Since it’s a natural product, cork flooring is available in a wide range of colors and patterns. Like granite used for countertops, this is one of its appeals; no two installations look the same. It may be as dark and deep brown as chocolate or as light tan as oak or poplar.
Another quality that recommends it is its density. The cellular structure of cork is quite different from hardwoods used for flooring. Rather than being rigid and unforgiving, it has more of a “spongy” feel. This not only gives it a cushioning effect, but also allows it to absorb rather than transmit sound. The cushioning effect makes it a great choice in areas where people spend a lot of time on their feet working, such as in kitchens.
Types of Cork Flooring Materials Available
The two most common types are tiles and planks. Whichever type the homeowner chooses to install, it is important to avoid the “bargain basement price” materials. Tiles work well when the goal is to achieve a desired pattern, similar to wood parquet floors. One advantage that tiles have is that if any damage occurs over the life of the floor, replacement is easy. For this reason, it is advisable to purchase one or two extra boxes to keep on hand. Construction material, especially natural, is more likely to match when it comes from the same lot.
Planks are more popular than tiles and there are two basic types. How they differ is in installation method. The older style is glued down and the newer style is a floating floor where the planks snap and lock together just like engineered laminate flooring. This second type is easier to install and makes for less of a mess.
The material is either pre-finished or finished after installation. When done after installing, a number of finishes may be applied. Excellent results are achieved with three to five coats of a water-based urethane.
Why Cork can be an Expensive Product
All the cork available in the western hemisphere must be imported. It’s actually the bark of the tree that grows in the countries in the Mediterranean region. These countries include France, Italy, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, and Portugal.
Unlike hardwoods like oak, pecan, and mahogany used for floors, cork is not simply cut down, milled, and replanted. The bark is harvested from the growing tree approximately every nine years. This is the prime reason why it is so sustainable and eco-friendly.
Cork floors are desirable for many reasons and make a great choice for the homeowner looking for aesthetic qualities, durability, ease of maintenance, and a great way to boost home equity.