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Suberin in Cork Flooring

Updated on December 2, 2010

Cork is a renewable resource that makes excellent flooring. One of the reasons that cork is a good material for flooring is that it contains suberin. This post will look at some properties that cork flooring possesses because of its suberin content.

The cork oak grows all over the Mediterranean area. After 25 years the cork oak is ready to harvest for cork. This is done by peeling the bark off the tree. This process if done by professionals does not harm the tree. The bark grows back and in nine years can be harvested again. This makes cork a renewable resource.

The outer layer of the cork bark contains a waxy substance called suberin. Suberin is made up of organic compounds that are cross-linked into tight three dimensional networks that strengthen cell walls. The suberin content of cork is very useful.

For the tree, the suberin works as a way to prevent the tree losing moisture. Suberin is hydrophobic which means it is water resistant. It is for this reason that wine bottle stoppers are made of cork – the cork is water resistant so the wine doesn’t seep through the stopper or become rotten and ruin the wine.

And suberin confers the same benefit on cork flooring. If you spill water on cork flooring the water doesn’t seep into the flooring but rather sits on the surface and makes it easy to mop up the spilt liquid. Another benefit is that the water resistant nature of cork flooring means that the flooring is affected less than hardwood flooring or strand woven bamboo flooring by too much or too little humidity.

Also the structure of suberin makes cork flooring resistant to fungal and bacterial attack. Mold spores cannot grow on cork flooring. This is very important for people who suffer from allergic rhinitis because mold spores often trigger allergic reactions.

And finally, the suberin in cork flooring also makes the flooring fire retardant. This makes cork flooring particularly well suited to people who have fireplaces and real fires in their house. Furthermore, in the event of a fire cork flooring does not emit any toxic chemicals.

It is clear to see that suberin is an amazing substance and a very useful thing to have in flooring because it is water resistant, mold resistant and makes the flooring fire retardant. 

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