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Cork is perhaps the most environmentally friendly flooring type available for purchase. Cork like bamboo, rattan, jute, hemp and water hyacinth is a renewable resource because it grows quickly and can be harvested many times. Unlike bamboo and other renewable resources, the cork oak is not chopped down to harvest the cork. The cork that is commonly used as wine bottle stoppers is made from the bark of the cork oak tree (quercus suber). The bark or cork cambium layer can be harvested every nine years without damaging the tree. Thus many thousands of square kilometers of cork oak forests cover Europe and Northern Africa that provide livelihoods for local communities and natural habitat for a diverse range of animal life including the endangered Iberian lynx.
The bark from the cork oak makes a flooring tile that looks great. It has an attractive freckled pattern in its natural state. Cork is very flexible and it is easy to add a vast range of colors and designs to cork flooring making it suitable to any type of interior design theme. Cork flooring feels soft and warm underfoot making it a very comfortable flooring material.
There are numerous other benefits of cork flooring. Cork is composed of a honeycomb structure that contains 85% of an air-like gas. This is what gives cork its unique softness, elasticity and insulation qualities. Although cork doesn’t feel hard like hardwood flooring it is still very strong and long lasting. The oldest cork flooring on record is in a church near Chicago in the USA. The cork flooring in this particular church is believed to have been installed in 1898. Cork is soft but it literally ‘springs back’ after pressure is applied to it. Thus cork flooring is suitable for high traffic situations and can deal with heavy furniture without being damaged.
Beautiful cork flooring
The Benefits of Cork Flooring
That is not all. The honeycomb structure of cork also has incredible insulation properties. Cork has been traditionally used as a roof insulator because it retains heat. So having cork flooring helps reduce your energy bills in the winter because the cork absorbs heat from the room making it feel warm underfoot. Similarly cork absorbs both impact sound and sound transmission making it a brilliant natural sound insulator. This is great for families with noisy children. The children can be jumping around upstairs and the parents are not disturbed by loud bangs while they are downstairs watching the TV.
Cork flooring is also an ideal choice for family homes because cork contains a waxy substance called suberin that gives cork a natural resistance to mold and bugs. It also makes cork flooring anti-allergenic, anti-microbial and fire resistant. Cork flooring is recommended by the US Green Building Council and fulfills all the criteria set out by the LEED program – namely it is from a renewable resource, it is energy saving (because it is a good insulator) and it is free of toxic chemicals that reduce indoor air quality.
Another benefit of cork flooring is cost. It is competitively priced in comparison to hardwood flooring, reclaimed hardwood flooring and strand woven bamboo flooring. Cork flooring is also easy to install. It comes in a variety of tile sizes that can be put down in a floating installation or in a glued down installation. Cork flooring can be installed over any type of subfloor or flooring except for carpet. Many suppliers of cork flooring also sell snap lock tiles but these are made of fiberboard ‘sandwiched’ with cork layers. Whatever cork flooring type you choose to buy, you have the possibility to do a DIY installation thus saving you money.
When you combine the environmental benefits of cork with its strength, durability, warmth, insulative properties and attractive appearance you come to realize that cork is so much more than simply a wine bottle stopper – in fact many cork floors are made from recycled wine bottle stoppers – it is also a very important material that will very soon be as popular as other renewable resources such as bamboo.
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