability and Resilience
You might think that because cork is elastic and can be compressed, that it wouldn't be considered a durable flooring choice. However, it is considered a resilient flooring with natural memory ability and has the ability to give generations of beautiful reliable service in your home. There are still many "past century" estates in Europe with Cork flooring in active use. Cork flooring like wood flooring is capable of many, many years of service when properly maintained.
Cork is also a non-slip surface that's highly resistant to liquid penetration. These qualities make it an option for kitchen or bathroom floors, as well as high profile dining and living rooms. If cork snap flooring is installed in a kitchen or bath, the seams should be sealed.
Cork is more than an environmentally healthy choice. It's a healthy choice for families, especially those with members who suffer from allergies or asthma. Cork is not only naturally hypoallergenic, resists the growth of mold and mildew. It is also antistatic, so it won't attract and hold dust and pollen particles. Also essential to people with respiratory problems, a cork floor is easy to maintain and does not shed gas or fiber of any kind.
Because it has such outstanding insulating properties, cork can help pay for itself by reducing heating and cooling costs. Not only is it warm to the touch, even without under-floor heating, cork flooring has low thermal conductivity, insulating against heat and cold. These properties make it ideal over cold, cement subflooring.
Long recognized in the building industry as a highly effective sound-control and crack-suppression underlayment under hard surface floors, cork surface flooring can do the same in a home. Because it absorbs vibration, Cork dramatically dampens sound in a room, and reduces sound transfer between floors in a home or business.
Cork can be applied over any subflooring, and it can be applied over nearly any existing flooring except carpet. This fact is especially useful when it comes to covering old, asbestos-based flooring. While effectively covering up the old flooring, the cork installation eliminates the need for costly removal of the old floor and the associated health risks.
Our vendor partner provides all the cork options in the marketplace, providing the distinctive, expensive look of cork flooring without the high prices. Our low-maintenance, easy-to-install prefinished cork flooring features click-together glueless planks, tiles or prefinished tiles that require an adhesive. Check individual selections and brands and the installation methods listed with each.
Is that a cork or your floor?
Ok when most people hear the word CORK they think of a wine cork or a city in Ireland, but more and more people are seeing the exciting possibilities with cork floor covering. This article will outline the different aspects of cork flooring and try to articulate answers to the common questions about corks' application specifically for flooring and underlayment. I know nothing about corks for wine bottles please quit emailing me those queries and no - I do not know how to cork a bat. I tell ya what I do know: I know a thing or three about cork flooring and cork underlayment and what specifically you need to know.
Cork offers a unique aesthetic presentation combined with some really cool features most notably sound absorption, hypoallergenic properties and comfort. Additionally the natural insulation properties found in cork as well as a versatile color selection really round out a very unique floor covering offering. And to top it all off cork is now available as a click together floating floor, which should really bring it out of the cobwebs of flooring showrooms worldwide.
Where does cork come from? Well I am glad you asked. Cork is from the cork oak tree, or perhaps more accurately the bark of that tree. Isn’t that weird that bark from a tree can produce such an interesting floor? These oak trees are of the Mediterranean persuasion and are not the same as a northern red oak tree. The bark is harvested every 8-10 years over the life span of the tree that typically has useful life of about 150-200 years depending on who is quoting you the facts. These trees which are mainly found in Portugal, Spain and parts of North Africa are creating a very sustainable product supply. Cork flooring is reportedly been around in Europe for more than 1000 years. Heck, even the flooring giant Armstrong flooring started selling cork when they began in the flooring business over a 100 years ago.
Cork flooring is actually by-product from the manufacture of cork stoppers. The cork is collected after the cork stopper production and then used to create the different patterns and colors by adding pigment into the process.
It feels so good
You can't really say much about how nice flooring feels unless you are talking about cork or carpeting. You can actually feel the difference underfoot immediately when you are on a cork floor especially if the cork is installed using a floating installation method rather than being glued down like the older more traditional cork tiles. It is hard to describe the unique feel of cork when you test it for the first time. I must say that it still surprises me when I walk on cork. It really is quite astonishing to really stop and feel that your floor is really nice to walk and stand on despite it being a "hard surface" floor. (aka not carpeting which is referred to as soft surface flooring within the industry.)
Even floors like hardwood or laminate that are installed using a floating installation system can benefit from the sound absorption of cork. By using an underlayment that is made of cork which is available in rooms at varying thickness' you can really make the floor sound better on the surface and reduce the downward transference to almost nil. There really is a major difference in how much more "solid" a floor feels as you walk on it, which is part, the actual feel and part the reduced echo effect often found in floating floors. The impact is significant, but goes unnoticed by many since they have not had the experience of comparing the different floors and underlayments like I have. However, let me just say that getting the best underlayment you can afford is well worth it for the solid feel, the added comfort and the sound factor.
At our office we had an area that needed flooring and would involve a staff member spending hours at a time on their feet so we thought that cork would be useful. (Plus we had some mismatched leftovers and I am too cheap to buy a floor. Ironic isn't it – a floor guy unwilling to invest in a floor?) We also had a power saw in that room that was used for cutting flooring samples and knew that cork would help reduce the sound both in the room and in the offices that were adjacent to this area. Because we had some leftover boxes of cork in several different colors that was a discontinued product and really could not be sold we decided to install this over the concrete in a random pattern. Besides the floor looking nice, it really felt great. I still walk in that office from time to time just to feel how nice that floor feels. I believe that it reduces fatigue as well which enhances the workplace. Although I am not aware of any specific studies about cork flooring and reduced tension and or fatigue, but I do know that there is significant amount of data that suggests a more comfortable environment can lead to reduced stress and higher levels of productivity.
It sounds so good
Cork also really has a powerful sound deadening quality to it. Due cork's natural tendency to absorb sound it really can be a super option when it comes to adding a bit of serenity to your home. Can you imagine a den with a cork floor aided by a cork underlayment for additional sound neutralization? What a peaceful place that would be! And for the more practical among us if you have an area upstairs perhaps even a kid's playroom or bedroom that you are concerned about sounds transference to the down stairs a cork floor (or at least a cork underlayment) is just what the doctor ordered. You will be amazed at the level of sanity difference between a family room with children at play that prior cork flooring sounded like a NASCAR Pit Row compared to the newly liberated tranquility zone that a cork floor can create. Well maybe not quite that dramatic – but you can be assured it will be a big difference.
In addition to the sound benefit you will also find that your children's injuries will typically be reduced by one severity level from the current playroom industry standard CLASS 3 - "Just fell off the shelf I'm not supposed to climb; plunged onto the hardwood and fractured my wrist…" to a more acceptable CLASS 4 - "Broken toy, bruised ego, bones intact." Yes one could say that cork flooring saves the children.
Cork for Condos
Your condo association will love you if you decide to be the pioneer of cork flooring for your association - to really score brownie points use the added cork underlayment. Let me tell you in the interest of full disclosure that I do not own any stock in any condo association boards. As a matter of general tolerance I loathe condo boards. I realize that boards set all kinds of rules for condo dwellers to live by which are to "help" everyone. I have worn the yoke of condo association cruelty and have decided that for me personally I prefer a single-family dwelling. (Although as I mow my 1.75 acre lawn I reminisce longingly about condo living.)
Anyway without delving deeper into the politics of condo associations let us all agree that noise transference from upstairs neighbors to downstairs neighbors is a problem that must be solved for the benefit of all condominium citizenry. Flooring is especially is regulated to insure that a selection like a solid hardwood is not allowed. Such a selection would indeed aggravate any underside neighbor due to the efficient sound movement through the wood and into the unit below. However, there is a solution that offers the personal shopping for flooring a very liberal range of flooring options yet balances the needs of the lower dwelling.
You guessed it - C-O-R-K. Cork as a floor will score well when it comes to sound. Cork flooring installed as a floating system and using a cork underlayment (as thick as you can afford – but a minimum of 6mm) will really set a new benchmark for happy relations between upsters and downsters.
Even if you do not want cork as your primary surface you are well advised to combine a cork underlayment (as thick as you can afford) with a floating laminate, hardwood or bamboo floor. This system will pass even the most stringent noise or sound regulation that even the most tyrannical condo board can muster.
Most North American condo boards require 6 mil cork underlayment to reduce sound and that is about the equivalent of 6" of concrete. Let me repeat - 6 millimeters of cork is, in terms of sounds deadening capability, equal to 6 inches of concrete. This is the standard for condos right now - but may increase in the future so a cork floor + cork underlayment would really be a home run. Although I am not up to speed on the British and EU standards I can assure you that cork will improve your situation regardless of where you live.
3 mil is also available and useful, but if you can afford it - get the 6 mil.
Cork Underlayment does not off gas plus it will not break down like foam. Cork has memory therefore when an impact causes it to dent it will recover over time, unlike a foam or fiber underlayment.
(btw - if you are on a condo board and feel unappreciated or offended by my comments please forward all hate mail to my email address.)
Where can cork go?
Cork can be installed in most areas in the home or office. It is in fact a very tough floor when constructed properly and with an appropriate finish. There are many examples of commercial installations of cork, however, most are still in the traditional glue down applications. The click together floating systems are still a relatively recent introduction to the cork world.
But if you are thinking towards a home usage you can go just about anywhere in the house except heavily wet areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms or other areas that would be routinely wet. Ok I know what you are thinking: You are thinking that if you email me and ask if I think cork is ok for a bathroom I will somehow find an exception to my exception and give you my blessing. However, you would be wrong. For the same reasons that I don't like hardwood or any other woodish product in wet areas I must draw my own personal ban on using it in bathrooms.
Even after this warning I will receive hundreds of emails asking if their bathroom is ok for cork. You decide where you want to install it, but I am just telling you that I personally EXCLUDE heavily wet areas from wood based products including cork. But if you want to install it in a powder room or a laundry room or other areas go for it. (My advice is to make sure your insurance coverage is current.)
Cork is a good candidate for kitchen flooring. This is an area where you are on your feet for a long duration (think thanksgiving) and could use a much-deserved reprieve for your feet; they will thank you at the end of another holiday cooking marathon! Yes I realize that kitchens can have water, but overall I feel comfortable with that recommendation.
Some experts recommend adding an extra coat of finish for kitchen areas if you want to add an higher level of protection for your flooring, which I do not oppose. If you have an especially active household or feel that you could benefit from this added coating you’ll need to make sure you know what type of surface finished is applied on your flooring and what new finish product you should use to add the extra coat.
Here are some other areas that are perfect for cork flooring:
* Foyer or Entry
For the office setting virtually any area can have cork floors, although again I forbid you from installing it in bathrooms and in this case I would even be careful about installation in an office kitchen type of area. This is because commercial kitchen usage seems to set new standards for how poorly floors can be maintained I would submit that a more budget friendly idea is a vinyl surface or tile. Both of these options will be better long term.
Even retail applications like main street stores, hair salons, museums, yoga or dance studios and even coffee shops are perfect applications for cork. Cork with proper maintenance can stand up well in commercial applications especially light commercial or what is commonly called main street commercial. It is often prudent to add an extra coat of finish to cork flooring every few years to prevent any damage to the cork itself. This process is also called recoating. (Works for other floors as well - but the type of finish is a key factor so don't assume that you can do this without knowing about the finish compatibility as well as what has been used in the past to maintain the floor. Also in general waxes are bad for your floors.)
Types of finish
There are two main types of flooring finishes that are used on cork floors today. One is a poly-urethane acrylic base and the other is a water based finish.
Which one is better? The answer to that depends on who you ask. However, my own slightly biased view is that for the environment’s sake a water based finish is more eco-friendly. That point was made by a cork expert with whom I agree with. She went on to explain that water based finishes also are less likely to yellow with exposure to light.
Of course the proponents of the urethane/acrylic finishes will fire back and say that their finish is a bit tougher and therefore will protect your flooring better. Further they will assert that you can achieve a wider range of compatibility for top coating your floor as well as having a very nice gloss level.
Overall I do believe that part of this decision is based on economics. The water based finished products are a bit more expensive than the urethane/acrylic floors. You can determine for yourself what finish you like and how much you are willing to spend.