CORK (Quercus suber)
Cork has long been prized as an environmentally-friendly and utilitarian flooring option. Flooring tiles made from cork provide excellent thermal and acoustic insulation, absorb impact, deter water and moisture, and are hypoallergenic. Longleaf retails a full collection of finished and unfinished WE Cork flooring products in a wide range of colors and patterns, and in tile and floating floor styles. as well as cork wall paneling and cork underlayment.
GENERAL INFORMATION PERTAINING TO CORK FLOORING
Background & History: Cork, an alternative material to wood flooring, is a renewable and sustainable resource. The Cork Oak grows in the forests of Mediterranean countries such as Portugal and Spain. Its bark, which is harvested every nine years without harm to the tree, regenerates after harvest, so trees are never cut down. After cork for wine bottles is removed from the bark, the remaining material is ground up, secured with urethane binders and molded to obtain the desired density under pressure and heat. Thinner material is then cut for tiles or floating floor planks. WE Cork flooring is manufactured and finished in Portugal. Floor tiles of cork were introduced to the world market in 1889. Many millions of square feet have been installed in this country, and numerous cork tile floors in use for more than 50 years remain in good condition.
Resilience & Durability: Due to its cellular structure, cork flooring is remarkably resistant to wear and has a wonderful, comfortable underfoot feel. When subjected to pressure, the gas in its cells compresses and volume reduces considerably. When released from pressure, it recovers very rapidly to its original shape, flexing and absorbing shock. Marks left by furniture will leave minimal residual indentation – less noticeable than that on wood, carpet, or vinyl floors.
Thermal & Acoustic Insulation: Due to the shape and air-filled nature of cork’s cellular structure (90% of the tissue is gaseous matter), cork floors have thermal and acoustic insulating properties. They reduce impact noise, making cork ideal for applications such as multi-level housing, office spaces, museums, and places of worship.
Impermeability: Suberin, the inherent substance of cork, renders the material impervious to both liquid and gases. As a result, cork is resistant to degradation by moisture. Suberin is also a natural insect repellent, resistant to more than 38 species of insects, including termites. Cork is anti-microbial and fights the development of mildew.
Hypoallergenic: WE Cork floors are both pure and hypoallergenic, contributing positively to indoor air quality. Cork does not absorb dust and consequently is a safer alternative for homeowners with allergy or asthma concerns. It does not shed micro fibers or outgas. The flooring contains no polyvinyl chlorides, and the UV-cured acrylic finish contains no VOCs.
Easy to Maintain: General maintenance involves sweeping and mopping. A damp mop with mild wood flooring detergent or white vinegar and water can be used, but avoid using excessive water. Varnished tiles can be maintained with a liquid polish and buffed. If the finish does become worn, the floor can be sanded and refinished, although care should be taken to remove only the finish and not wear away the cork itself. If possible (particularly with the floating floor) it is best to add additional coats of water-based polyurethane over the years instead of refinishing. Wax tiles can be treated with a good quality paste wax and buffed with an electric buffing machine. For heavy cleaning, remove old dirt and wax before reapplying wax.
Glue-Down Cork Flooring
12″ x 12″ Tiles: Square tiles come in four shades, all of which are solid material throughout to allow for sanding and refinishing. They can be laid in a single color or combined in different shades to produce patterned design effects. Because cork is a natural product, there will be some shade variations among tiles. Tiles are 3/16″ x 12″ x 12″ and arrive packaged in cartons of 36 square feet. Square tiles are available unfinished, waxed, or with Greenshield urethane finish. Unfinished cork can be stained, waxed with butcher’s or paste wax, or coated with water-based polyurethane by the installer at the site. Oil and solvent-based products are not recommended. The darker shades are not stained, they are the result of a baking process. Please note that the exact color cannot be controlled due to cork’s natural qualities.
Floating Cork Flooring
Floating floor planks are pre-finished and sold by the carton. Plank dimensions and carton sizes vary depending on the style. WE Cork floating floors are available in 40+ styles, colors, and plank sizes. To preview the full collections, click the images below.
Floating floors are made from three planks:
- The top surface layer is 100% pre-finished cork with three coats of non-VOC varnish.
- The middle layer is comprised of High Density Fiberboard, pre-cut with tongues and grooves to form the interlock system.
- The base layer of flexible cork underlayment provides excellent acoustic and thermal insulation.
Floating floor is chosen because:
- It can be installed over an existing floor and /or an uneven or irregular sub-floor.
- It can be installed below grade.
- It is available in patterns.
- It is easy to install, no acclimatization is required.
Floating Floor Collections
Click Images Below
Installation instructions are available for each product.
The 12″ square tiles and 4″ planks can be installed at or above grade, over either concrete or underlayment-grade wood. The subfloor must be clean, smooth, and level. Imperfections will telegraph through the tile. Two installation methods are used: the contact adhesive process (where adhesive is applied to both the ground and tile) and the direct pressure process (where the floor is coated with adhesive and the tiles are applied with pressure). Installers should work from several boxes at once in order to vary tiles with natural shade differences. Unfinished tiles can be stained and/or finished with wax or polyurethane. For commercial applications or demanding residential installations (kitchens and bathrooms, etc.), an additional coat of water-based polyurethane over the pre-finished tiles or floating floor planks can be appropriate. For most installations, however, an additional coat of finish is not necessary.
Floating Floor planks require a floor that is as level and structurally sound as possible, but they are more forgiving and can be applied with little sub-floor preparation at any grade over existing floor covering. A layer of 6 Mil polyethylene should be laid between the planks and concrete as a moisture barrier. Floating floors are easier and faster to install, which may reduce installation costs. The planks are clicked together without glue at the tongue and groove.
Because cork is a wood product, it is subject to the normal behaviors of expansion and contraction, but these changes are less noticeable than those that occur with wood flooring. Through temperature and humidity control, proper acclimatization, and by following the guidelines for recommended expansion space, expansion and contraction can be kept to minimal levels.
Samples & Shipping
Our Cork Provider, WE Cork, is a local company, located in Stratham, NH. They have been working with cork for five generations. Most orders ship direct from our distributor in Augusta, Maine, and are generally received within a few days. Please call or e-mail us if you are interested in receiving samples or other additional information.
20 year residential, five year light commercial.
- The First Congregational Church in Chicago – 1890
- The Mayo Clinic and Plummer Building – 1912 & 1940
- Fallingwater – 1937
- Library of Congress
- Dayton Arts Institute
- UCLA Law Library
- Bain Capital in Boston