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Eco-Friendly Flooring Review: Cork

Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cork floors. Probably not two words you ever expected to see next to each other. You're surely familiar with tile, hardwood, laminates, stone and linoleum. But cork flooring surely has you wrinkling your brow.

But cork works! First and foremost, the options for cork are gorgeous. Because of its unique nature, the colors and patterns are unlike anything else. That means your floor doesn't look like the one next door or the one down the street. We'll get into the environmental aspects shortly, but let's be real: If cork doesn't deliver the goods and by that we refer to a beautiful appearance no one will buy it and that won't help the environment.

So how does this beautiful product help save trees? Cork is to hardwood like wool is to fur. With wool, you shear the sheep and let the little guy go and grow some more. With fur, the donor is gone and there is no renewed coat next spring.

Cork is like that. It's the bark of the tree, not the tree itself. The bark is harvested periodically, leaving the tree unharmed. It's like a wooden sheep, living for hundreds and hundreds of years. In this era of deforestation, a renewable source of wood is not only a novel idea, but one that is desperately needed.

So the tree is "sheared," and the harvested bark is then ground into tiny pieces to make flooring with some very unique properties.

  • Beautiful appearance: The uniqueness of cork means it is beautiful and very different from any other flooring option.
  • Unmatched durability: Cork has been around for thousands of years. It's been known to last over a century in commercial buildings and churches.
  • Resistance to moisture: Cork flooring contains Suberin. This waxy substance is natural to the cork, which makes it impervious to liquids and gasses. It won't rot.
  • Insect and microbe resistance: Termites won't eat it and microbes can't live in it.
  • Resilient, cushiony texture: Cork gives under a person's weight, but bounces back, retaining its shape.
  • Sound deadening: Cork doesn't transmit sound. It's great for home theaters and living rooms with surround sound.