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A Second Look at Cork Flooring

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ August 13, 2010

I've been reading more and more articles about cork flooring. Is it that the green, alternative product is gaining in popular use among homeowners, or are home-improvement bloggers just beginning to discover the properties of these natural products that are kind to the foot? Some 70 percent of harvested cork is still used to create bottle stoppers for wine and other table products. Most of the cork production comes from Portugal.

As far as non-toxic, sustainable wood goes, cork has an excellent track record, which explains why it's increasingly cited among candidates for eco-friendly floors. The trees are definitely sustainable--under harvesting rules, bark is not stripped from cork trees until they're 25 years of age, and it won't be stripped again for nearly another decade. As I reported earlier, the planks used to create cork floors cost between $3 and $22 per square foot.

Consumers and Builders Are Still Evaluating Cork

Home owners and home improvement contractors continue to weigh the assets and drawbacks of cork flooring. The Pure Contemporary blog says that cork is a great insulator, making it a solid option for people who want to walk quietly in consideration of family members or neighbors. The writers add that cork is exceptionally forgiving, healing itself when cut by a dropped kitchen knife.

If you spend hours standing in your kitchen, cork can make for happy feet. While it's not completely impervious to stains, it does have a natural resistance to water. You can also coat it with a premium water-based finish that repels moisture, mold, and insects. Cork floors won't crack when you drop glassware on them.

On the negative side of the scale, cork flooring can be chewed or pawed into chunks by house pets. It can't be repaired as easily as a wood floor that only requires sanding and refinishing. Depending on the manufacturer's quality, dark colored cork can also lighten or fade over time if exposed to bright sunlight. If heavy furniture has been sitting for some time, it can leave dents from the legs when you move it. You can prevent this by using furniture pads under the feet of chairs, tables, and islands.

There's nothing entirely novel about the idea of cork flooring. According to Demesne, Frank Lloyd Wright used cork floors in many of his designs during the 1920s. The product was used in both commercial and residential buildings.

If you're thinking of new flooring, cork definitely deserves a second look.

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