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Cork flooring is rapidly growing in popularity as environment conscious homeowners are discovering that this beautiful, distinctive product is one of the most sustainable options available.
A Cork oak tree has the remarkable property that it can be harvested repeatedly over its 250 year life span. After its first 20 to 25 years the virgin bark of the tree is extracted leaving behind the bare heartwood completely unharmed, which will then grow a harvestable layer of several hundred kilograms every 9 to 12 years. Harvesting in this way means no tree is cut down in the process, and is actually beneficial to the health of the tree.
This video shows cork being harvested in Portugal and explains how the forests are maintained.
With renewable cork oak forests covering approximately 2.5 million hectares across Europe and North Africa the supply of this wood for bottle stoppers, decorations and (of course) flooring, is practically unlimited.
In addition to its natural renewable properties, harvested cork oak captures far more carbon than other types of tree as it regrows its bark. This reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so not only is cork flooring sustainable, its production actively slows the effects of this greenhouse gas.
The cork industry itself is also incredibly eco-efficient. Cork by-products are used in the production of different products, and recycling (post-industrial and post-consumer) is a common practice. Even cork dust is used to generate energy!
As one of our most eco-friendly products you will find all our cork floors in the Life Flooring Brand. This is guarantee that the floors are from sustainable sources, perfect for our green conscious customers.
Cork flooring has a look that is distinct from other wood products. Our range contains natural grainy or patchy patterns and leather effect surfaces in a variety of colours, from more traditional brown shades through pink, red, olive, black and white. You will also have the option of finishing your cork flooring with a lacquer which gives the surface an even sheen that gently reflects light while offering extra protection from scratches and making the floors easier to clean and maintain.
Cork wood is made up of microscopic gas pockets arranged in a strong, honeycomb-like structure. This gives the material elastic properties so it can be compressed down to 60% and return to its original size without being damaged.
With this natural shock absorption cork can easily last decades while providing noticeable comfort and additional safety benefits for children and the elderly, who may be more prone to falls and dropping breakable objects. The structure of the wood also makes cork sound-resistant and provides superior insulation to alternative flooring options.
Cork can also have a sealant applied to make it waterproof, making it a viable option for bathroom flooring.
Cork contains a natural wax called suberin, which, in addition to being a naturally-occurring insect repellent, helps close any tears or breaks in the cork. This substance results in a natural seal against moisture and micro-bacterial infiltration, making cork flooring an excellent option for people with allergies.
The suberin in cork helps make the material fire-resistant and, in the event that it does catch fire, cork will not release any harmful gases.
Cork does require occasional light maintenance, but this extra care can result in a floor that will serve and protect for many years to come.
The key difference between engineered cork flooring and the standard variety is that while the latter comes with stick down installation - where adhesive on the back is shielded by plastic covers that are removed before the tile is stuck down - engineered cork flooring is assembled like a jigsaw, with the different tiles clicking together without the need for glue or any other kind of adhesive.
The engineered cork flooring products we stock all come with click installation. This is very simple and easy to install and does not require a large amount of skill or expertise. It can be installed over any subfloor and in nearly any room in the house, the exception being wet rooms. It is also well-suited to rooms with underfloor heating. Like other engineered floors, the structure enables it to avoid expanding and contracting as much as a solid plank or tile floor would. There should be an underlay fitted, with the kind used depending on whether the underfloor is a concrete or wood one.
The products in the range have several aspects in common. All of them have a smooth finish, produced by the application of a UV micro-scratch resistant coating known as WearTop. This is particularly useful in preventing the minor scratches that can be sustained by dust as well as general wear and tear. The wear layer is 2.7mm thick on top of an HDF water-resistant core board, while the entire tile is 10.5mm thick and 300mm wide with a board length of 910mm. This wear layer ensures that the tile has an additional element of durability that will help your cork floor endure whatever is thrown at it.
Because it is such a strong product, each item in the range comes with a 20-year warranty, providing you with the reassurance that there is a long-term guarantee should anything go wrong, along with the expectation that, provided it is reasonably looked after, the flooring will not deteriorate and will stand the test of time, remaining as attractive as it did on the day you first bought it.
Submitted by Jason Ashby, UKFD