When most people are in the process of deciding on a new flooring material for their kitchens, generally speaking, cork is not the first material that comes to mind. Maybe it should be. Cork Flooring is an incredibly low cost material that has a lot of additional benefits which should be taken into account.Cork flooring has seen a surge in popularity in the last decade, and its rise in popularity doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
About Cork Flooring:
Although cork has seen a dramatic rise in popularity in the recent years, this type of flooring has been around for well more than a century. Cork comes from the bark of the cork tree which is native to parts of Europe and Africa. In modern times, cork flooring is made when the scraps of bark left over from punched-out bottle stoppers are ground, pressed and baked into sheets that are ready to convert into floor planks and tiles. Portugal is the epicenter of the cork industry and accounts for more than half the world’s production of this versatile material.
Historically, Cork saw its highest fame back in the 1960′s-1970′s, but its popularity dropped off until recent years. Since then, the popularity of cork flooring has seen a steady incline, especially as manufacturing technologies have improved he durability and lifespan.
Cork Flooring comes one of two ways- either as a tile, or as a plank. Additionally, like other natural woods, you can purchase cork flooring in the engineered variety as well!
What Makes Cork Flooring Unique?
There are many characteristics of cork flooring that truly make it unlike any other type of flooring available on the market.
Cork Flooring can be painted. Although most homeowners tend to let the natural patterns and warm tones of the natural cork shine through, unlike pretty much any other type of flooring, you can paint cork with latex paint.
2.) Its Soft:
One of the biggest checks in the “pros” column for cork is its unique texture and elasticity. Imagine a cork squeezing back into a wine bottle, and you can imagine how soft this type of flooring is. This helps to alleviate back pain that results from standing or walking on a hard surface causes. Dropped glass is much less likely to shatter as well.
4.) Its Quiet:
Since cork is soft, and absorbs most of the impact from walking on it, it is a very quiet alternative to other types of flooring.
5.) It is antimicrobial:
Cork is naturally resistant to the growth of bacteria and other microbes unlike the majority of other flooring varieties
5.) Its an insulator:
Cork flooring is a great insulator and works well in colder climates because it retains warmth.
6.) It can be either glued, or floating:
Cork flooring comes in both planks, which click together to create a floating floor; and tiles, which can be glues down to a slab
The bad news:
There really aren’t many check marks in this column, but for the sake of fairness, we will discuss them here.
- Although cork is impact resistant, it is moderately sensitive to cuts, scrapes and scratches. This means that in order to keep a good luster, cork floors should be swept often.
- Furniture will leave permanent dents in cork over time unless you use protective furniture coasters
- Every few years, cork flooring needs to be refinished, and resealed. Since it is a soft material, it is more susceptible to wear and tear. With good care and weekly cleanings, you would only have to look at a refinish every 5 years or so, which is really not much less than what you would be looking at with a traditional hardwood floor.
- Cork does not tend to do well in areas which are frequently damp. It really is not recommended to use cork flooring in a bathroom area or in any other area that is frequently wet and damp.
Caring for Cork Flooring:
- Wipe away spills immediately.
- Sweep or vacuum your cork floors regularly. Dirt, dust, grit, or debris may scratch the surface of a cork floor. Regular cleaning will prevent these abrasions.
- Damp mop the floor at least once a week or as required. Because excess water can harm the floor, be sure to use only a lightly ‘damp’ mop.
- Use only recommended cork floor cleaners to clean heavy stains or spills.
- Use mild wood-floor detergent once in a while to clean the cork floors thoroughly.
- Place door mats and pads at entrances throughout your home to prevent dirt, sand, and grit from being tracked onto the floor.
- Place mats in working areas in the kitchen like in front of the sink and stove to prevent moisture penetration and wear due to excess floor usage.
- Allow any liquid to stand on cork floors. Water or moisture in any form can seriously damage the floor.
- Wet mop your cork floors.
- Flood the floor while cleaning or wet mopping.
- Use abrasive soaps, oils, waxes, or ammonia-based cleaning products on your cork floors. Also, never use harsh solvents as many of them can discolor or damage the floor’s surface.
- Use mats with rubber or other non-porous backings since they can trap moisture and affect the finish.
How much does cork flooring cost?
Cork generally runs between $3-$10 per square foot, and usually costs around $2-$3 per square foot to install.
Cork flooring has been around for over a century, and has recently risen in popularity due to its many benefits, which include insulation, cost, and environmental friendliness. Cork is a great option for high traffic kitchens, and with regular maintenance can last for years. It has many properties which make it unique, but it does have some draw back associated with it, including its vulnerability to scratches and aversion to water. Cork flooring is a great option for homeowners looking for a truly exotic look which fits easily into most budgets, while coming in enough varieties to suit any taste.