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Cork: A Flooring Trend Once Again

Posted: 01 JUL 2002

Trends come and go. Some, however, make such a strong impression that future generations bring them back again and again. Such is the case with cork flooring.

Cork has been used for a variety of purposes for thousands of years, from bottle stoppers to fishing net floats. But it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that the demand for cork as a resilient floor covering began to grow.

The popularity of cork flooring continued for approximately half a century. It was installed not only in homes, but in churches, banks, educational institutions, and government buildings. Some of these installations included Chicago’s First Congressional Church, Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC – and they’re still walked on today. Even one of the world’s most famous architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, incorporated cork flooring in several of his housing designs.

The interest in cork flooring faded during the 1950s, when easier-to-maintain floor coverings like linoleum and vinyl were developed. The new materials also offered a wide variety of colors and patterns with which to create colorful new rooms. However, in the late 1960s the public’s ongoing desire for new design ideas led to nostalgic concepts, and cork was back in favor until the early 70s.

Nowadays, with ever-increasing concerns over protecting the environment and preserving natural resources, cork is once again back in the spotlight. The main reason for this is because cork is a “green” product. In other words, it’s environmentally friendly. Cork flooring is made from the renewable bark of the cork oak tree. Its supply is virtually endless. In fact, there are trees still reproducing bark that are estimated to be two hundred years old.

Besides its remarkable regenerative capability, cork bark has other outstanding attributes. It is non-toxic, anti-microbial, and it resists mold, mildew and insects. As a floor covering, it’s also hypo allergenic, does not produce static electricity, and it’s flame retardant. It’s even easier to care for than its early versions, thanks to new finishing techniques now used during manufacturing.

During cork’s first two trend periods its appeal was much different than it is today. Initially, it was desired for its unique appearance and for its sound deadening properties. During its comeback in the late 60s, its appeal was part of the nostalgic design trend. Today, cork appeals for the many practical reasons mentioned above, in addition to its aesthetic appeal. Hopefully, these reasons will prevent cork from ever being a trend again, and instead make it a standard for a “greener” future.