Cork floors are currently very popular and, like most decorating options, there are both pros and cons associated with them. Terrie and I examine cork floors today – I give them a thumbs up and Terrie gives them a thumbs down. What about you?
Cindy Gives Cork Floors a Thumbs Up
Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, a renewable resource, and the tree doesn’t have to be cut down in order to harvest the cork. This is just one of the reasons cork flooring has been so well accepted -especially by households that are environmentally conscious. Cork also offers additional benefits:
- Cushiony - Cork contains air in its cells so it presents a soft, comfortable feel for your feet, back and legs. Because of its air filled structure cork flooring is like a shock absorber – making it perfect for rooms like the kitchen where you usually stand a lot.
- Attractive - Cork flooring is available in a wide variety of color and offers a myriad of visual textures. Select from subdued patterns to patterns with heavy motion and the cork is available in sheets or tiles.
- Reduces Noise - Just as the air filled cellular structure makes cork flooring comfortable under foot it also reduces noise and vibration. Unlike harder flooring surfaces like tile, wood or vinyl, cork is quiet because it doesn’t reflect or enhance sound – instead it reduces noise. Cork muffles the sound of footsteps and things dropping on the floor.
- Healthy and Safe – Cork’s natural properties make it anti-allergenic and insect resistant - repelling insects, mites and mold. These same properties protects cork from rotting too. Cork is also naturally fire resistant and it doesn’t release any toxic off-gassing if it burns. These natural properties along with the coatings used to seal cork flooring, make cork flooring a healthy and safe choice for adults, children and pets.
- Long Lasting and Easy to Maintain - Cork has proven its durability over and over again through commercial applications in buildings like churches and libraries for more than a hundred years. Now you can enjoy it in your residence.
Terrie Gives Cork Floors a Thumbs Down
Cork floors have a lot going for them. I actually also like them and was able to convince a client to use cork flooring in a model home. However, in the interests of showing both sides of a topic, there are always down sides to just about any furnishing or finish, so here are a few more things to consider about cork flooring.
- The pattern of cork is very natural and organic – you can see all the swirls and knots. It’s a pretty busy pattern, much busier than any wood flooring. If you’re looking for something plain to make a room feel expansive, this might not be the right choice.
- Soft and resilient is great for flooring where you need to stand or walk a lot but if you’re going to put heavy furniture like an armoire or heavy bed or sofa, you need to take extra care. At a minimum use coasters under the legs of heavy pieces to distribute the weight a bit so you don’t end up with divots in your floor.
- Cork is a natural material and actually quite absorbent. Even though protected by several layers of polyurethane, cork is not water repellant and extra care is needed to wipe up spills quickly. I actually had a client who had a major water leak in a kitchen that had cork flooring. The whole floor had to be replaced because the cork tiling warped and peeled up from the subfloor. The same result would probably have occurred with wood floors, but tile and even linoleum are more hardy in potentially wet rooms.
- Like other natural materials, cork will become discolored from extended exposure to sun. The solution? Pull the blinds during the brightest part of the day.
- Cork is not the most affordable solution for flooring – not the most expensive either – but definitely more than linoleum or tile. Watch for sales and price shop carefully.
Evaluate Your Needs
As with any major purchase, you really need to evaluate the needs of the space, the users, the budget, environmental impact and personal preference before committing to a flooring surface. While cork flooring has been available for years, it hasn’t really caught on with the general public for some reason. If you’re getting ready to redo flooring in your home, consider our pros and cons and then find a local distributor where you can actually see and walk on cork. Let us know what you think…..