Here at Floor Coverings International of Largo, FL, we realize that there is a vast variety of material and style options to choose from when you’re picking new flooring, and that sometimes that dazzling array of choices can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you learn as much as possible, so that you can make the choice that’s best for your needs. As such, we’ve written this post to help you get a more in-depth look at one of the most eco-friendly flooring options offered by Floor Coverings International of Largo and Seminole: Cork flooring.
The Cork Oak
Cork is a completely natural product, made from the bark of the Cork Oak, or Quercus Suber. The Cork Oak is a medium sized evergreen, native to the Mediterranean. The tree grows a thick, rugged bark that can be harvested and made into cork. This is the source of wine bottle stoppers and cork boards, as well as Cork flooring. Cork oaks can live up to 250 years, and are first ready to be harvested at 25 years old, with subsequent harvests every 9 years. Cork bark contains suberin, which gives Cork many of its characteristic qualities. Suberin is a waxy, hydrophobic substance that is a natural insect and fire repellent (this means cork doesn’t require pesticide use). The majority of cork production comes from Portugal, where it is illegal to cut down cork oaks.
The Cork harvesting process is one of the ways that cork is so eco-friendly. Because cork is made only from the bark of the cork oak, it isn’t necessary to cut the tree down to harvest cork, making is a renewable resource. There is no machinery used in the process, which is all done by hand. In order to avoid damaging the tree, cork harvesting is considered a skilled trade, and the cork industry employs 30,000 people across Europe. Usually five people together harvest 50% of the bark using a small axe. Some people in Portugal and other cork-producing nations will grow a single cork tree in their yard, which can bring in a minor amount of additional income.
Unlike some other green flooring options, like bamboo, cork’s manufacturing process is also eco-friendly. Cork flooring is different from the cork used for things like wine bottle stoppers or cork boards. It is much more compressed and dense. To produce the density of cork floor tiles, cork bark and cork from previous manufacturing, that would otherwise be considered industrial waste, are ground into tiny grains that are then baked in furnaces fueled by the rest of the production waste, with cork dust and tree trimmings providing the energy. This ensures that every part of the harvest is used.
When cork is finally turned into flooring, it has tons of advantages beyond simply being eco-friendly. Cork is naturally antimicrobial, fire-resistant, mold resistant, and anti-static. This makes it a great option for people with allergies. Cork is a natural insulator, so it will save you money on the energy bill, while continuing to have a sustainable impact. Because cork is softer than other flooring options it feels comfortable and warm underfoot. It absorbs ambient noise, meaning that it is an instant sound reducer, and the ‘bounce-back’ quality that makes it so soft means that it is incredibly durable and can handle plenty of foot traffic. If you’re interested in pursuing a cork floor installation, contact us at Floor Coverings International of Largo today!
Photo: Elena Elisseeva