Cork is increasingly being embraced as an eco-friendly flooring choice for the kitchen and bathroom. If you are considering cork flooring for your home, you are likely to weigh pros and cons of your decision, particularly when cost, durability and environmental sustainability are at stake. The lifestyle priorities are rapidly changing and the indestructible vinyl is, thankfully, not in any more. Fresh information has become available and now the arguments in favor or sustainable lifestyle have climbed up in the list of priorities. The key to making the right choice is to understand information about where it comes from, what it contains, and what value it offers to you and your family (including your pet).
It Originates in the Mediterranean
Harvested from the bark of an cork oak tree (Quercus suber, native to the Mediterranean countries), cork is considered a rapidly renewable material. The bark of the tree is harvested every nine years, leaving a protective inner layer of bark. This process allows the regeneration of a new bark. The bark then dries in the forest for several months after which it is transported to a factory where wine bottle corks are produced. The remaining cork is boiled, ground up and then compressed with bonding resins. This product is cut and made into a flooring.
Cork floor is available as both sheets and tiles. Many people envisage a corkboard when they think of cork flooring which actually comes in a broad range of appealing styles.
Cork Flooring Pros and Cons
The following list discusses pros and cons of cork flooring. Let’s look at the pros first.
Comfort. On the pro side, cork flooring has a cushioning and soft effect under foot. Its pleasant softness stems from the unique structure with 200 million closed air cells per cubic inch. If squeezed, this structure will condense and then it will bounce back to the original shape.
Elasticity and impermeability. Along with the softness, cork flooring has other rewarding benefits that attract homeowners. Cork’s elasticity combined with its near-impermeability make it a superior choice for bathrooms and kitchens.
Sound- and fire-resistance. Cork flooring is sound-resistant with a high degree of fire-resistance. Thanks to its bubble structure in addition to its natural fire resistance, cork is considered suitable for acoustic and thermal insulation. It is also a sensible alternative to flammable petrochemical-based products that emit toxic fumes when burned.
Durability. It may seem counterintuitive, but a well-maintained and quality cork flooring is considerably durable. The durability can be maximized with proper care such as regular treatment with a natural wax.
Anti-allergen. Cork can please those who suffer from allergies. Thanks to Suberin, a naturally occurring wax the cork has anti-allergen and insect-resistant properties.
Environmentally-friendly. The most important pro is that cork is an environmentally-friendly material with sustainability (meaning that the cork tree bark is regenerating itself at the same rate as it’s being utilized) and recyclability as its most distinctive features. But that’s not all. Before they’re made into floors and bottle stoppers, cork oak forests play an important role in preventing desertification and providing the refuge to various endangered species. Cork flooring can also be considered a recycled product because the waste of the wine bottle manufacture is not ending in landfills, instead, it is transformed into cork flooring.
While cork flooring does have many extraordinary advantages, it’s always important to learn about its disadvantages to make a right decision for your home.
Impact from transportation. For those buying cork flooring in Portugal or Spain where Quercus suber is abundant, the impact from the transportation will not be significant. But if you live in the U.S., the cork will need to be shipped to a great distance in order to reach you. On the list of cork flooring pros and cons, the negative impact from transportation is the most significant environmental con. Transportation is problematic from an environmental standpoint because it may involve trucks, trains, boats, and the accompanying fuel. The greater the distance, the greater the amount of pollution associated with transportation. Emissions from transportation include greenhouse gases, which contribute to acid deposition and climate change.
But here’s the good news: Now, several manufacturers offer cork flooring made in the United States from wine bottle-cork industry waste thus reducing the travel distance.
Sensitive to scratches. What about cork flooring and dogs? Pet toenails can be sharp and damaging to cork flooring. Let’s say that cork flooring will show scratches. To prevent the damage, be sure to keep the nails clipped. To avoid indentations from furniture it’s suggested to equip furniture feet with soft coasters.
Toxic additives. Many toxic materials have found their way into cork flooring. Some cork floors use synthetic binders in the manufacturing process and synthetic finishes. In any case, be sure to avoid cork flooring backed or mixed with vinyl. Furthermore, pick a zero-VOC adhesive to set up cork flooring and seal the surface with a natural wax twice a year.
Fading. Another con to cork flooring is the possibility for fading. In contrast to hardwood flooring, cork gets lighter with exposed to light. Windows that have UV-protective coatings or window coverings can minimize this process.
Sensitive to humidity. Cork flooring can swell in high humidity. Hence, it’s best to keep the humidity levels between 40% and 60% to keep the flooring looking its best.
Not cheap. Finally, cork flooring does have a cost that might be a significant cons for some homeowners. With the cost range of about $4 to $8 per square foot the cork flooring cost is a main concern, when compared carpeting and vinyl tiles that can be purchased for $2 per square foot.
Overall, cork flooring looks great. Although it has some disadvantages, cork is definitely a sensible choice for those demanding a healthy and resilient flooring with worthwhile environmental benefits.
Featured image credit: Plantsurfer