The Many Benefits of Cork Flooring

Monday December 08, 2008
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Cork flooring is a centuries old type of floor that is experiencing a return to popularity because of its many positive qualities. Many homeowners don't know cork offers multiple health and environmental benefits and is a practical floor option for those with allergy issues. Cork flooring can insulate your space and make it a comfortable place to live.

Eco-Friendly Flooring

Ever wondered where the cork stopper in a wine bottle comes from? Cork products are made by binding small pieces of cork oak tree bark together with a non-toxic resin. These evergreen oak trees are primarily grown in Mediterranean habitats and their bark is harvested without disturbing the natural environment or destroying the trees. A cork oak tree lives an average of 150-200 years and its bark can be safely harvested up to 20 times over the course of its lifetime. Environmental advocates enjoy cork flooring because it is both eco-conscious and allergy-friendly.

Reduce Allergy Symptoms
Another benefit to cork flooring is that it is antimicrobial, meaning it inhibits the growth of viruses, bacteria and fungi. Cork contains Suberin, a waxy substance found in the top layer of cork that acts as a natural insect repellent, warding off termites, cockroaches and mites. Suberin also helps prevent water from penetrating to the deeper levels of the cork. Most importantly, cork flooring does not absorb dust or release polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) into the air like vinyl flooring.

PVCs are believed to contribute to health complications. Then there are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - carbon-based, chemical compounds that can be found in floor materials, adhesives and cleaners. If a product is marked E1, it meets or exceeds the acceptable standard for VOC emissions. If they are not marked E1, check with the vendor or manufacturer.

Durable Floors

Cork works nicely as flooring because it is generally not affected by changes in climate or weight. Cork's cellular composition is very dense, allowing for it to hole up well to large furniture, traffic and the impact of falling objects. Some cork flooring can withstand moisture and spills, as long as it's installed and sealed properly. With help from shiny finishes and waxes, its appearance can be comparable to some hardwood flooring.

Preventing Fading & Denting
Exposure to light over an extended period of time may cause dark cork floors to fade. Help minimize light exposure by installing curtains, blinds and shutters. Heavy furniture can cause permanent dents in cork flooring over time. Rearranging furniture once a year can aid in preventing fading and denting. Review the manufacturer's warranty to make sure their cork flooring is okay to install in moisture-prone areas.

Therapeutic Value
Cork is a spongy material that can give a natural bounce to your step. This may make walking and standing on cork floors less painful for homeowners who suffer from stiff joints, rheumatism, arthritis or back or leg injuries. To learn more about flooring for people with disabilities, visit our Disability-Friendly Flooring section.

Sound Proof Your Home or Office
Cork flooring's high-density levels allow you to insulate a room from sound and temperature changes. Outdoor and inner room noise can be reduced by installing cork in the walls, ceiling and floors. In fact, many recording studios continue to use cork in their construction for this reason. The acoustic features of cork are even noticeable when walking from room to room, as the elasticity of cork naturally cushions footsteps.

Plan for the Future
Overall, cork flooring provides advantages that all homeowners can enjoy, not just allergy sufferers. People with disabilities can also enjoy the resilient and insulation properties of green cork flooring. Keep in mind that exposure to mites, dust and insect droppings over time can create allergy symptoms in even the healthiest individual. Cork flooring can help to minimize this possibility by discouraging dust and other allergen matter from settling, which will reduce the overall number of toxins in your air.

Don't forget that even brand new allergy-friendly flooring requires regular cleaning to keep allergens under control. When cleaning cork floors, stay away from harsh solvents and cleaners as they could damage and stain the surface.


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