How is Cork Flooring Made?
Cork flooring comes from the same material as a typical wine bottle cork. The material itself is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, found in the regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The bark is stripped down to the sub-bark layer, which protects the tree for the duration and eventually forms into the tough outer bark, ready for harvesting once more. This process takes 7-9 years and is considered highly renewable since the surrounding ecosystem is completely undisturbed. Once the bark has been processed for other materials, the scraps and remnants are boiled, mashed up and then mechanically compressed with added adhesive agents to ensure a high quality product.
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The Benefits of Cork Flooring
Cork has several unique benefits when used for flooring that no other type of floor possesses. They include:
- Sustainability: An entire forest of cork trees (which go unharmed throughout the process) can produce a crop of cork every 7-9 years, compared with hardwoods – which often need 20-30 years or more to reach maturity (and must be cut down), or vinyl, laminates and linoleum – which are made from non-renewable materials.
- Damage Resistance: Cork has a natural waxy coating which protects it from insects, fire, and moisture as well as all but the most severe physical damage. Due to the moisture resistance, microbial organisms – which contribute to mold and mildew – are nonexistent in cork flooring.
- Versatility: Not only is cork flooring perfect for any room in the house – including kitchens and bathrooms – but it is available in over 40 different natural colors and shades. Cork is also available in various qualities – high quality cork is denser and useful in high-traffic areas, while economical cork flooring is spongy and comfortable underfoot but prone to physical damage.
- Installation Options: Cork flooring is available as tiles or planks. Cork tiles are typically sold as 12″ x 12″ squares, although unique sizes and shapes are also available for further customization. Cork flooring planks are found in sizes including 12″ x 36″ and 12″ x 48″ and often have a core of dense fiberboard for increased durability. The main difference between cork tiles and planks lies in the installation procedure – tiles must be adhered to a suitable substrate (a clean, dry concrete or wood subfloor), while cork planks can be installed as a “floating floor”, meaning installation is much simpler and can be installed over many types of existing floors.
Cork Flooring Costs
The following prices are national averages and will be slightly affected by geographic location, time of year of the installation, and the company hired to perform the work.
- Cork flooring tiles and planks typically cost $4-$9 per square foot. Economical light-traffic rated tiles and planks are cheapest, with high-quality laminated fiberboard-core planks approaching the $9 mark.
- Installing cork flooring costs $1-$4 per square foot. Floating floor plank installations are cheapest, with custom tile designs costing more. (Materials and installation costs $750-$1,950 for a typical 150 square foot room).
- Removal of an existing floor can add $1-$3 per square foot depending on the type of flooring.