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How to choose a cork floor

How to choose a cork floor

Benefits | Step 1 – How to Choose | Step 2 – Design & Lifestyle | Step 3 - Other considerations

Step 1 – How to Choose cork floors

Warm, natural cork is fast becoming a unique alternative to hardwood and bamboo. But is it right for you? Before you buy, consider your lifestyle, your budget and the advantages and drawbacks of cork.

What is cork?
Cork is an all-natural material made from the bark of the cork oak tree. Found in Portugal, Spain and parts of North Africa, cork oak is actually a member of the beech family. The tree is valued not for it’s lumber, but for its thick bark which can be harvested without damaging the trunk. Once stripped, the bark regenerates for future harvests, leaving the tree healthy and in tact, and making cork an inherently sustainable resource.

Trees are grown on farms that often support a range of commercial products. They are harvested under strict conditions, approximately every decade. At maturity (50 years) a tree typically produces 450 pounds of cork per harvest. As trees have a life span of 150 years or more, cork forestry is able to support generations of farmers and is considered the backbone of many regional economies.

How is cork flooring made?
The cork used to manufacture flooring is actually a by-product in the manufacture of cork wine-bottle stoppers. The ‘waste material’ from cork stopper production is collected, ground up into granules and pressed into sheet material under high pressure, using a small amount of binding adhesive. The sheets are then formed to create surface floor material and underlay.

How cork is used in flooring
Surface flooring:
Cork flooring is manufactured into glue-down tiles and loc connect floating planks.

Glue down tiles typically consist of a cork base, a cork veneer pattern and a prefinished coating.

Locking, floating planks consist of a cork sound insulation base layer, a core layer of high-density fiberboard, a veneer cork surface layer, and a prefinish coating. The veneer surface layer holds the colour and pattern and is laminated to the core to create a permanent bond. The prefinish coating is designed to speed up installation and increase durability.

Subflooring: In the past, cork was commonly used as an underlay, to reduce sound transfer in laminate and hardwood floating floors. Today, advances in technology have made it possible to develop superior subfloor materials with improved vibration absorption qualities. As a result, cork has been restyled as a unique surface material with sound deadening features that once made it an ideal underlay.

Glue-down versus floating cork flooring
Traditionally, cork was manufactured into glue-down tiles that came prefinished and ready to install using an adhesive, such as water based contact cement. Glue down tiles are still available today, but must be installed on a well-prepared, smooth subfloor of concrete or wood to ensure a defect-free surface. This need for subfloor preparation makes glue down tiles more time consuming to install than their newer, ‘glue-free’ counterparts.

More recently, cork has become available in a thicker, click-together plank form. Featuring a tongue and groove locking system, cork planks are installed as a ‘floating floor’, eliminating the need for glue or nails, and reducing subfloor preparation time. As the floor floats, it expands and contracts as a single unit, making it ideal over radiant heat flooring.

Both glue-down and floating flooring comes in a wide variety of styles and is easy to install and maintain. Availability, the state of your subfloor, and use of radiant heat are often the determining factors as to which type of flooring you choose.

Installation Considerations
Floating cork panels can easily be installed over almost any subfloor or existing floor except carpet, eliminating the need for costly removal of old flooring and the health risks associated with the harmful chemicals older floors often contain. Floating cork floors are typically installed over concrete, wood subfloors and tile, and can also be safely installed over radiant heat. If additional acoustical sound deadening properties are desired, we recommend the use of the Floor Muffler underlay. The Floor Muffler can also be used in applications such as concrete basement floors that require an additional vapour barrier.

As with any floating floor, it’s important to maintain the manufacturer’s required expansion gap around the perimeter of the room to allow for expansion and contraction. This gap will be covered by the baseboard and not visible to the eye.

Both glue-down and floating cork floors can be installed anywhere in a home except routinely damp areas such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements with newly poured subfloors. If installed in a kitchen, powder room or high traffic area you may want to seal the joints during installation. You can do this by running a small bead of water-based glue in the groove before you click the tiles together. It’s okay to have a small amount of glue squish out, just be sure to wipe this off before it dries.

Cork flooring generally comes factory prefinished with a topcoat, also known as a prefinish coating. There are 2 types of coatings commonly available on the market today: a highly durable polyurethane, and a natural oil/wax product. The type of finish you choose will depend on your budget and your lifestyle needs.

With normal wear and tear and proper maintenance, a urethane finish should last several years before refinishing is required. Oil/wax finishes may require more frequent but very easy treatments to maintain the finish. Regardless of the coating you choose, remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and basic care guide to maintain the beautiful finish of your floor surface for years.
Polyurethane with aluminum oxide finish (eg. Haro Permadur Matte Finish)
• Provides superior flooring protection
• Increases lifespan and durability
• Is abrasion and scratch resistant
• Is easy care (see Haro Permadur floor care guide for more)

Oil/wax finish (eg Haro bioTech Finish)
• Is made from natural source oils/waxes
• Offers easy repair of small, damaged areas without the need to refinish the whole floor
• Emphasizes the cork texture intensifying the natural feel
• Is easy care (see Haro bioTec floor care guide for more)

Benefits | Step 1 – How to Choose | Step 2 – Design & Lifestyle | Step 3 - Other considerations


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