Sunday, October 2, 2016

Cork Floors 101

A newbie to the flooring scene is cork. (ok, maybe not a newbie, but a product that many people are not aware of or have used.) The word “cork” may conjure up images of wine bottles or popping champagne bottles. Natural cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, found mainly in southern Europe and northern Africa. Portugal is the center of the cork industry and accounts for more than half the world’s production. The cork oak tree is the national tree of Portugal and has been legally protected since the Middle Ages. Scraps of bark left over from punched out wine bottle stoppers are ground up, pressed and baked into sheets that are ready to convert into floor planks and tiles.

                                                Photo from the Portuguese Cork Association

Although you may just be hearing about cork floors, they have been around for more than a century. When it was first introduced, it appeared mostly in commercial spaces, though residential use increased after Frank Lloyd Wright chose it for many of the homes he designed. It’s popularity hit a peak in the 1960’s and 70’s but waned until the 2000’s and now it’s hotter than ever.

Looking for a green product for your home? Cork is a high contender. The cork oak trees gradually regenerate their bark after it’s harvested and the harvesting process is strictly regulated in order to keep damage to the trees and cork minimal. Trees live between 1-2 centuries making it a long term renewable resource.

Have you used cork floors in your home? Does it pique your interest? Stay tuned for the next column on the benefits of using it on your floor. Have questions? Email me at

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