If the word “cork” only brings to mind wine bottle stoppers, think again. Sleek and contemporary, this resilient flooring is enjoying renewed interest. It is versatile from a design standpoint, thanks to the availability of tiles or planks in a variety of colors and sizes. It’s also warm and soft underfoot. And cork is a natural insulator, meaning it muffles sound and lowers energy bills. Cork floors are available in cork’s natural color, stained or painted. Cork flooring is a natural product so it will show the natural variations that occur in the bark. Once installed, a urethane coating can be applied although there are prefinished products on the market today. Since it absorbs moisture, cork is not suitable for bathrooms or any other rooms where moisture will be present.
Similar to rubber and linoleum, cork is an old product with renewed interest since the product comes from a renewable resource, the bark of a tree commonly known as Cork Oak. Predominantly found in Spain and Portugal, Cork Oak is native to the Mediterranean region. Cork flooring is made by removing the bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber). Cork is culled from bark of the cork oak tree, which is native to the Mediterranean. It can be harvested every nine years from the same tree — a much faster rate of renewal than waiting for a seedling to grow large enough to replace another. It is renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. Its harvest minimally impacts the environment, and its manufacturing process produces very little waste.
For flooring products, cork is ground up, compressed, and formed into sheets bonded with resins. Some manufacturers incorporate recycled cork and cork waste.