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Cork Flooring Pros and Cons

Cork is an unpopular type of floor covering that is often seen as inferior to its competitors—vinyl and hardwood in particular. Such a belief, however, is a misconception that not only undermines the benefits of cork flooring, but also prevents people who badly need it from obtaining it.

Yes, you read that right. Cork flooring has several benefits that go beyond function and aesthetics. It is, for example, great for folks with dust and pollen allergies. It is ethically and sustainably produced, too, making it the greenest flooring material in the industry.

Curious what these other “benefits” are?

Read on. This article covers a complete list of cork flooring’s perks, as well as disadvantages, together with a comprehensive explanation for each. 

What is Cork Flooring?

Cork flooring is essentially a sheet of ground-up and compressed cork bonded with resins. It comes from a cork oak tree’s bark and is harvested from commercial oak tree plantations. In other words, it is a natural, replenishable, and biodegradable product.

In short, it is the most eco-friendly flooring material in the industry.

But aside from that, cork flooring also costs significantly less than traditional hardwood, as well as bamboo flooring. Most companies sell it in a variety of styles and designs, too. You can, for instance, purchase a cork flooring that appears similar to marble, hardwood, or even concrete flooring.  

Cork Flooring Pros and Cons

As mentioned, there are many benefits to cork flooring that are worth checking out. Here’s a list:

The Benefits

  • Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. First on the list is a medical benefit, which is that cork is an antimicrobial and hypoallergenic flooring material.

    Essentially, cork naturally comes with properties that thwart off potentially harmful microbes. Cork repels dust mites and dirt too, which helps promote healthy indoor air quality. Also, cork flooring is known to be mildew- and mold-resistant.

    Overall, these perks help alleviate and prevent symptoms for people with dust allergies and even asthma, making it a hypoallergenic flooring option.
  • Affordable. Another great thing about cork flooring is that it is cheap, unlike its competitors. Depending on the thickness, finish, and overall quality, cork tiles and planks may cost around $2 to $12 per square foot. Such a price is fairly economical since traditional hardwood and bamboo flooring cost slightly more.
  • Excellent insulator. For homes located in areas that often experience extremely cold weather, cork’s insulation benefits are up to par thanks to their natural properties. Essentially, the cork’s cellular structure contains millions of small air-filled chambers that block and trap heat. It then disperses heat evenly.

    But cork does not only trap heat. It is also a good noise insulator, making it a suitable flooring material for condominiums, apartments, and two-story houses.
  • Can be refinished. If you want to give your floor a new look every year, then cork flooring might suit your needs. Cork can be refinished, and the process is not very complicated. Hence, you can do it without professional help.

    The fact that a floor covering can be refinished would be handy in the long run too, as it could help remove or hide imperfections. As such, rather than replacing it with new ones, you can simply sand and polish it again. It can be repolished many times as well as long as the planks are thick enough. 

    On the one hand, do take note that engineered and composite cork flooring should not be sanded and repolished as both have thin surface layers.
  • Easy to install and maintain. Cork flooring can be installed in two ways: glue-down installation and floating installation. Both methods are generally—particularly for DIY enthusiasts—easy. 

    Glue-down installation, however, can be slightly trickier than floating installation. This is because the latter can be assembled via locking each plank’s edges, similar to how you install LVP flooring or laminate flooring, while glue-down installation requires a meticulously prepared area. You need to clean and prepare the area first, then meticulously lay the subfloor to ensure that each plank is evenly placed. This effort is twice as important if the area is damp or prone to moisture. 
  • Eco-friendly. Lastly, cork flooring is environmentally friendly. The materials used to make cork planks are ethically produced and sustainable. They are also biodegradable and will naturally decompose once discarded. 

    So, if you are an eco-conscious type of person, then you should consider cork flooring. 

The Disadvantages

  • Needs water sealing. As good as it can be, cork flooring unfortunately naturally absorbs water. Hence, it needs to be coated with water sealant at least once (or twice, if needed) a year. 

    Water sealant helps to protect the planks from moisture, as well as stains, especially spilt drinks. And without the sealant your floor is susceptible to damage and will look old and dingy after only a year of use. 
  • Prone to damage. Cork flooring is not as durable as other floor coverings. It is not fade- or moisture-resistant, and it is not pet- or kid-friendly as well. Hence, it is prone to common damages like scratches, dents, and unwanted marks. 
  • Temperature-sensitive. Further, cork flooring is sensitive to temperatures. High humidity, for example, can prompt the material to curl up and expand. 

    That said, if you still wish to use cork as your floor covering, then it’s best to acclimate the flooring for at least five days first, before the installation.
  • Fading. Cork is also not fade resistant. This means its original color fades over time, and direct sunlight often exacerbates the problem. In that case, cork flooring is best to install in an area without large windows such as the bedroom. Blocking the sunlight using curtains could help too.

Verdict

Cork flooring is way cheaper than traditional and other floor coverings. It bears several good features that are handy for both residential and commercial space owners. But it is not as durable and resistant to common flooring issues (like moisture and fading) as several other alternatives.

In other words, cork flooring will not last long. You will need to shell out money every year to maintain the floor as well. 

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