Cork has long been relegated to wine bottles and home to pushpins suspending pictures and notes for decades. But the building industry needs to take note of this material. Cork is not just a restraint for that wine that needs to breathe (and be drank, let’s get real here), it is an innovative evolution of nature that has multiple uses in the built environment.
Cork is 50% air, making it lightweight, but also incredible for acoustics. Lots of air means lots of spaces for sound to get trapped and great noise reduction. It also makes it soft and forgiving (don’t we love soft and forgiving!) which is great underfoot. And while we are walking all over our soft, forgiving cork, let’s also not its great thermal properties, as it is an excellent insulator. Meaning when things are hot, cork keeps its cool, retaining that precious AC coolness that we spent lots of $$ on much longer than other materials. Conversely, when we want to keep the heat turned up when things get chilly, cork stays warm underfoot and panders to those precious pedicures.
So cork is a thermal insulator, has great acoustic properties and has a great sustainability story. Oh, I forgot to tell the story.
Cork trees are actually oak trees. The bark becomes incredibly thick after 25 years when the tree can undergo its first bark harvest. The tree is not cut down, just the bark is harvested. And before you pick up your Arbor Day banner, it does not hurt the tree. Rather, it is like pruning, helping the tree devote its energy to become stronger and healthier. The bark can be harvested every 9 years and the trees can grow to be over 225 years old. The bark is used to make (yay) wine stoppers. But what becomes of the excess bark with wine stopper holes perforating it? It is post-industrial cork that can be used in building materials. Duh.
Cork is a protective outer layer, buffering the oak tree from the elements. Pest resistant, resistant to temperatures, moisture, mold, and pests. Gimme somma that. Typical wood materials are using the wood itself, but cork is actually the bark that weathers the elements to protect the wood. Much more suitable to handle the wear and tear.
Cork doesn’t just look like cork either. There are new colors and finishes and cork can actually be used as part of a more integrated flooring system, including cork LVT and engineered cork that grab the benefits of cork but the economics and performance of a floating floor or the durability of a high traffic commercial space. Just having one layer of cork in an engineered floor will increase the impact insulation class substantially.
Expanko XCR4 flooring is comprised of a blend of recycled cork and rubber.
Cork is also a great option for flooring, because it can be sanded and refinished, holds up to moisture and can withstand decades of wear and tear. One manufacturer, expanko, offers a ½” solid cork that is unrivaled in the market and is incredibly well priced for such a unique material.
Expanko's Heirloom cork collection is the only cork flooring available in 1/2″ thickness.
Cork is making its way into spray-on thermal barriers, acoustic decorative treatments and acoustic panels for interior and exterior. While cork flooring remains the “no duh” use of cork, its great properties are lending itself more and more to building applications where acoustics becomes more and more important and thermal performance and heating and cooling costs are optimized.
So use him and abuse him, cork can take it! Wood is good but cork is coming. So when you are thinking about your next project and Heidi High Heels is prancing pointedly across her tawdry vinyl floors upstairs, be reminded that cork would have humbled that hussy with a soft forgiving underlayment. Put cork in it.
To learn more about our offering of cork flooring products, request a product introduction today or request a sample by clicking the links below:
Request a product introduction: https://www.caragreen.com/education
Request a sample: https://www.caragreen.com/contact/request-samples/