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. This is only true for cork floating floor that is made with an HDF or MDF core. This is a huge misnomer with glue down cork – cork is actually hydrophobic and is completely incapable of absorbing water due to it’s closed-cell structure. One of the earliest known uses of cork was as a fishing bobber because it actually repels water. However, cork is hygroscopic, meaning it is sensitive to changes in relative humidity and will volumetrically change as humidity levels change.
Similar to rubber and linoleum, cork is an old product with renewed interest since the product comes from a rapidly 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 of Europe. Cork flooring is made by removing the bark of the Cork Oak (Quercus Suber). Cork bark is usually harvested every nine years, often from the same tree, which is a much faster rate of renewal than waiting for a seedling to grow large enough to harvest. Cork is a renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable raw material that minimally impacts the environment and produces very little waste.
For flooring products, cork is ground up, compressed, and formed into blocks or sheets bonded with polyurethane.