Cork flooring has been around for more or less a century now and though it has experienced periods of popularity and anonymity among the general consumers, it has always maintained a cult following due to its unique qualities. The process of extracting the cork from trees, and then creating and installing cork floors is quite interesting and we will be taking a look at that in this piece while discussing other qualities of cork flooring.
How is cork produced?
Cork is taken from cork oak trees that usually grow in Spain and Portugal. The bark of those trees is carefully separated once every nine years. Experienced workers use specifically designed axes to cut out the bark in such a way that no harm comes to the tree itself.
Keeping the tree intact helps in the regrowth of the bark in a few years’ time, and when the trees are developed, they are harvested again. Every tree is marked so as to not be harvested before the bark has fully grown again.
Unlike hardwood floors, cork flooring doesn’t require cutting down any trees, and so, it is extremely environmentally friendly.
How are cork floors made?
Once the tree barks are separated – numbering in thousands from a single forest – they are cut into planks. These planks are then placed outside for a few months so that sunlight, air, and moisture can transform the cork and make it ready for industrial use.
The cork planks are then steam boiled so that all the impurities are gone, the steaming also helps in eliminating the outer layer of the bark which brings smoothness and flexibility to the cork. The cork is then left to dry for a few weeks after which bottle corks are punched out of the planks. The leftover material is then processed i.e. boiled and compressed using adhesives, into cork that is used to make floors, boards, and other products.
This way, there is absolutely no wasted cork since all of it gets used up one way or the other. Producing no waste is the reason why cork products are considered to be so Eco-friendly.
How are cork floors installed?
Two different types of cork flooring options are currently available in the market although one of them has become a lot more
popular recently. One is the older option i.e. the glued down cork tiles while the second option is to get the relatively modern, floating cork planks.
Back when cork flooring was at its zenith during the 70s, the glued down cork tiles were very popular. Even when it first arrived almost a century or so ago, this was the only way cork floors could be installed.
People would use an adhesive to place down the solid cork tiles on the floor where they would remain for years. However, only a professional can expertly handle the adhesive and install the cork tiles without making a mess. The finish on these tiles was usually done by wax in those days but now that better finishing products are available, wax isn’t that popular anymore.
Floating cork planks, on the other hand, are very easy to install, much like hardwood planks. The planks are available in different sizes and are usually made of three different layers, the top and bottom layers are made of cork whereas the middle layer is made from the high-density fiberboard (HDF) substrate.
However, if you are installing the cork floor in a place where moisture might be a factor, the underlying cork layer would need to be water-resistant. These floor planks are usually supplemented by better quality and industrial made finishes rather than wax and oil but it is up to you to use whatever finish you prefer.
How to install the cork floors yourself?
If you want, you can try to install cork floors yourself and regardless of how easy or difficult the process might seem. Many people prefer to install their floors themselves without any professional assistance. You can install it on a solid concrete floor but don’t try to place it over vinyl or wood.
It is important to remember that floating cork planks should only be installed in places where moisture is minimal. In places like kitchens, you are better off using glued down tiles. On the other hand, installing cork tiles with adhesives require more work and so, you should probably go with floating planks whenever you can.
If you follow the following steps you too can manage to install a cork floor in your house by yourself.
Cork Flooring With Floating Planks
- Clean the floor
- Measure the room dimensions
- Trim the last planks in every column if required so that they can fit
- Start planting the floating planks
- Put some weight on the installed planks to keep them in place
- Use a hammer to make sure planks are properly fitted i.e. tongues are firmly placed in the grooves
- Leave spaces with the walls to accommodate the expansion and contraction of cork with changing temperatures
- Add a finish on the floor
Cork Flooring With Glued Down Tiles
- Clean the floor
- Place and test all the cork tiles on the floor without any adhesive
- Roughen the floor up with sanding if needed
- Paint adhesive on the floor surface
- Let it dry
- Start planting cork tiles with careful consideration
- If done wrongly, use a scraper to remove the tile
- Paint the adhesive on the floor again and let it dry
- Sand the floor when tiles are installed
- Add a finish
Hannah Carter is a professional writer, blogger, marketer and works at prestige flooring. In her spare time, she cooks for herself and others, and whenever schedule permits, she likes to travel with a mission to explore the world.
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