Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak tree. One of the unique characteristics of cork is that its bark can be stripped away without harming the tree. This makes cork a renewable resource.
The first stripping occurs after approximately 20 years after the cork oak sapling has been planted. Then the bark is harvested approximately every nine to ten years until the tree reaches 200 years old.
Cork flooring is made from the bark, grinded, processed and baked in a kiln in the form of sheets. It is then cut into tiles which are used as flooring.
Cork flooring, an environmentally friendly flooring, also comes in panels. With proper care and maintenance a cork floor should last about 25 years. Cork tiles are environmentally friendly. No cork trees are cut down; only the bark is peeled without destroying the tree.
Beauty and Durability
Cork is used in many locations where there is high traffic. It is known for its durability and is often used in libraries, court houses and other public buildings. These floors can be a little expensive relative to wood floor- installed cost per square foot can be close to a good quality ceramic tile floor. However they are definitely worth the cost when used in smaller areas such as a kitchen, den or dining room but can be used in just about any flooring application.
Modern cork comes in a variety of colors, patterns and textures. Some companies mix rubber with cork to provide a special texture, some others are known for very vibrant colors. Some patterns resemble plank boards. Cork flooring always blends in well with other decorations and furniture.
Care and Cleaning
These floors are very easy to maintain. By following a few guidelines your cork floor will last a long time. Spills should be wiped up immediately. This is especially true if the spill is wine or coffee. These types of spills will tend to cause staining.
In high-traffic areas use mats that are breathable. Use doormats at the entryway and exit of rooms that have cork floor tiles. This will cut down on the dirt, sand or other debris that can scratch the floor if left under shoes.
Use furniture pads under all furniture legs so they don’t leave an imprint in the cork. In addition to furniture pads always lift furniture when moving it. Don’t drag or slide furniture. This could cause damage to the floor.
Cork flooring should be protected from exposure to direct sunlight. Use drapes on the windows to prevent sun damage.
Use a drip pan under plants so that when you water it doesn’t spill or drip onto the floor and cause water damage. You should sweep daily for sand and other coarse particles that will scratch the floor. When dirty use a damp mop and water only. If you need to use soap use only a non-abrasive one.
If you have cork tiles installed over radiant heating in your floor, there is no need to worry about thermal expansion and contraction causing the tiles to gap or delaminate from the subfloor, because cork has a high amount of resiliency. In fact it is used in industrial gaskets and joints for that very reason.
There are many characteristics of cork that make it a great choice for flooring material. Because of its low conductivity of heat cork is naturally fire resistant and cork doesn’t release any toxic off-gassing when it burns. In addition it does not release any toxic substances when it is combusted.
Cork acts as a sound barrier by absorbing sound vibrations. It is lightweight and soft, making it the perfect material for flooring. The air trapped inside the cellular structure of cork provides a natural shock absorbing feel to the floor. It is naturally rot resistant.
There are oils in cork that prevent mold and mildew. They also repel insects. It is naturally hypoallergenic. For families with allergies it is the perfect choice. Cork is buoyant. This means that it will float. It is also compressible and expandable.
The use of cork is recommended by those seeking to save money, the environment, and themselves from allergens. Cork, when properly maintained will last up to 25 years. It is beautiful and versatile.