Flooring Choice #2: Cork   3 comments

Our second decision in the replacing-the-flooring journey was a little bit more of a challenge. What would be the best option for the living room and hallway? Because of the proximity to the front entrance and the traffic patterns in the house, carpet is not an option for the living room or the hallway. But to accommodate the various activities in the living room, we want something soft and padded, and something that would be an acoustic dampener. Also, the existing tile in the adjacent entry and dining room is fairly elegant looking, and we want to have something complementary and similarly elegant in the living room in hopes that it will boost our resale value when we sell the house down the road.

More tile? Not soft or sound dampening; plus we would never be able to match the existing tile. Wood or bamboo? Again, not soft or sound dampening. Conventional laminate? Not soft or sound dampening, plus there’s an issue with offgassing of formaldehyde and VOCs. Vinyl? Not on your (my) life. Natural linoleum? Not the elegant look we are going for.

What’s left? Cork! I discovered cork as a viable flooring option years ago when I realized that the floor of Stanford’s Memorial Church was cork. Until then I couldn’t figure out how cork could be used as a floor because I imagined a bulletin board lying on the ground and could not figure out how to keep it clean or how it would not fall apart quickly. My husband had the same thought before we actually looked at cork flooring samples. Cork flooring is actually ground up cork bark mixed with adhesives and compressed into sheets (so it is technically a laminate flooring). Patterns and stains can be added on the top layer, which means there are some gorgeous cork floors out there. The cork tiles still have the springy-nature of the cork bark, so it is a good compromise between hard and soft flooring options. It is also a good compromise for acoustic dampening (maybe that’s why they use cork tiles in Memorial Church). As a plus, cork is a thermal insulator like carpet. I bounced around online for a while reading reviews of cork floors and it seemed like I mostly found rave reviews with a handful of lukewarm ones. I found very few negative reviews.

As far as environmental benefits, cork can be used for LEED credits for sustainable materials and recycled materials. It is considered a sustainable material because cork is the bark of the tree and the tree doesn’t need to be cut down for the harvest. Cork flooring is made from the waste material left after making bottle corks, which sort-of makes it a recycled product. (It can also be made from recycled cork stoppers, but I don’t know how common that is.) Since it is a laminate material there is some risk of off-gassing due to the adhesives, but the floor that we are buying is GreenGuard Indoor Air Quality Certified, so it is low-emitting for volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and phthalates. Not perfect, but pretty good.

So a floating cork floor it is! Think conventional laminate floor with the tongue-in-groove joints, only it’s a fiberboard sandwiched between two layers of cork. Theoretically I can DIY this, but I don’t think I could manage doorways and the bay window in the living room. Instead, I talked to the contractor that is going to install all the flooring about letting me help.

Posted July 23, 2010 by mayakey in environment, home, shopping

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3 responses to “Flooring Choice #2: Cork

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  1. pictures please.

  2. Very nice post…

    Laying laminate flooring

  3. Pingback: Two Years After Installing Flooring « Love Knowledge Zeal & Fortitude

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