by Mina Fies
Chances are, if you’ve heard anything about sustainable materials, you’ve heard of cork flooring. In a sea of “green” products, cork is one of the few materials that is natural, healthy, and kind to the biosphere in almost every aspect. Take a look at the characteristics cork has to offer – including many unique looks for almost any type of space.
1. Kind to the Earth
Unlike hardwood manufacturing, the extraction of cork does not necessitate cutting down trees. In fact, cork products are made from the regenerative bark of the cork oak, which can be harvested over and over every 10 years, without harming the tree. Due to the resilient nature of the cork oak and the benign harvesting practices, cork is much cheaper to harvest than hardwood, and far less impactful to the environment.
2. Sustainably Constructed
Cork flooring is also environmentally friendly in its construction. In many cases, wine-stopper material and other ‘waste’ cork is fed into the construction process. In some products, up to 100% of cork may come from recycled sources.
For certain aesthetics, a veneer of cork is laminated to a rigid core – usually a high-density fiberboard (HDF) of compressed wood fibers. This core allows for tongue-and-groove construction, eliminating the need for adhesives or nails. When buying cork flooring, look for products whose cores are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and avoid those that contain added formaldehyde.
While cork material is extremely sustainable and manufactured with minimal impact, one drawback is that cork oak is only grown in Europe. Shipping cork utilizes embodied energy that would not be necessary for local products.
Cork has been used as flooring for centuries; many 100-year-old installations still look beautiful today. Still, many consumers wonder how cork compares to hardwood flooring. In many cases, cork can actually be more durable that hardwood. The large size and high density of the compressed cork granules make the flooring durable and resilient. Even in high traffic areas, cork’s inherent ‘give’ makes it less prone to scratching and damage, which should comfort homeowners with rowdy pets and children! Cork is also waterproof and resistant to warping from moisture. If the finishes that protect the cork begin to wear over time, they can be sanded off and refinished, just like hardwood. In the long run, cork’s durability and long lifecycle make it more dependable than almost any resilient surface.
4. Healthy for Your Home
Cork offers many health benefits. Though it is rigid, its springiness and warmth make it more comfortable than wood or tile. It also offers the noise-absorption properties of carpet, but without the allergen-harboring fibers and off-gassing chemicals. The unique compound suberin, which gives cork its waxiness, is also naturally mold and mildew resistant.
To ensure the cleanest and greenest cork installation in your home, the ideal sealers for cork are those that contain low- or no-VOCs (volatile organic compounds). For highly-sensitive consumers, some pre-finished cork products are also available which have already off-gassed, decreasing the VOCs that enter your home.
5. A Look for Every Design
One of the greatest qualities of cork flooring is its unique look. Cork veneers allow for unique patterns, from glamorous swirls to contemporary striations. Endless customizable patterns and inlays are available in glue-down applications. For those who prefer the subtle rich look of true hardwood, cork is now available as a plank product with beveled edges to mimic the look of hardwood for more traditional style.
All in all, almost every characteristic of cork matches or exceeds those of hardwood, with a similar look. Cork flooring is also close in price to hardwood. Due to its impressive durability, the need for replacement is less frequent, resulting in cost savings over time. These qualities, combined with the health and comfort aspects, make this environmentally friendly product ideal for any family home or commercial space!
© Mina Fies is the Founder and CEO of Synergy Design & Construction, Inc. To learn more about Mina or request your FREE Renovation Roadmap™ use our contact us page, www.renovatehappy.com
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