The sisal carpet in my office has turned to shredded wheat and I’m looking at flooring alternatives. I saw some cork samples that look interesting. What’s the story?
– Carpet diem
Once upon a time in a land far far away called the Mediterranean Basin, the ancient Greeks tripped over a mess of oak tree bark and decided to craft this substance into fabulous Olive Oil stoppers and sandals.
But not all at once. With one eye toward Green Approval (and the other on the Persians) the ancient people soon discovered that the Cork trees could fully regenerate their bark if allowed to rest nine years between harvests.
And this Cork was a durable little fellow, was he. Comprised 50% of air trapped inside small cellular compartments, little man Cork naturally reduces the transmission of sound and moisture while retaining heat.
And Suberin – the waxy-like substance found between each individual Cork cell – deters bugs, mold, mildew, and mites while promoting the Corkster to heal itself. Kind of like Superman, except Suberin.
And so it was that one day, nestled in the Mediterranean Basin, a Portuguese housewife looked upon her farmer husband and said, “If Cork is so damn moisture-resistant and sound-proof and insulating and self-healing and allergy-free, can’t I install it in my home office?”
And then the farmer’s wife exclaimed, “Not there, you idiot – I meant the floor!” And so the farmer, very patient and not easily put off by name-calling, asked his wife if she would prefer
- Cork Planks – the tongue and groove planks snap together for a floating floor effect.
- Cork Tiles – should be glued to a pre-prepared flat ¼” thick sub-floor.
Then the farmer went online where he was able to see many examples of Cork in a wide range of colors
Which can easily be arranged into an array of patterns
And so the farmer and his wife installed a Cork floor in their home office and lived Happily Ever Af – not so fast. Because you see, although the cork floor can heal itself from small slits and pricks (easy, sportsfans) it has virtually no protection against gouges or stiletto heels.
And other disadvantages of a cork floor include:
- Fading due to sunlight exposure
- Staining and yellowing with age
- Damage caused by alkaline cleaners
- Low resistance to moisture – Interior humidity needs to be kept in the 40%-60% range.
All of which would have been nice for the farmer and his wife to know beforehand, especially given the fact that they live in a very sunny, very humid, house with three dogs, two cats, one high heel fetish, and the propensity to clean cork with Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner.
So the moral of the story is:
- Always purchase Cork flooring which contains a resin reinforced wax application or a vinyl-based finish layer to combat water damage and swelling around the seams
- Don’t use Cork flooring in a kitchen or bathroom or other water-activity area
- Clean with a solvent paste wax
- Reapply several coats of polyurethane every 5-10 years
- Consider purchasing a more durable flooring material, such as concrete.