Cork flooring is made out of cork. In short, cork comes from the bark of the cork oak, which can be found in a number of Northwestern African and Southwestern European countries. Said material boasts a number of useful properties, which is why it sees use in a wide range of products that include but are not limited to flooring, insulation, and wine stoppers.
What Are the Pros of Cork Flooring?
When someone thinks of bark, chances are good that they will think of something hard. However, it is important to note that cork comes from a very specific part of the cork oak’s bark, which is why it is actually soft and yielding when interacted with. This is useful for places where people can expect to have to stand for long periods of time because it reduces the stress that is put upon their feet. Furthermore, this is useful for people who are prone to falling, whether they are children or seniors.
Structure-wise, cork is made out of millions and millions of minuscule chambers filled with air, thus explaining its soft and yielding nature. On top of this, this structure makes it an excellent insulator as well, thus making it that much more difficult for noise to pass through it. As a result, for people who want to rest and relax in an upstairs room, cork flooring can be useful way to insulate it from downstairs noise.
On top of this, cork flooring makes for a cleaner environment, which can be a huge concern for people with certain allergies. In part, cork contributes to this by repelling small particles, thus making it much easier to clean than other flooring such as carpet. However, it should also be noted that cork contains a wax-like substance called suberin, which hinders the growth of not just microbes but also small pests. Combined, these properties are enough to make cork flooring a superior choice for people with certain allergies than a significant number of its potential competitors.
With that said, the single most important characteristic of cork flooring for a lot of people in the present time might be the fact that it is a renewable resource. In short, a cork oak can be stripped out of its cork-containing bark at around the age of 30, which is when it should have reached a circumference of around 60 centimeters. After which, another batch of bark can be harvested from the same cork oak in around 9 years, though there are some examples that can take as long as 13 years for them to reach the desired circumference. So long as the harvester is skilled enough to avoid causing damage to the tissues that can be found beneath the bark, cork oaks can continue providing such harvests for decades and decades to come with no issues whatsoever. In fact, there is one cork oak in Portugal that is still producing cork even though it was planted in 1783.
Best of all, people can count on their cork flooring for a long period of time with minimal maintenance. This is particularly true because even if their cork flooring has become old and worn-out, they can just sand it down until the imperfections have been removed before refinishing its surface for a fresh, beautiful appearance. Something that can be performed multiple times depending on the thickness of the cork flooring.
What Are the Cons of Cork Flooring?
Of course, there are some potential downsides to cork flooring as well, which shouldn’t be ignored by people who are looking over their flooring choices.
For instance, the fact that cork flooring is both soft and yielding can be considered both boon and bane. While it is more pleasant for the people who have to stand upon it, it is also much more susceptible to damage from a wide range of sources. In fact, some people who have cork flooring will choose to put coasters beneath their heavier appliances and furniture because they can sink into the material.
Moreover, cork flooring can be very vulnerable to environmental issues as well. One example is water, which can cause the material to warp as well as discolor with sufficient exposure. Another example is sunlight, which can cause cork to fade in appearance. As a result, while cork is easy to maintain, it can make it difficult to maintain a pristine appearance without constant vigilance for potential environmental issues.