Everyone loves cork when it comes to choosing flooring material, especially for the kitchen, chiefly because there are plenty of colors and patterns to choose from and it has several built-in air pockets that cooks love because it is a natural shock absorber. This makes standing on it for protracted periods extremely comfortable than any other wood, stone or tile are. Lastly, it won’t break your dishes if ever you drop them. However, just like any other wood, cork floor has its share of pros and cons. Read on to make an informed decision before buying it.
Environmental advantage of cork
Cork comes with several pros and cons, so it’s best to know what it can offer you before you go with the tide and invest in it. It is environmentally advantageous as the flooring material used is sourced from the bark of this tree that grows in areas of plenty of sunshine, high humidity and low rainfall.
Since it is sourced from the tree bark, obtaining it is very easy and it is always available. Plus, sourcing it from the tree doesn’t mean killing these trees that have a lifespan of about 200 years. And, you’ll be happy to know that the entire production process is completely sustainable.
Cork flooring pros and cons
- Comfortable cushioning: This kind of flooring presents users with a good cushion, particularly for those who work standing for protracted periods. Due to this, it does away with any stress on the legs and back.
- Environmentally-friendly: Since cork flooring is made from its bark, it is also renewable. So, it is harvested every nine years from 25-year-old trees in ways that don’t endanger them. It is also easily replenished, since it grows back in a few years. Cork is also biodegradable, so it breaks down into the earth at the end of its lifespan.
- Highly durable: If there are a number of people and pets in your home, walking over your cork flooring each day, it’s best to go with cork, which is a very durable flooring material. One more trait of cork that works to your advantage is its ability to fill up any dents in its surface, thereby blending them into its larger pattern. Still, you could choose to refinish it at a later date.
- Natural shock-absorber: Cork has shock-absorbing qualities, so if you accidentally drop something on it like dishes or glasses, they won’t break easily, as in tiles. This works to your advantage if you suffer from joint conditions or if you have little kids who play with sharp-edged toys.
- Highly resilient: As flooring, cork is highly resilient, so it works well when you have a number of people walking on it each day. It is spongy in nature, which affords the user a highly cushioned walking experience, something that hard tiles do not give.
- Soft to touch: Cork is among the softest flooring materials available today beneath one’s feet, so it’s common to see it in kitchens.
- Warm flooring surface: Cork is a warm and unique flooring surface due to its cellular nature of being able to store warmth.
- Lightweight: It is lightweight because it contains over 50% air.
- Self-healing properties: If you drop knives, toys or anything sharp on a cork floor that causes a slit or slice in it, the flooring will heal itself and the incisions will not show.
- Fire-resistant: Cork is naturally resistant to fire, so though it will burn, it does not send toxins into the air.
- Good insulator: There are tiny chambers filled with air inside a piece of cork. They prevent noise from being transmitted, and act as good room insulators. So, the heat you keep inside your home remains there, keeping you warm for longer.
- Antimicrobial properties: The waxy ingredient of cork called suberin repels vermin and small insects, making the floor resistant to the growth and development of such organisms into colonies, thereby promoting your health.
- Hypoallergenic properties: Cork flooring repels hair, dust and other small particles. It is also naturally resistant to the development of mildew and mold, spiders, termites and bugs and is considered as more hypoallergenic a flooring material than any other. This makes it the ideal choice of flooring for sufferers of dust allergies.
- Range of colors and tones: Cork flooring is available in a large range of natural and man-made colors and tones, which can make your home look very aesthetic. You can also choose from its vast spectrum of grain patterns, giving you unlimited design possibilities.
- It mutes echoes and noise: Its acoustic properties enable cork to be a sound barrier to all kinds of noise and echoes.
- Easy to maintain: Anyone can install cork flooring in D-I-Y mode, though it’s best done professionally. It’s easy to maintain, with regular sweeping or vacuuming to remove dust particles. Spills only need wiping so that stains don’t develop while scratches can be masked due to the highly patterned nature of cork flooring. You can extend the life of cork flooring by putting the feet of your furniture in felt pads.
- Refinishing for a new look: By refinishing cork flooring, you can give it a new look every few years. By sanding your cork flooring, you can get rid of any flaws in it, and give it a new look with some staining and adding a coat of sealer.
- Low energy and cooling bills: You can save good money on your energy and cooling bills by installing cork flooring. Not only will you be noise-free but you will be comfortable in a cool room in the summer and a warm room in the winter. This will reduce your overall energy bills right through the year.
- Budget-friendly: In price, cork is comparable with hardwood, tiles and carpeting. Since installation is easy, your overall costs of installing are low. Once the flooring is laid, cork’s thermal advantages work for you to maintain room temperature in the winter, thereby reducing your heating costs.
- Easily damaged: Being soft flooring material, cork is easily damaged. It can develop a puncture in its surface if a sharp object is dropped on it. Furniture legs can cause scrape marks on it and can also pierce through it. Women’s high heels too can cause a punctured cork flooring.
- Not scratch-resistant: Over time, cork flooring gets easily scratched and develops tears from rough use, such as your pet’s nails or dirt particles that tear its surface.
- Not strong enough: Cork flooring along with a coat of polyurethane can withstand normal wear and tear for about five to 10 years, not more. After this, another coat of polyurethane will be required. So, one cannot expect it to look good for a couple of decades or more. Its pieces are so thin that it needs ultra gentle sanding between one coat and another.
- Regular re-sealing required: Its maintenance includes resealing every few years so that your cork flooring is waterproof and UV-resistant.
- Subject to temperature changes: The quality of cork flooring is severely impacted by extremes of temperature and humidity. This flooring expands and contracts according to the weather, contracting in the summer, revealing small gaps between planks. With an increase in humidity, the tiles expand. When cork expands or contracts, it does so in all directions.
- Discolors with overexposure to sunlight: This extremely light-sensitive flooring fades with overexposure to sunlight.
- Dents in the surface: If your furniture or your kitchen appliances are very heavy, there’s a good chance that they will sink into the cork, creating dents in its surface. Moving your furniture or appliances at any future date for cleaning or to renovate the area will be extremely difficult for you.
- Pet scratch marks: One nail scratch by your pet dog or cat will show up on this flooring, especially if your canine is a large and heavy one. If this continues over a protracted period, it will slowly erode the surface of your flooring.
- Water woes: To protect your cork flooring from water damage and stains, it’s essential to seal it so that you have an unseen barrier on its surface. This seal, however, may not be ideal as the flooring could warp, fade or be utterly damaged if there’s a flood. If you live in an area of high humidity, it could cork to plump up or curl, causing the tiles to pop out.
- More expensive than others: Cork flooring costs more than other flooring types. Its price goes up when you realize it must be installed only by experienced professionals.
Given the above-mentioned facts about cork flooring, it would be wise to use it only in those parts of your home that could benefit from cork’s many strengths. This means that you need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of cork flooring before settling for it.
For instance, if one of your rooms receives a lot of sunshine, it’s sure to fade your cork flooring. But with a fair amount of sunlight, you could choose to go with cork because it will give you warmth, comfort and enough insulation.