What is cork flooring?
Cork flooring is a highly durable natural flooring option that has exceptional beauty and comfort. Cork floors come for the bark of the Cork Oak tree. Because the tree is not cut down and only the bark is harvested, cork floors are one of the most renewable and eco-friendly sources of flooring. Cork flooring is available in an array of colors, patterns, and textures.
How is cork flooring made?
Cork flooring is actually composed of a tiny sealed honeycomb cellular structure made from the bark of the Cork Oak tree. After it is stripped off, it is stacked into piles and left to "season" in the field for one year. It is then ground, processed into sheets and baked in a kiln to produce tiles or panels. There are two basic construction methods: homogeneous and veneer. Homogeneous products have an advantage as they can be sanded and refinished while veneer products should not be. Cork flooring usually comes in panels that are generally 12" by 36", or tiles in many different sizes. It usually comes in two different installation methods - glued down or floating.
What colors are available in cork flooring?
Cork flooring is most often sold in tan but also comes in dramatic variations such as blacks and blues. Some manufacturers can custom color match any color sample you have. There are also different patterns and textures available offering a wide variety of choices.
Why is cork considered to be so environmentally friendly?
Cork flooring is one of the most renewable sources of flooring as Cork Oak trees are not harmed in the harvesting of their bark for cork. Using cork for flooring helps support farmers and protects the Cork Oak in its native habitat. The preservation of Cork Oak forests is also important to the survival of thousands of species in the ecosystem. Maintaining cork forests plays an important role in preventing soil erosion by wind and rain and also helps to prevent forest fires as they are fire resistant.
What are the advantages of cork flooring?
There are several advantages to cork flooring besides being extremely environmentally safe. It is very comfortable and soft to walk on and will not get cold like ceramic tile. Objects are less likely to break when dropped on it due to its flexibility and shock absorption. Its cellular structure makes it extremely durable and reduces noise and vibration which makes it a great choice for condos where noise control is a must. It has an amazing array of colors, designs, and patterns that few other natural materials can provide. It is also hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, repels insects, mites and mold, and is fire resistant. Being that it is a natural product, it is healthy and safe for adults, pets and babies.
What are the disadvantages of cork flooring?
As with any natural material, cork flooring can fade from exposure to sunlight. You should keep blinds or drapes closed on sunny days or use UV-Protective film on windows. You can also place a rug over the areas that will be exposed most. No floor is completely damage resistant and large dogs and other objects can scratch your flooring. As with any floor, cork should be protected from moisture, especially pooling liquids. Cork flooring acts like solid wood flooring after it is installed, therefore it is sensitive to changes in temperature and should not be installed in a room that does not have a controlled climate. Cork floors are also a little expensive to purchase and install in comparison to other products.
Where can I install cork flooring?
Cork flooring can be installed virtually anywhere on, above, or below grade. It is naturally water resistant and can be used in bathrooms and relatively dry basements as long as the area is climate controlled. However, when installing in these areas it is recommended that you use a moisture barrier between the cork flooring and subfloor and never leave pooling water on any floor. This can cause swelling of the seams. Sub-floors must be clean of dirt and debris, dry, and fairly level. Failure to properly prepare your subfloor can cause problems in the future. Cork is soft on the feet and great for areas where you may be standing for long periods of time such as the kitchen. It is also sounds resistant and is an excellent choice for condos.
Why is cork flooring known to have a "memory"?
Due to its composition of millions of microscopic air pockets, cork flooring can flex under foot pressure or other heavy objects and then return to its original shape after impact. For heavy objects that will be on the floor for an extended period of time it is still recommended that you use felt furniture protectors to be safe.
Why is cork moisture resistant?
Suberin, a waxy material, is the key component in the makeup of the cells in cork and is responsible for the moisture resistance of cork flooring. Suberin is also what makes cork insect resistant and adds a level of fire resistance. Although cork flooring is resistant to moisture, you should never leave liquid on it for an extended period of time. You should also protect your cork flooring from the subfloor with a moisture barrier when needed.
How is cork normally installed?
Cork comes in a variety of methods of installation. It comes in planks or as tiles in glue-down, interlocking (glue-less), or floating installation methods. There is no grain to match up in the installation process.
How much cork flooring do I need?
- Divide the floor into rectangles
- Measure the length and width of each individual rectangle
- Multiply the length by the width of each individual rectangle
- Add your total for each rectangle together to get the total square footage
- Add an additional 5-10% (depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations) of the total square footage to cover the waste factor.
What is the average lifetime of a cork floor?
With proper maintenance and care, cork flooring can last for decades or a lifetime.
Is cork flooring recommended for a self-installer?
There is wide variety of floating cork flooring available that offers easy installation for a self installer. These simply snap or click together and do not use any adhesive. Other glue-down installation methods require more patience and special tools. Cork tiles usually require a little more attention to preparation of the subfloor than planks. Because it is made from grinding the bark of the Cork Oak tree, cork lacks any grain to match up in the installation process.
Should I roll my floor after installing glue-down cork and what should I use?
Yes, you should roll the floor after it is set to ensure proper bonding to the subfloor and sealing of the seams. This will also help to ensure proper spreading of the adhesive. Spread small areas at a time from the middle of the tile or plank outwards before the working time expires. To do this you can use a 100 or 150 lb. professional roller, or if one is not available, use a kitchen rolling pin with strong pressure. You may want to cover the rolling pin with plastic to prevent it from being contamination from excess glue. Before you finish make sure that all the edges are down flat. If you cannot get an edge to stick set some weight on it until it sets.
Can sunlight fade the color of my cork flooring?
Like any natural material, cork flooring fades with exposure to the UV radiation in sunlight. It is recommended that you close drapes and blinds on sunny days to protect your flooring. Another alternative is to apply a U-V protective film to your window or buy windows that have this built in.
Can cork be used over radiant floor heating systems?
Yes, cork flooring can be used over radiant floor heating systems. It does slow the transmission of heat slightly from the slab below just like any wood floor would.
Is there a difference from tile to tile or plank to plank in the same box when purchasing cork flooring?
Yes. Cork is a natural product that is ground and then baked into a tile or plank. Due to the process of manufacturing, the pattern, color, or overall look of the floor can slightly vary.
Is it important to acclimate my cork flooring with the room in which it will be installed?
Yes, cork flooring acts like solid wood flooring after it is installed, therefore it can contract and expand due to changes in temperature and should not be installed in a room that does not have a controlled climate. You should allow the cork flooring to sit in the room that it will be installed in for at least three days before installation to allow it to acclimate to the temperature and humidity of the site.
Should I use an underlayment when installing my cork floor?
Unless your subfloor is uneven, it won’t usually require an underlayment beyond a moisture barrier. However, if needed, a cork underlayment can be used for additional insulation, moisture resistance, or to build up the height of the finished floor.
Can I install cork flooring on steps?
Yes, it is fine to install cork on steps as long as a hard stair nosing is installed.