Cork flooring is not right for every location and installation. However, in some places it can be a wonderful addition to a room, that is comfortable and relatively easy to clean and maintain. It is important to understand the underlying characteristics of cork, so that you can make an informed decision when choosing whether or not to use it in a specific space.
The Pros of Cork Flooring
The Feel of Cork: One of the best things about this material is how soft and yielding it feels beneath your feet.
Often when people first step on a cork flooring installation their eyes light up with delight, as they realize that this is neither wood, nor vinyl, but something completely different altogether. Because of this, cork is popular in rooms where you will be standing for long periods of time, such as a kitchen.
Children and the Elderly: The soft surface of a cork floor can act as a kind of cushion, which stretches across the room providing a certain amount of protection in case someone accidentally trips and falls. This makes it a great choice for children’s rooms, allowing them to get down directly on the floor to play without having to worry about hard surfaces and harsh injuries. This also makes it an appropriate choice for senior citizen living areas.
Cork’s Insulating Properties: The inside of a piece of cork is made up of millions of tiny air filled chambers.
These act as barriers against the transmission of noise, effectively insulating any room where this material is installed. This will help to keep noise from transmitting down through the floor, or up through the ceiling.
Flooring made from cork can also help you save money on your heating and cooling bills.
That same property that insulates the floor against noise will also serve to keep out unwanted heat energy in the summer, or to keep it in the room in the winter. This means that you will have to expend less energy trying to control the temperature of an interior space.
Cork Flooring Room By Room
Refinishing Cork Floors: One of the best things about a cork floor is that you are able to refinish the surface of this material periodically, just like with hardwood, to give it a fresh new look every few years. This involves sanding the cork down past the point of any imperfections, and then staining and or re-applying the finish sealer to the surface. This can be done several times, depending on how thick the material you purchase is.
Hypoallergenic: Unlike carpet, cork tends to repel dust, hair, and other small particles from its surface. The material is also easier to get completely clean. Because of this, cork floors tend to promote higher indoor air quality.
Antimicrobial Properties: Cork contains a waxy substance called suberin. This material has the property of naturally repelling small vermin and insects. This makes cork floors resistant to the growth and colonization of these organisms, and can therefore help to promote the healthiness of an environment.
Ecologically Friendly: Cork is a completely natural, recurring, and easily replenishable material. It is made from the bark of the Cork Oak, which can be harvested without harming the tree, and which grows back periodically every few years. It is also biodegradable, and will break down into the environment at the end of its life cycle.
Cork Tiles: With tiling, the installation process is relatively simple. Most tiles just have a self adhesive based back, or may need to be installed with a mild mortar. Then you need to seal the application several times. When individual tiles become damaged, you also have the option of simply lifting them up and replacing them.
Ease Of Maintenance: When installed correctly, with multiple layers of a quality water barrier sealer applied to the surface, cork flooring is relatively simple to take care of. All that it requires is regular sweeping or vacuuming to remove small grit and dirt particles. Aside from this you just have to wipe up spills, and make sure that staining agents don’t rest on the surface.
The Cons of Cork Flooring
Cork Scratches: This is not the right material if you are looking for a perfectly pristine floor. Over time cork is going to scratch and tear from a variety of hazards. You have pet nails that can scratch it, as well as small dirt particles that can act like sandpaper grits, tearing across the surface of the material.
Damaged Flooring: Cork is a very soft material. While this might be delightful on bare feet, it also makes these floors relatively easy to damage. If any sharp object is dropped it can cause a puncture. Chair and furniture legs can pierce, and scrape the material. Even high heels, if not properly padded, can cause punctures in the surface of a cork floor.
Dented Flooring: If you have very heavy appliances or furniture pieces, then you may have a problem with them sinking permanently down into the cork. This can not only cause permanent divots in the material, but can also make it very difficult to move those pieces later on for cleaning or decorative purposes. However, this can be offset to some extent by using furniture coasters, and placing larger pieces on flat wooden boards or other support pieces.
Pet Scratches: Cat and dog nail scratches are a particular problem with cork flooring. These can start showing up almost instantly, especially with larger, heavier canines. Keeping their nails trimmed can help this, but it is an ongoing process, that will slowly weather the surface of the material.
Water Issues: You seal cork in order to create an invisible barrier over its surface, which will protect it from water stains and damage. However, this seal is not perfect, and if there is a flood, the flooring material will probably warp, discolor, and be ruined. High humidity can also cause cork to curl or plump, which may lead to tiles popping out.
Sunlight Fading: If direct sunlight is allowed to beam down on cork materials every day, then discoloration may occur, and a patch of the floor can end up taking on a different hue than the rest. This can be offset by blocking sunlight with curtains or blinds, but will require constant vigilance and care.
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