For any of you who are longtime readers of my blog, you will surely know about my love affair with cork. It is one of my all-time favourite materials for so many reasons and after I visited the cork harvest in Portugal back in 2019, I became an even bigger fan of this natural, sustainable and versatile material.
Over the past few years, we have seen architects, designers and decorators rediscovering and embracing cork as they have recognised its exceptional characteristics and the benefits that it can offer to their projects. We’ve increasingly seen the construction industry adopt cork as the material of choice for residential and commercial projects, particularly when it comes to insulation and wall and floor coverings.
And this is what I’d like to talk about today. A cork floor is chosen by many homeowners nowadays due to the clear advantages that it offers over alternatives. And no need to worry about it catapulting you right back to the 1970s. Thanks to advances in technology and a strong focus on design, today cork is incorporated into sophisticated floor coverings in a wide range of textures and colours, perfect for modern-day tastes.
Given the move towards natural materials, organic textures, biophilic design and sustainability in interiors it’s no wonder that cork is having a bit of a moment.
So let’s take a look at some of the properties that make cork such a special material.
What are the Benefits of a Cork Floor?
Thanks to the innate properties of cork, this fascinating natural material offers many benefits that make it perfect for use in flooring.
Cork is one of the best solutions for people who suffer from allergies because it does not gather static electricity and therefore does not attract or absorb dust, pollen or small fibres. This, along with its resistance to humidity makes it a great choice for those at risk of allergies or for asthma sufferers.
Heat and Sound Insulation
Cork offers clear advantages in terms of acoustic insulation and can help to reduce noise due to the natural absorption capacity of cork. It also helps with thermal insulation, regulates room temperature, and prevents loss of heat into the environment. This can in turn reduce energy consumption and result in financial savings for homeowners, which is a big plus given the current cost of energy.
Cork is a naturally waterproof building material and due to its composition, it does not absorb water. So is a cork floor waterproof? Well, this depends on the type of floor that you choose. The glue-down cork floor tiles can be installed in any room, but click cork tiles or floating tiles, cannot be installed in wet rooms, as there is an HDF board in the plank composition, which is susceptible to water damage.
So if you’ve been asking yourself ‘is a cork floor good for kitchens?’ or ‘is a cork floor good for bathrooms?’ the answer is yes. As long as edges are sealed, a water-resistant lacquer is used and the cork flooring has a water-resistant core, then a cork floor is perfectly suitable for bathrooms and kitchens.
Cork also performs well went it comes to fire as it is a natural fire retardant. It is even used by the aerospace industry due to its unique properties. When it undergoes combustion it burns without a flame and does not emit toxic gasses.
Resistant to Mould, Mildew and Termites
Cork is naturally resistant to mould, mildew and termites due to a substance called suberin. The inner walls of cork cells are lined with suberin, a fatty substance that is highly impermeable to gases and water. This is what makes cork inherently antimicrobial.
Soft and Warm Underfoot
Cork is a great flooring material because it is comfortable to walk on and stand on for long periods of time. Cork is always pleasant to the touch due to weak thermal conduction.
Elastic and Compressible
Cork floors are shock absorbent and will retain their original shape when exposed to normal compression. This means that they perform well under heavy furnishings. Cork can actually be compressed to around half its thickness and will recover its shape and volume once released. Its elasticity means it is able to adapt to variations in temperature and pressure without being altered.
Cork is a truly wonderful material because it is 100% natural, sustainable, renewable and recyclable. Cork oak trees have the unique ability to absorb C02 from the atmosphere. It is estimated that the cork oak forests can absorb up to 14 million tons of CO2 per year.
Cork is also classified as an eco-efficient material. This is because any waste created throughout the manufacturing process can be reused as biomass to produce new products.
It is a truly green material that does not harm the environment.
So now we know the benefits of cork, let’s take a look at some other frequently asked questions when it comes to deciding whether or not to choose a cork floor.
How is Cork Flooring Made?
Cork is harvested from the cork oak forest in Portgual. The cork oak tree has a life span of 250-350 years and the cork can be harvested for the first time once the tree reaches maturity at 25 years of age. The harvesting process is done by hand rather than with machines so that the trees are not harmed. Once the cork has been stripped it will grow back and can be harvested every nine years. A cork oak tree can be safely harvested up to 20 times during its life cycle.
Once harvested, the cork planks will need to rest for up to six months outside so that they can stabilize. Then the planks are selected by quality and thickness and the appropriate ones are chosen for flooring.
Is a Cork Floor Hard Wearing?
Yes, cork flooring is hard wearing and is extremely resistant to abrasion. Its honeycomb structure makes it resistant to impact and friction so it is more hard-wearing than many other hard surfaces. However, it is still quite a soft material does require certain measures to ensure that it is kept in good condition. Particularly if you choose raw cork tiles, you will need to ensure that they are varnished correctly in order to protect the grain structure from damage.
How to Clean a Cork Floor?
A cork floor is quite easy to maintain and keep clean. When hoovering a cork floor you should always use the hardwood floor setting on the vacuum cleaner, or even use a floor duster. This is because cork floors are quite soft and you may risk scratching the varnish.
Cork floors can be washed just like laminate flooring with diluted cleaning detergent solution and a damp mop. Make sure you wipe up any big spills quickly, especial if the cork floor has an HDF board in its composition.
What Look Can I Achieve with a Cork Floor?
For many people, a cork floor stirs up bad memories from the 1970’s, but technological advances mean that cork flooring has come a long way since then and can now be used to achieve many different looks and styles with various different colours and finishes.
The natural colour of cork is a light tan shade which instantly adds warmth to a space. It can come in various brown shades depending on the tint and varnished used. But it is also available in black versions as well as grey and whitewashed shades.
You can also add varying degrees of texture to your room depending on the size of the granules in the cork floor. Bigger granules add more texture whilst smaller granules give a smoother finish.
If you prefer a more textured look, then you should go for bigger granules. The small granule cork gives a smooth texture. Peeled cork is another option and this is made by taking strips of cork and placing them next to each other to create a streamlined look.
The natural cork designs are not that versatile when compared to the versatility available in LVT or laminate flooring, as they are limited by the cork pattern. But the numerous benefits that a cork floor can offer far outweigh this minor aesthetic disadvantage.
Where can I buy Cork Flooring?
Bricoflor supplies two different brands of cork flooring and focuses primarily on floating cork tiles with factory applied finish, as these are easiest to install and can be used immediately after installation.
If you have found this post useful, don’t forget to save it for later by pinning the image below. And as always, I would love to read your comments about cork flooring. Do you have it installed in your home? If not, would you consider it?