Green Flooring Trends: Cork

Consumers are increasingly drawn towards eco-friendly flooring, and for good reason. With the incredible variety of options, it’s easy to go green with flooring that looks great, too.

Cork is becoming an increasingly popular flooring option because of its positive environmental impact and the numerous benefits it provides.

Cork Background

The bark of the cork oak tree, scientifically known as Quercus suber, is the source of cork for flooring and other products – most notably wine stoppers. The cork oak tree predominantly grows in the Mediterranean region, including Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Algeria and Tunisia.  The cork oak tree lives over 200 years on average and can be harvested every eight to ten years, after the initial harvest when the tree is 20-25 years old. 

Though cork is well known for keeping wine fresh – and increasingly for its versatile flooring use – its many positive properties allow it to be used in a variety of ways. Cork has been used in car engines, airport runways, and dam mechanisms, and is the flooring in parts of the Library of Congress. 

Environmental Benefits of Using Cork

So, what is it exactly that makes cork an eco-friendly option for flooring? Perhaps most importantly, it’s a renewable resource – the cork oak tree is the only tree that regenerates itself after every harvest, leaving the tree unharmed. Additionally, the traditional method in which the bark is harvested has minimal effect on the environment.

Since the cork comes from the bark, there is no need to cut the tree down, which allows cork oak forests to be maintained. This is important because cork oak forests support one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity, as well as help maintain watersheds and prevent erosion.

Cork also provides a direct environmental benefit to consumers using it as flooring. Cork’s natural insulation properties means that it doesn’t absorb the cold in the winter, keeping homes warmer and more energy efficient.

What Makes Cork Ideal for Flooring?

Besides being a green solution to other alternatives, cork also has a variety of properties that make it a great choice for flooring, including the following:

  • Thermal and acoustical qualities
  • Lightweight
  • Hypo-allergenic
  • Naturally fire repellant
  • Insect repellant
  • Elastic
  • Resilient
  • Impermeable
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Easy to repair and install
  • And, of course, the various styles of cork flooring can add a beautiful aesthetic touch to any space.

Cork flooring can be used in many capacities, but can be a particularly good choice for kitchens. Its elastic quality makes it comfortable to stand on for long periods of time, and allows for more “give” – meaning dropped dishes and glasses are less likely to shatter. If sealed, cork is also water resistant.

Wherever cork flooring is used, consumers can enjoy its many benefits, as well as the peace of mind knowing that they’re using a material that benefits the environment.