Thinking of putting in new flooring in your home? Although cork flooring has been around for decades, it’s only recently started making waves in the flooring industry. New technology has made a viable flooring choice for just about any situation.
Why do people like cork flooring? One of the top reasons is it’s a “green” renewable resource you can install and feel good about your choice. If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, select only sustainable materials for your home, and not have guilt about where the product comes from, cork is your choice.
While hardwood can take years to mature enough for harvest, cork is a quicker growing product. Cork comes from the bark of a cork oak tree, and is harvested from living trees rather than chopping them down. Once harvested, cork is ground up, compressed, and bonded into sheets using resins.
Does that make it a wise choice for use in high traffic areas?
Let’s talk durability
Cork isn’t a product that is new to the market. Cork was a well-loved flooring choice in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, and many of those floors are still in use today.
What makes cork so durable is that it’s a movable flooring material that compresses and jumps back to its original position. When you walk on it, it has “give.” As you move away, it returns to its original shape.
Cork is also waterproof and is the only wood product that has this feature. That makes it a better choice in areas where water and spills are greater risk. When harvested, cork bark contains a waxy substance called suberin that gives it its unique waterproof characteristics. It also makes the material fire-proof, insect-resistant, and antimicrobial.
Cork is considered a wood floor. And like all wood floors, they can be damaged in different circumstances. Cork floors have a wear layer that provides a defense against daily wear and tear. These flexible polyurethane layers are well-suited to cork, but they do wear down over time. Like most wood floors, they will need occasional updating or refinishing, anywhere from three to seven years is a good rule of thumb.
But where hardwood is hard and is more prone to scratches and marks, cork’s softness means it’s more susceptible to dents and dimples. When someone walks across a cork floor in high heels, for example, those tiny pressure points can penetrate down into the cork and mark the flooring permanently. Because of cork’s resiliency, some of these dents can be “ironed” out with steam or a hot compress. Add a hot towel to the area for a few minutes, and you might be able to pull the dent out.
Like other wood products, there is a “quick fix” solution for tiny imperfections. If you have a scratch or dent that deters from the look of your cork flooring, you can create a patch. Using a sharp knife, a ruler, extra cork, and wood glue. Use the knife and ruler to remove the damaged section. Creating a small, squared off area means it will be easier to replace. When purchasing cork flooring, be sure to purchase and store a few extra feet of material. Then cut the new square in direct proportion to the piece removed. Fit it into place and secure it with wood glue. You can reapply a small layer of polyurethane finish to the surface to further seal the area and protect it against further damage.
It’s not just about wear and tear
When most people think about flooring choices for high traffic areas, they consider durability only. But there are other considerations too.
Depending on what you have in the area now, the room may be noisier or colder than you desire.
Cork is made up of tiny air-filled pockets. These act as barriers against noise production, and make any room quieter. If you’re tired of the echo sounds of laminate or hardwood, cork may be the perfect choice for your area.
Those tiny pockets of air also make it an excellent insulator. Just like it reduces sound from being transmitted down and throughout the room, it acts as a barrier against heat transfer as well. That means it keeps your home cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and the amount you pay on utilities each month lower than other types of materials.
If you have a family member sensitive to dust mites and other allergens, cork flooring is also a great choice for installation. Unlike carpet that can harbor dirt, dust, and other pollutants, cork tends to repel it. That means it’s easier to wipe away through regular cleaning. Because of this, cork flooring is often associated with a higher indoor air quality.
And because of the waxy substance called suberin that’s a natural part of cork production, cork floors are natural repellents to insects and other small vermin. That also makes cork floors more resistant to biological growth such as mildew and mold. And if these tiny organisms can’t grow, it can help you create a cleaner, healthier environment for you and your family.
Cleaning is a snap. When installed correctly, it will have a water barrier in place. Start the cleaning process with regular sweeping and vacuuming, taking care to remove dirt and grit that can damage the flooring as you walk on it. While you should always wipe up spills and messes as quickly as possible, you won’t have to worry about seepage because of the moisture barrier. However, depending on the spill and the length of time on the floor, it can be stained. Those grape juice and red wine spills can stain the flooring if left in place for too long.
Is cork flooring the right flooring for you?
Yes, there are a lot of advantages to installing cork flooring into your home. It can be the perfect choice for every room – kitchen, living space, bathrooms, and bedrooms – providing you understand the care needed to keep it looking its best.
Can cork flooring be the perfect choice for your high traffic area? Yes … as long as you understand the product and are willing to provide the proper care. It’s one of the most time-tested, beautiful choices you can make for your home. And the colors and options available will soon have you saying “yes” to new cork floors.