If you’re looking for a sustainable or eco-friendly flooring option, then cork flooring might be just what you need. Cork flooring is just about as green as it gets, thanks to the fact that it’s made from all-natural materials. It has a distinctly natural look, owing to its coloring and texture. And it also comes with a whole host of other benefits which make it a nearly ideal flooring option.
Figuring out whether you should choose cork flooring for your home is, however, by no means an easy decision. There are dozens of different cork floors out there to choose from, all with their own unique appeal. But it’s important to make the right decision since cork floors can last for many years.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that cork floors are not a common flooring option. Data suggest that only around 1 percent of people ever discover and use cork flooring. What’s more, those who do use it tend to either love it or hate it. Those who love it usually stay quiet and don’t bother posting reviews of their positive experiences online. Those who dislike it, on the other hand, are much more likely to voice their negative opinions – something which has contributed to the negative perception of cork flooring online.
Lovers of cork flooring point to its unique feel. Cork floors feel soft underfoot making it comfortable to stand on all day long, especially when doing chores around the house. It’s also ideal for kids, they claim, because it allows them to stomp around without making a sound.
But while there are legions of cork lovers, there are also many haters too. Haters say that cork flooring is a nightmare for people who love to wear heels and that even the slightest scratch leaves a mark. They also say that cork flooring isn’t a great solution for certain rooms in the home. It gets soggy in the bathroom and seams between tiles can get mucky and unhygienic in the kitchen.
But are either of these views valid? Here, we’re going to take an impartial look at both the pros and cons of choosing cork flooring for your home.
The Pros Of Cork Flooring
It Feels Great Underfoot
One of the things that people who love cork flooring always say about it is that it feels great underfoot. This is true. Cork floors mold themselves to the shape of your feet whenever you walk over it, creating a unique sense of comfort.
If you put cork flooring down in your home, you’ll immediately notice its profoundly different feeling, and so too will your guests. Whenever you have people over for dinner, you’ll see their faces light up as they experience an entirely new sensation.
As discussed earlier, the fact that cork flooring feels amazing underfoot makes it a great addition for people who spend a lot of time on their feet. If you’re always cooking and cleaning, then cork floors make the work a lot more pleasant, providing you with a soft yet surprisingly springy feeling, helping to make your day all the more enjoyable.
Easy To Maintain
One of the main worries that people have about cork flooring is the difficulty of maintaining it. But it turns out that this is largely a myth, so long as it is installed correctly.
Proper cork flooring should comprise multiple layers of cork interspersed with water barrier sealer which prevents water from penetrating the material. Once properly applied, this water sealer keeps moisture out while retaining cork’s unique sensory properties. In other words, when treated, cork flooring is no harder to maintain than regular carpets and hard floors. You can either sweep it or give it the once over with a vacuum.
As with carpets, however, spills need to be dealt with quickly. The good news is that spills on cork floors don’t immediately penetrate the material, unlike what happens with carpets. Just mop up with a paper towel and the flooring will be as good as new. If you’re worried about the sealant, you may want to reapply it following a spill.
Many flooring options, such as carpets and vinyl are not particularly environmentally-friendly. This is because they contain petrochemical byproducts, many of which don’t break down naturally in the environment and contaminate landfill. For example, some carpets are made from polypropylene, not wool.
Cork flooring, on the other hand, is entirely natural. What’s more, it’s a sustainable source of flooring. Cork comes from the bark of the Cork Oak, a tree which can be harvested over and over again without causing it any damage.
Also, because cork is a natural material, it breaks down in the ground over time. In fact, all the nutrients in cork are returned to the soil quickly, completing the nutrient lifecycle.
Because cork comprises the outer layer of the Cork Oak, it has natural antibacterial properties. Whereas carpets can harbor all kinds of microbes with little resistance, cork contains a substance called suberin which deters bacteria, insects, and vermin from taking up residence. Cork helps to promote health within the home naturally and sustainably.
Carpets tend to collect allergenic particles, including pet hairs, pollen particles, and grass seed. These particles come into the home through the windows or on the soles of shoes and get trapped by carpet fibers. What’s more, with repeated trampling, it’s often not possible to vacuum them out. Particles become incorporated into the fibers themselves, creating a permanent silo of allergenic particles in the home.
Cork floors, however, are much easier to get completely clean. They naturally repel allergenic particles while providing nowhere for them to hide. Just like vinyl floors, they’re very easy to clean.
Ideal For Insulation
With energy costs on the rise, cork flooring is becoming more attractive. Because cork contains thousands of tiny air sacs, it acts as a natural insulating material, preventing both the transmission of noise as well as the loss of heat. Cork flooring helps to prevent sound from going from one floor to another, making it a good option for apartments. Cork floors also provide insulation when placed in first-floor rooms, keeping heat trapped inside the home during winter months.
The Cons Of Cork Flooring
Although cork flooring comes with many benefits, it can also lead to problems.
Fades In Sunlight
Some types of flooring, especially marble, stone and tile floors, don’t fade over time, even when placed in direct sunlight. However, because it is an organic material, cork can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays. The light strikes the cork and damages the pigments that give it color. As a result, cork flooring can often become discolored in patches around windows and door frames, creating an unsightly appearance.
You can prevent discoloration by using UV-filtering blinds and drapes. But remembering to close them during bright sunshine can be a hassle. Besides, you may want natural light in your home – in which case, closing the curtains isn’t an option.
Water Damage Is An Issue
Water sealants used on cork floors today are highly effective. However, they’re not perfect. Sometimes the sealant can crack or become damaged over time, making the cork floor vulnerable to water infiltration.
Like carpets, cork floors will be irreparably damaged in floods. Flooding leaves stains and leads to warping as outer layers dry out faster than inner.
Humidity can also be a problem if the seals aren’t perfect. If you live in a humid area, then cork can curl up at the edges over time, causing individual cork tiles to pop out of place.
Easily Scratched By Children And Pets
If you’re a perfectionist, then cork flooring will be a constant source of frustration. Not only is it prone to water damage, but there’s also a distinct possibility that it will suffer scratch damage at the hands (and claws) of children and pets. Cork, being a natural material, is easily scratched by pet claws and damaged by children. What’s more, these scratches can develop almost immediately, meaning that as soon as you place cork flooring down, it’s prone to damage – not ideal.
There are a couple of things you can do about this. Either you can avoid bringing pets into the home. Or, if that’s not possible, make sure to clip their nails regularly.
Easy To Damage
Cork flooring feels amazing underfoot. But this feeling comes with a cost: it is incredibly easy to damage, even under normal use. For instance, high-heeled shoes may generate enough pressure to puncture the floor, meaning that your home will have to have a strict heels policy. Also, you’ll also have to think carefully about the type of furniture you install. You won’t be able to use furniture unless weight is distributed over a wide area. That rules out sofas on stilts, and some tables and chairs. You’ll also need to be careful when moving furniture in and out of your home. Just sliding heavy furniture along a cork floor may be enough to cause damage. Thus, cork flooring is ideal for homes with relatively little clutter where furniture can be easily and safely moved from one location to another.
Just as carpets can become worn down in some locations, like corridors with heavy footfall or underneath swivel chairs, so too can cork floors. The biggest problem with cork flooring is denting – where objects permanently sink into the cork, causing it to depress. This can make it difficult to move furniture and can cause permanent divots which ruin the appearance of the floor.
The good news, though, is that you can solve this problem easily with furniture coasters. Coasters help to spread the weight of furniture over a larger area, ensuring that the cork flooring retains its naturally springy properties.
Is Cork Flooring Expensive?
Although cork flooring is a rare and unique flooring material, it’s also surprisingly cost-effective. In general, it’s no more expensive than traditional flooring options, and sometimes a bit cheaper.
The cost of cork flooring is usually in the range of $3 to $8 per square foot. This makes it more expensive than cheap polypropylene carpet which is generally in the range of $5 to $9 per square meter but cheaper than high quality, velvet weave woolen carpets which typically retail for more than $50 per square yard.
The price you pay for your cork flooring will also depend on whether you install it yourself or you get someone to do it for you. Currently, the average cost of a square foot of cork floor is about $5. Labor costs average an additional $1 per square foot. As a result, by doing it yourself, you save yourself between 15 and 20 percent of the total price. However, you’ll have to invest your time, and you may not be able to carry out the work to the same standard as a professional.
Prices of cork flooring vary substantially by vendor. Some styles and brands of cork flooring are much more expensive than others – something that you’ll need to consider before splashing out. Also, costs rise the more complex the installation. If your home has lots of wiggly corridors and stairs, the time it takes to lay the cork will rise, and so too, therefore, will the price.
Finally, it’s worth considering the longevity of cork flooring when calculating the cost. Typically, carpets will last around 5 to 10 years before they need to be replaced. But because it naturally repels dust, cork flooring can last a lot longer. In fact, if properly cared for and maintained, some cork floors can last more than 40 years. You’ll need to make sure that the sealant is refreshed on a regular basis. But if it is, then the overall cost of cork floors may turn out to be much lower than the initial sticker price would suggest.
Ultimately, cork flooring, like all flooring, comes with pros and cons. Although it feels great underfoot and provides excellent insulation, all that environmental friendliness comes at a price. Cork floors require care and attention to detail, such as keeping them out of direct sunlight and resealing them when required.