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how is cork flooring made?

You've already learned where cork comes from, but how does it get from the forest to your floor? It's actually a fairly simple process. After the cork is harvested, it's cleaned and boiled, then ground up and mixed with a non–toxic resin to bind everything together. That cork mixture is then molded into blocks and baked in an oven.

It's during this process that the color of your cork flooring is determined. The most common color choices are light, medium, and dark. As the cork is heated, natural sugars in the bark caramelize and darken; essentially, the longer it bakes, the deeper the color. Light and dark granules are often mixed to create different shades of cork without the use of dyes. Unfinished cork can also be stained or painted, making cork flooring a popular option for people in the market for uniquely colored floors.

Cork Floor Products

Making Cork Flooring

Cork flooring is available in tiles or planks. While cork floor planks are simply cut from baked sheets of cork, tiles are made from solid pieces of cork.

Cork tiles are generally cut into 12" squares that are 3/4" thick. Some cork tiles are made of the baked cork mixture described above, and then veneered with solid pieces of cork for a similar look. The purpose of this is to capture the unique characteristics seen in each piece of cork, giving your cork tile floor a distinct look all its own. Cork parquet tiles sometimes come with pre–applied adhesive backing for easier installation, and can be installed directly onto concrete or a plywood subfloor.

Cork floor planks are often used to create the most common type of cork flooring, known as a floating floor. This type of floor has become popular because it can be installed without the use of glue or adhesive.

Floating Cork Floors Are Made Up of Four Layers

  • The cork underlayment: This flexible, low–density layer of cork absorbs sound and provides a base for your cork flooring.
  • The stabilizing core: Constructed of HDF (High Density Fiberboard) or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), the stabilizing core gives the floor panels structure. The edges are constructed with tongue–and–groove locking systems to allow each panel to snap together, so glue is not required.
  • The cork core: This layer offers extra sound insulation and impact absorption, making your cork floor more comfortable to walk and stand on.
  • The cork bark veneer: This is the top layer of your cork floor, the layer you will see. Because of the way cork is manufactured, cork flooring comes in a variety of patterns and textures, as well as different colors. This layer is generally finished with a UV hardened varnish, oil, wax, or another type of sealant.

Since cork is a renewable resource, you can be sure that by the time your flooring comes to you, the trees the cork came from are well on their way to producing yet more cork for another harvest. And thus the circle of life (and flooring!) continues.