If you’re looking for knots and long grain lines, go with wood. But cork flooring can easily equal wood floors on many other counts, and offers some features other wood floors simply can’t match:
Cork’s natural three dimensional flex allows it to conform to most uneven surfaces, and hides imperfections in the base material. It is more stable through a range of temperatures than wood, and provides a cushion for each footfall, rebounding quickly even after the pressure of a high heel or a hammer blow.
Installing a cork floor is made much simpler by the use of a utility knife in place of a rotary saw. Despite its resilience, and regardless of age, cork is easily cut with a sharp knife, making easy work of artful curves and difficult corners.
Cork is nearly always bonded to the sublayer with an adhesive, rather than screwed into place. This not only simplifies installation, but results in a cleaner look and less long-term maintenance.
Cork’s variable coloration and pattern hides dirt and crumbs exceptionally well. The Ceroides wax content of cork makes it naturally resistant to spills, dirt and grime. Regular sweeping/vacuuming is all that is needed, with a rare damp sponge wipe periodically. If the cork is somehow damaged, is is simple enough to cut out the problem area and replace it with minimal fuss. The repaired area will only be discernible to the owner or repairman.
This is where cork wins, hands down. Not only is cork flooring itself a by-product of another industry, thereby saving cork scrap from the landfill, but the original harvesting of cork from the trees is a highly regulated, sustainable activity. Harvested on average every nine years, it is common for cork oak trees to live more than 200 years.
The acoustic absorption properties of cork are well known. Noisy hallways or decks will be noticeably muted with the addition of a cork layer. Cork is also an excellent choice for the walls of sound studios. Technical details »
Because of the countless small air pockets trapped in cork cells, cork is an excellent insulator (~R 3.5/inch rating, just below polystyrene foam), and provides for increased comfort underfoot during inclement weather. It also absorbs only a fraction of the solar thermal heat that a standard wood surface will, making for comfortable barefoot time around the pool or on deck, even in the middle of a tropical day. Technical details »
Once again, it’s Ceroides to the rescue, along with Suberin and suspended water. Cork is difficult to burn, and self-extinguishes in seconds when flame is no longer applied. Cork bark in its natural state is a fire adaptation for the cork oak tree, protecting the important core of the tree from wildfire. We have a fascinating video of cork under the heat and flame of a blow torch here:
The naturally occurring Ceroides in cork resists moisture, leaving your cork floor nearly impervious to not just water. Wine, solvents, gasoline all wipe up with ease. This characteristic of Seacork is even improved upon by a single application of CorkCoat.
Because it is so resistant to moisture, cork is also highly resistant to mold and mildew.
The suberin content in cork, as well as the lack of traditional fibrous cellulose, turns away most insects, including termites and ants. Cork is not a barrier for these insects, but if given a choice, they will look elsewhere for food and a home.
Cork is not particularly inexpensive, but when one considers labor and incidental costs, often prices out comparable to fine hardwood flooring. Seacork, with adhesive and CorkCoat, typically runs $17 – $21 per square foot. It’s important to note that many of these projects are easily within the grasp of an average DIYer, offering huge savings over professional installations required by some other materials.