In order to decide whether cork is right for you, we've put together a Six point guide to help you get to know its properties.
Application - First let's discuss areas we DO NOT recommend putting cork flooring: Anywhere outdoors, full restrooms, basements that seasonally take on moisture, non climate controlled spaces, spaces prone to large heat fluctuations (10+ degrees is our definition), and medium-high foot traffic areas. Now for the areas where we think fits best, and where we've seen it have great longevity: Studios & Condos, small offices (beware of high heels), homes with grown adults, individual rooms within a home that receive less foot traffic. The biggest dangers to cork flooring are moisture, temperature fluctuations, and objects with a high weight per square inch. We encourage buyers to envision the specific application of the room or area that they desire to put cork in. If any of the big dangers mentioned are present, we think it hurts your chances of having a long lasting floor.
In Portland, Oregon, we mainly see cork used in studio apartments, condos, and bedrooms. We find the main reasons customers are drawn to purchasing cork is because of its unique appearance, eco friendly properties, and great underfoot feel. By adding cork flooring to the former areas, customers can enjoy a comfortable floor and improve the indoor air quality. It also adds acoustic and insulate value to help meet the needed specifications in apartment and office settings. Cork wall coverings can add a great aesthetic accent to any space. They can also block sound transfer. Think of how useful this would be for a home or professional music studio, a meeting room, or any space where you desire to prevent sound transfer.
Additionally, there are two main types of installation: floating and glue down. Without discussing the specific pros and cons of each type, just know that give you flexibility when deciding where to install cork, and can help reduce end costs.
Cost - Cork flooring ranges from $6-15/square foot + shipping costs ranging from $150-$1000. Installation ranges from $3-8/square foot depending on your location in the United States, and the product you select. Factors that increase cost include glue down installation, custom colors/patterns, needing to be site finished, and/or special top coat finishes. Our most affordable products are Wicanders, Amorim, Opus, and WE cork. These are excellent products that's boast waterproofing (Amorim), high resistance technology (HRT) finish, lifetime residential warranty, and a floating installation. If you want to customize color and finish options, we recommend APC, and Duro Designs Cork.
Durability - Because cork is a naturally softer material, it is inherently less durable than hardwood flooring, laminate flooring, vinyl plank flooring, or tile, in that order. It is comparable to marmoleum flooring. Let's use hardwood flooring as a standard of comparison. If you consider hardwood floors durable and your are used to maintaining them, then you should find cork to be a disable option. Like hardwood floors, you should clean up spills and standing moisture as quickly as possible. Large animals, lots of foot traffic, and sliding furniture will produce scratches. However, many scratches will blend in to the cork floorings natural texture. Gouges will not blend in, and will detract from its appearance. You will want to disperse the weight of heavy items, especially if they are concentrated into small footprints i.e. refrigerator wheels, and skinny furniture legs. Cork flooring is probably not a great option for family with kids, several pets, or indoor shoe wearers.
Appearance - As with any natural product, expect variation in the appearance of cork flooring. However, with modern technology, companies have been able to print patterns into the cork surface. For instance, Amorim offers Woodwise, a cork backed plank, with a vinyl top layer for enhance durability and the appearance of wood. Other products feature mosaic tile, wood, stone, and other appearances. Cork flooring comes in many sizes: 4'-5' planks, 1' square tiles, 3'x1' panels, and customizable sizes. If you select a customizable product such as Euro Designs cork OR APC Cork, you can select different types of finishes. Many cork floors come with a matte finish, but you can find options with more shine to suit your tastes. If bold colors are your thing, you can find cork floors in almost any color!
Availability - IF you're ready to purchase cork flooring or wall covering, expect to receive it in 2-3 weeks for stock products. Many of our Cork Products are coming from Portugal or Canada, and thus require higher shipping times. Custom Products can take anywhere from 2-3 months to be made and delivered. At Eco Floors, we work closely with our suppliers to monitor these wait times, and expedite them if possible. We do not stock these products at our Portland, Oregon location at this time. We order them directly from the manufacturers, and can have them shipped to most locations in the United States.
Eco Friendly Properties - One of the biggest reason people fall in love with cork is because it's a sustainable product. It is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. Interestingly, when the bark is harvested, the tree is not damaged. It is left to naturally regrow its outer bark, which takes about 9 years. Cork stripping is a technical, high paid industry. Thus, a lot of skilled effort goes into the preservation of the cork forests. Since these trees can live up to 200 years and are essential to supporting a diverse ecosystem, there are strict laws to protect the Mediterranean forests.
Like other trees, cork oak trees convert CO2 Into oxygen. However, harvested cork trees absorb 3-5 times as much CO2 as unharvested trees. They store additional carbon each time the bark is harvested. Additionally, high quality cork flooring is 100% Recyclable. The above factors make cork flooring and wall coverings an excellent option to qualify for LEED Credits. LEED is the most widely used green building system that is helping move global building towards sustainability.