Cork has always conjured up images of timeless ecological flooring - perhaps because I personally grew up with it – but also because cork may be one of the flooring industry’s silver bullets due to its beauty, function and affordability for our customers. On a microscopic level, cork mainly consists of air, making it easy on joints as well as a wonderful acoustic and thermal insulator. In truth, cork is highly compressed before it can become flooring, so it retains the ability to reflect your body heat back to you (feels warm underfoot), but gains resilience, in terms of recovering after being scratched. It also has natural mold, fire and insect resistant properties. Furthermore, cork flooring meets Greenguard’s strictest indoor air quality standards. The manufacturers of cork flooring products that greenspace sources are reputable companies who add several layers of a very low-VOC urethane finish, ensuring a durable floor. Cork’s natural beauty shines through in every style, with majestic patterns and enough color options to suit any scheme. Finally, cork flooring is an affordable option both in material and labor costs. We carry click plank floating floor, glue-down tiles, as well as circular cork mosaic tiles. The floating floor style is especially easy to install for a professional and straightforward for an advanced DIY’er.
Is the cork oak endangered?
At greenspace, we absolutely love cork, so when we heard rumors that cork trees were disappearing, we were curious about how that could have happened to these forests, since cork has been successfully harvested for a variety of applications for hundreds of years. To embrace this miraculous material, we needed to understand a common myth surrounding the eradication of the cork oak forests.
While cork has been championed by wine-makers for hundreds of years, it has not been until recently that cork forests have been labeled threatened. Over many centuries, harvesters along the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa have perfected the technique of removing outer bark tissue from the tree every nine to eleven years without shortening its lifespan. This fostered a mutually beneficial relationship between trees essential to a delicate ecosystem and a sustainable local economy. The cork oak tree itself is extremely valuable to the natural ecosystem because it harbors animals, pumps nutrients into largely poor quality soil, and even captures a vast amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So what happened to these forests recently to warrant such a grim outlook?
Widespread adoption of synthetic bottle stoppers and screw-top caps have shrunk the demand for cork so that land previously used to grow and harvest cork forests has either been left fallow or been converted to grow other varieties of crops. The lessening demand for cork is the main reason behind the rumor of vanishing cork oak trees, which means that when we purchase cork products, we help cork forests thrive. Not only is this good news for wine connoisseurs, but also for advocates of cork flooring, since cork flooring is actually made from the post-industrial by-product of the wine bottle stopper industry! This alone makes it one of the most eco-friendly flooring options available.
The idea of plastic bottle stoppers adding to the ocean gyres and clogging the digestive tracts of Albatross makes us want to move back towards corks anyway!
Unexpected durability & versatility
Cork proves itself time and again with its versatility in blending with and enhancing existing finishes. Many times, folks come to greenspace looking to replace carpeting in areas adjacent to hardwood floors, but they want something different from what they already have. Often, the new floor is going right up to existing oak flooring. I find this a little ironic, because cork comes from the oak tree, but the patterns of cork are often organic, rather than linear, yet the colors can blend well with oak, alder, cherry, walnut and many other hardwood species.
Many people like the idea of working on cork in a kitchen, but are worried about water damage. If you want it to be worry-free, a final coat or two of finish can be applied after the installation to help delay water infiltration. Bear in mind that standing water will ruin almost any floor, however, if it goes unnoticed (you are on vacation) for some time.
Cork’s superior properties as a fabric and building finish material make it suitable for many uses aside from flooring and wine bottle stoppers. At greenspace, we carry products that employ cork for furniture, backing for cutting boards for a sturdy grip on countertops, bowls, bibs for babies, and high quality underlayment for many types of flooring. The versatility of cork and unparalleled function will ensure its use in many future applications.
Check out these websites for a bit more about cork and cork flooring:
US Floors - usfloorsllc.com
Nova Distinctive Floors - novafloorings.com
Portugese Cork Association - apcor.pt