Something’s stirring underfoot—a growing interest in cork floors. Crafted from sustainable materials and available in a wide array of patterns and colors, cork flooring is proving to be an attractive alternative to tiles, hardwood, or carpeting. Here we take a look at some of the qualities of cork that are making today’s homeowners look twice, and we offer advice on buying and installing cork in your home.
It’s Sustainable. Cork flooring is made from the cast-offs of cork wine-stopper manufacturing. The cork itself comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, native to Portugal and Spain. After the bark is harvested, it regenerates and can be trimmed again in nine years, ensuring the ongoing health of the tree.
It’s Comfortable. Soft underfoot and warm to the touch, cork flooring is a pleasure to walk on—even on the coldest days. Its pliancy makes it a good choice for kitchens, workspaces, or anywhere you may be standing for long periods of time. It’s also a sensible option for nurseries and playrooms.
It’s Durable. For years, cork flooring has been used in public buildings like museums, libraries, and churches, proving that it can withstand regular foot traffic. Most dents will fill themselves in again, much in the same way that a cork wine-stopper expands once removed from the neck of a bottle.
It Absorbs Sound. Cork’s acoustical properties make it a natural choice for music rooms, homes prone to echoing, and apartment buildings with strict sound attenuation requirements. It has thermal properties, as well. Because cork maintains room temperature, it reduces heat loss in cold weather.
It’s Versatile. With colors ranging from wood tones to vibrant rainbow hues, cork can complement any decor. Some homeowners opt for the neutral path, allowing the natural grain patterns to take center stage. Others play with color, creating classic checkerboards or more elaborate configurations.
Buying and Installing Cork
Cork flooring is available in two styles—tiles that are installed with the aid of adhesives and floating floors with a click-and-lock system. The choice of which to use is a personal one. Some feel that click-and-lock installation is simpler. Others find cork’s beneficial qualities even more pronounced in tiles, which are usually cork all the way through.
At approximately $3 to $10 per square foot, depending on pattern and color, cork is comparable in price to other flooring options such as hardwood, laminate, and ceramic tile. Be sure to request samples before placing an order, so you can see how the cork will look in your home’s lighting. Most manufacturers and retail sources will send samples either for free or for a small charge.
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