The use of cork as a flooring alternative dates back to as early as the 1890s when it was first used as a sole flooring option for the First Congregational Church in Chicago. Although it took some time to pick up, in the current times it is being viewed as an effective option for the “environmentally aware” people. Cork is obtained from the bark of the cork oak tree. Since only about 50% of the tree’s bark is utilized for the harvesting in a period of 8 to 10 years, the tree is able to regenerate its bark and be ready for re-harvesting without any damage. This is indeed the biggest advantage that the cork enjoys over its traditional competitors such as the wood and tiles
Besides being readily available without abusing the mother earth, cork as a substitute for flooring enjoys the following advantages:
1. High durability: Due to its tough honey comb cellular structure, cork enjoys the greatest levels of durability and strength. It is the apt option for kitchen or room flooring, especially in households with children and pets around. Cork floors can withstand high levels of tension and pressures without fading or undergoing any visible abrasions or damage. In addition, these are heat, mold and moisture resistant as well.
2. Least environmental impact: Since the consumers are more environmentally conscious today, cork is the most preferred choice for them. Cork is extracted from the bark of the cork tree which is ready to be harvested in every 9 to 10 years on a continual basis. Since only 50% of the bark is utilized the rest of the tree is not harmed or cut down hence maintaining the ecological balance. Cork is thus not only a renewal but an equally sustainable natural resource.
3. Distinctive aesthetic appeal: Cork is a naturally available material in various textures and colors and thus it exquisitely compliments the décor of the house. The constituent honey combed cellular arrangement accounts for the varying depth and richness that cumulatively render an exclusive beauty to every piece that is used for the flooring. Also due to its being readily available in riveting patterns, there is no need of using any additional paint to accentuate the flooring or walls thereby cutting down on pollution caused due to the use of paints and other chemical substances.
4. Inherent pest repelling characteristics: Since cork comes from the bark of the tree it has a natural insect repelling property to discourage infestation by pests. This feature is due to the presence of the constituent compound suberin in it. Additionally, suberin also prevents rotting of the cork by retarding the growth of molds on the bark.
5. Healthy and safe option: Cork is a very safe choice when it comes to its being used in kitchens or other fire prone environments due to the presence of fire resistant suberin. Besides, even if it caught fire accidentally, it does not release toxic chemicals and gasses.
6. Natural insulation properties: Due to the structural makeup of cork, it is very effective in reducing noises. Since the honey comb cellular makeup traps air in the constituent cells the floors are able to reduce the noise produced due to the routine activities like accidental dropping of heavy items on the floor or dragging of furniture, shelves and other essentials across the floor. This insulating property is attributed to the fact that the air traps the vibration caused by the noise and thus insulates the room from sound.
7. Soft on feet: Cork, being made of characteristic honey comb like structures and inherent trapped air that offer a compression of about 40%, is easy on feet. It is indeed a preferred choice for people who love to walk bare foot on the floor. Not only is walking on cork floor a delight for the feet but relaxing for the back too.
8. Low on maintenance: As is clear from the foregoing properties of cork, the cellular structure of cork is such that it saves on costly maintenance procedures as compared to wood, carpets or tiles. It is thus an appropriate option for people who have busy schedules. According to the user’s convenience cork floors look fabulous even with occasional vacuum cleaning or minimal wet mopping.
Thus going by the above, cork flooring is not only durable, available in various textures and patterns, adaptable for use in various ways, light weight but also easy to install. Hence manufactures are able to offer a variety of choices to the consumers in an eco friendly manner.