A Sustainable Flooring Option
Cork is a renewable resource that comes from the exterior bark of the Quercus Suber oak tree. Laws only allow farmers to harvest it at 25 years old and in 10-year intervals, making it a sustainable material ensuring the trees can grow their bark back several times throughout their life. Today, cork oak trees cover 5.434 million acres of land, with Portugal and Spain accounting for 56% of the total harvested worldwide.
Cork flooring is produced by compressing cork bark slices and granulations into sheets and bonding them with resins. Some manufacturers also incorporate recycled cork — an added perk to reduce waste.
There are three types of cork flooring:
Environmentally conscious homeowners and builders might prefer cork products since they produce little to no carbon footprint. It’s also a much safer alternative to other flooring types because it's manufactured without hazardous chemicals in the adhesives and finishes.
Pros and Care Considerations
There are several pros to using cork flooring in your home. The average cost of quality cork floors ranges between $5.62 - $7.65 per square foot, comparable to hardwood flooring.
However, unlike wood flooring, cork produces suberin, a naturally-occurring waxy substance that makes it relatively waterproof, and bug and mold resistant. Additionally, cork flooring is fire retardant and provides excellent thermal and acoustic insulation in homes.
Other advantages of cork flooring include:
- Biodegradability at the end of its life cycle
- Enhanced comfortability for standing or walking — an ideal material in a home with seniors or children
- A stylish and functional option
The No. 1 reason people buy cork is because of the comfort underfoot. It's a resilient floor that can dent but has an excellent memory and will bounce back over a short time. All floors, short of porcelain tile, will scratch or dent, which is why most flooring manufacturers recommend using protectors such as felt, silicone, or plastic pads.
All cork flooring comes prefinished and is naturally resistant to moisture. Some kinds, like waterproof cork, work even better in potentially damp areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements. There are always exceptions depending on your lifestyle and environmental conditions, so be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions to protect your warranty.
Installing and Maintaining Cork Flooring
All three types of cork flooring can be installed easily by DIYers. The floating cork panels and waterproof cork are the easiest because they click together side to side with no nails or glue, much like installing laminate or luxury vinyl flooring. The glue-down tile requires more expertise. All cork can be installed below, at, or above grade on a flat, smooth, dry subfloor.
Maintaining cork flooring generally takes little effort. You’ll want to sweep and vacuum regularly to prevent a build-up of sand and dirt. Occasional mopping with a damp mop is also helpful, especially for spills. Here’s an article on how to do it right.
Is Cork Flooring Right for You?
Cork flooring is definitely an option to consider when homeowners are looking to build or remodel a green home. While maintenance is similar to most other types of floors, you simply can’t beat cork’s sustainability, durability, and comfort.
Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated and has been writing in the home living industry for over five years. She’s most passionate about sustainable living and incorporating those habits into daily life. Her work has been featured on The National Association of Realtors, the American Society of Home Inspectors, and other reputable publications.