Apart from the many flooring options available in this day and age, cork is one that is highly valued for its natural woody appeal, and warm, cushiony feel on the underfoot. It is a type of flooring that is made with natural materials and it is one of the most versatile options for floorings, which is why it can be installed in any part of your house. Similar to the other kinds of floorings, there are a few types of cork floorings that are easy to install planks that can be put together to create a “floating floor” that does not require any glue or fasteners. This quality of cork flooring makes it affordable for the individuals that are DIYing on a budget.
Most of the times, cork is associated with office message boards or wine bottles. However, now, more and more people have started using it as a flooring material. The reason is that it holds warmth and it is a sound insulator while feeling great on the underfoot. Moreover, cork is resistant to mildew, microorganisms, and mold, making it the ideal option for individuals that are prone to allergies. There is a substance in cork called suberin that can repel insects. Cork is also fire resistant and it does not produce fumes when getting burnt.
Apart from being durable, practical, and comfortable, this type of flooring is available in different styles, colors, and textures all that can add an element of oomph to your house. Therefore, if you want to add an aesthetic appeal to your house, being aware of the different types of cork floorings is highly recommended.
Table of Contents
- How is Cork Flooring Produced/Made?
- Types of Cork Floorings
- Benefits of Cork Flooring in Your House
- Disadvantages of Getting Cork Flooring in Your House
- Tips on Installing Cork Flooring By Yourself
How is Cork Flooring Produced/Made?
Cork is a renewable material obtained from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). The cork oak tree is an evergreen that typically grows on the Mediterranean region of Northern Africa and Southern Europe. The reason why these trees are grown is so their bark can be harvested. The harvesting session of the bark is done during the summer because that is when the bark loosens from the trunk of the tree. Harvesting the bark does not cause any harm to the tree and the bark naturally grows back after 9 to 10 years while the crop of the cork oaks keeps growing.
Cork flooring is made with either sliced cork or granulated cork particles incorporated in with resin binders. There are two main types of floorings (but there are more as well): the traditional options would be the solid cork type and it is made so it can be applied with glue. Cork planks are considered as laminated products that have a bottom layer of compressed, hardened cork, the middle part is made with medium density or high-density fiberboard, top off with a decorative, beautiful layer of cork. The cork planks have edges that get clicked together for floating floor installments.
Types of Cork Floorings
The natural color of cork is a pale tan shade. The reason why people choose natural colored cork flooring is that it adds warmth to the room it is being installed in. There are painted cork and stained cork flooring as well. Obviously, cork is available in brown shades as well. The brown shades of cork are light, medium, and dark shades that include chocolate, sesame, cashew, and hazelnut colors. If you are into darker colored flooring, there is a black version of cork available as well even though it is not so common. On the other hand, if you are into light-colored flooring, there are gray and white shades of cork flooring available as well. There is a shade of cork available for everyone’s liking.
For a unique look in your house, you can opt for the double toned cork flooring. There are a few manufacturing companies that produce cork in interesting colors such as cherry or green incorporated with natural tones. If you want your flooring to look like a limited edition piece, you can choose a low gloss or matte surface.
Textures and Patterns
Apart from choosing the ideal color of cork flooring for your house, it is important to choose the right texture and pattern as well. The reason why choosing the right texture and pattern is so crucial is because it can change the look of a room. Having burled cork flooring in your room instead of getting small granule cork flooring can make a huge difference. If you want a more textured look, opt for the flooring with bigger granules. The small granule cork gives a smooth, ground texture. If you mix this material with medium or large-sized cork, you will get a new, unique textured flooring.
If you want a flooring that has more texture than the large granule cork, opt for the burled cork flooring. It looks beautiful as it has different sizes of ground cork incorporated into one material. This type of cork looks even better when it is stained. Peeled cork is also an interesting choice. This flooring is made by taking strips of cork and placing them next to each other. This created a streamlined look.
If you want your flooring to look like hardwood flooring without having to opt for hardwood planks, look for cork planks that have digital images embossed on its surface. High-quality images look very much like wood grains especially if they are of oak, maple or pine. The good thing about these planks is that they give a smooth surface. Another thing to consider would be stone patterns. There are a few cork flooring manufacturers that make cork tiles that look like granite, slate, and marble.
There are cork floorings that range from 6 millimeters up to 13 millimeters in thickness. But, what is the ideal thickness for your house? The answer to this depends on where you are going to be installing cork flooring and how that room is going to be used. How many people go in and out of the room? For example, if you are installing cork flooring in the office, you can get a thinner cork floor, but if you are putting it in the hallway, opt for a thicker option. The thicker the cork flooring is, the longer it will live.
If you have children that like to play the drums, it is smarter to opt for a thicker cork on the area where the drums are installed as compared to the other areas in the room. The reason is that cork flooring can insulate sound. If you have infants or older family members living in your house, thicker cork flooring would be good as they are more comfortable. The best part is that if your loved one falls on this floor, their chances of getting hurt severely will be lessened.
Similar to other wood flooring, cork can be refinished as well. If you want to sand it or stain it to give it a different color, go for the thicker option as it reacts better. Cork flooring will give your house an impressive look at an affordable rate.
Cork flooring is available in tile and plank form, which is mostly compatible with radiant-heat. There are cork-flooring options available in the form of tiles that are easy to install as well for DIY homeowners. If you want a seamless, flawless look, it is important to stick to one product and install the cork tiles according to the directions mentioned on the package. However, if you want to add a little contemporary touch to your home’s flooring, you can mix and match different colored tiles, glue them together, and create a cool illusion on the ground. Grid and brick patterns are quite ways to create. The more visually appealing and complex floor layouts include the cobblestone, herringbone and corridor patterns.
Cork flooring planks would be the ideal choice if you want your floor to give a laminate or hardwood flooring effect especially if you get digitally printed wood images on it. Depending on the different cork flooring manufacturers, the flooring typically ranges from 7 to 18 inches in width.
Cork Flooring Sizes
When you purchase cork, it will come in tile form and it is sold in standard sizes (either 12 by 12 inches or 12 by 24 inches). There are a few cork planks that are available in 12 by 36-inch boards.
When you are applying cork tiles, it is important to make sure the number of seams is kept to a minimum, which is why applying it with sheet material is highly recommended. However, this way can be more complicated and difficult.
The thickness of standard cork flooring used for residential purposes should be 3/16”. The thickness of cork flooring used for commercial purposes should be at least 5/16”.
Benefits of Cork Flooring in Your House
Cork flooring is the perfect, exotic blend of soft flooring with hard flooring. It is easy to clean, hygienic, and smooth. Apart from all that, it is easy on your ears (because it has sound insulation) and your feet (because it is soft on the underfoot). Here are a few more benefits of having cork flooring in your house:
- Quiet: As compared to the other kinds of flooring, cork flooring is much quieter to walk on. Even if you are thumping while walking, chances are that the sound will not be as loud as it would be on laminate or hardwood flooring.
- Resilient: Cork flooring has the ability to retain itself from impressions, which means that if there are any heavy object places on it, they will not leave dents on the surface. The resilience levels of cork flooring depend on the thickness of the floor.
- Softness: If you have ever pulled the cork out of a wine bottle, you are probably aware of how soft it can be. This is why cork flooring is a good surface to have under your foot because it makes standing comfortable even if you have to do it for extended times.
- Renewable: Because cork flooring is mainly made with wooden materials, it is a resource-efficient choice.
- Non-slip properties: Even if it is wet, cork flooring will make sure your feet feel secure and it will not let you slip.
Disadvantages of Getting Cork Flooring in Your House
Cork flooring is not the toughest or strongest flooring material out there. It is quiet when it is exposed to moisture, which is why it needs to be protected from moisture and damage at all times especially when it does not have a sealant on it. Here are the other common disadvantages of getting cork flooring in your house:
- Maintenance: It is important to seal solid cork tiles with polyurethane or any other protective floor finish after they have been installed. This seal needs to be renewed after every two or three years after as well. The cork planks (also known as floating floors) are typically sealed with polyurethane when they are being manufactured, but they need to get renewed as well. It is important to clean all types of cork floors regularly so excess dirt can be removed. In addition, if the floor is not being cleaned properly, it can cause premature wear.
- Stains: If it has not been sealed properly, cork flooring can get stained very easily by spills, dirt, and other such things.
- Moisture: If you live in an area that has a lot of moisture, it is not a good idea to get cork flooring. The only way cork flooring can survive in high moisture places is if it has been sealed a couple of times with protective finishes. It is important to keep reapplying the sealants from time to time so the moisture does not get penetrated into the surface.
- Dents: If you have thin cork flooring in your house, there is a chance that the cork flooring will dent. Especially, if you are putting very heavy furniture.
Tips on Installing Cork Flooring By Yourself
There are different installation procedures and steps that vary from the different flooring products, but most of the installation procedures are standard. The most important thing is to always follow the manufacturer’s directions so you can avoid any issues.
Installation Method of Cork Floating Floors
- Before laying your cork flooring on the ground, install a high-quality underlayment of foam on the floor. There are different thicknesses of underlayment for the different levels of cushioning you are looking for. Moreover, having a thick underlayment will heighten the flooring of that specific room as well.
- For a couple of days, let the floor planks stay in the room so it can adjust to the environment of that room before you install the flooring.
- According to the directions provided by the manufacturer leave an expansion gap along the perimeter of the installation area so there is room for the flooring to enlarge when the humid months approach. If the manufacturer has not given any directions on an expansion gap, feel free to leave ¼ of an inch or ½ inch along the perimeter.
- After getting it approved by the manufacturer, get a moisture barrier that can cover your basement concrete floors and top it off with a moisture-resistant underlayment. It is important to choose a flooring that has been approved for installing in basements.
Installation Method of Glue down Cork Tiles
- When you are applying cork floor tiles, it is better to apply them on a smooth, dry surface. Plywood or Masonite are recommended for the underlayment of these tiles. If you have a concrete floor, you can glue the tiles on the floor.
- Make sure you are not installing cork tiles over radiant floor heating systems because that will cause the tiles to shrink and curl. It can also make the adhesive loose over time.
- Use an adhesive that has been recommended by the manufacturer as those will be the most trustworthy. There are some manufacturers that give adhesive when you purchase cork tiles, and sometimes, there is adhesive already applied to the bottom side of the tile.
- Make sure you are leaving a 1/8 inch or ¼ inch expansion gap around the perimeter of the room so that the tiles have room to expand if need be.
- Make sure every tile is being weighed down on so they are being secured thoroughly. Keep the floor dry for the next 24 to 48 hours.
- After installing all the tiles, make sure you are applying a protective finish to the surface so the cork can be protected while the seams between each time get sealed. Even if you are installing pre-sealed cork tiles, it is important to add a protective finish on them so the material is not untreated. Moreover, adding a protective finish will make the seams stronger.
Out of all the flooring choices, cork floorings are the ultimate answer for if you’re looking for durability, environment sustainability, flexibility, and comfort in your home. Moreover, cork flooring will provide you with heat retention and soundproofing. Cork flooring can also help you add your personal style to your house while making it look natural and warm. Since it is a type of flooring that is so user-friendly and fun to play with, it is becoming a highly recommended type of flooring in many modern houses these days.