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history of cork

From its first documented use as fishing floats in 3000 BC, cork has been in use as one of nature's most uniquely renewable resources. Cork came into wide industrial use as we know it in the 18th century, after Benedictine monk Dom Perignon reworked the cork stopper to protect his well–known creation, champagne. Three hundred years later, cork has re–entered the spotlight as one of the most environmentally friendly flooring resources for your home.

Cork Flooring Products

Where Does Cork Flooring Come From?

But where does cork come from in the first place? Cork originates as bark of the cork oak tree, principally grown in parts of Europe and North Africa. Cork oaks have a life span of 150–200 years, and the bark can be harvested up to twenty times over a tree's life cycle. That's right – when cork is harvested, the trees are not actually cut down. Instead, the cork bark is removed from the tree by hand in 1'x3'sections, using a sharp knife and the utmost care. The cork is then aged for 3–6 months in the forest before being shipped off for commercial use.

The very nature of cork harvesting means that it's one of the most renewable types of wood used for flooring. Although cork trees must age 25 years before they're mature enough for harvesting, the extreme care with which the cork bark is harvested ensures that the trees remain protected. No more than 50% of the bark is removed during any given harvest, leaving the tree with enough natural defenses to allow for a long life. These sustainable harvesting methods have remained essentially the same since the first uses of cork were discovered.

Where is Cork Flooring Used Today?

Cork flooring has been used in Europe since it originated there over 300 years ago, and has found sporadic popularity in the United States over the last hundred years. The natural resiliency and attractive look of cork floors have made them popular for use in high traffic areas like government buildings and banks. Cork flooring is scratch and dent resistant, and many buildings from the early 20th century still have cork floors in excellent condition, despite the passing of years and high volume of foot traffic. Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright championed cork flooring for its strength and beauty, and made it a popular choice for residential designs.

These days, cork flooring is best known for its sustainability. An attractive option for the green home, cork flooring is finding increasing popularity among those who wish to have great–looking floors that are friendly to the environment. Cork flooring is the right choice for many more than just the those that want "green" flooring. You might want cork floors for their sound reduction qualities, resistance to scuffs and stains, or just because they're comfortable to walk on while barefoot. No matter your reasoning, with cork flooring you can feel confident that you've made the right choice for yourself, your home, and the environment.