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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Going green with cork...

The "Green building" movement is upon us and my new neighbors have embraced it by committing to cork flooring in their remodeling project for the kitchen and hallway. I'll be interested to see how that works out. Most of the cork that I've dealt with has been made into stoppers in wine bottles, but that's another story altogether.

Cork floors have been used for quite some time, especially in the commercial world. They reduce noise, insulate against both heat and cold, and are non-allergenic. With qualifications, it makes sense to bring Cork flooring into the home. In entrances it withstands years of dropped hockey sticks and spilled soft drinks. In kids' bedrooms, and family, music and rec rooms, Cork feels cozy to the toes.

Cork floors are perfect for the kitchen. Unlike ceramic tile, cork is comfortable to stand on for hours. It's more forgiving than ceramic (especially if you drop a plate or teacup), will not dent easily and, with proper surface dressing, resists scratches. The patterns and richly textured surfaces of cork floors also disguise dust and dirt. Modern cork flooring works with any d├ęcor. Dark natural tones enhance more formal settings, such as dining and living rooms. Lighter shades are great for the more casual look of a family room or play area.

According to an article on the GreenHomeGuide Website, cork floor are:

Durable - Natural Cork flooring is protected with 5 coats of durable UV cured acrylic finish. Sweeping and cleaning using a hardwood floor cleaner is all that is necessary for regular maintenance. A new coat of polyurethane will rejuvenate a tired floor that has begun to show signs of wear. Well maintained, your cork floor will last for decades.

Comfortable - Cork provides a comfortable cushion underfoot because it will give when compressed. Cork bounces back, so recovery from marks caused by furniture will leave minimal residual indentation, less noticeable than on wood, carpet, or vinyl floors. This same resilient quality is responsible for providing a warm and quiet surface for any room.

Fire Resistant - Cork is a fire inhibitor and will not spread flame. Cork also does not release toxic gasses on combustion.

A Thermal and Acoustic Insulator - Made up of over 100 million prism shaped cells per cubic inch, each one filled with air, cork inhibits the conduction of temperature and sound. Cork floors reduce impact noise, a great asset for applications such as multi-level housing, office spaces, museums and places of worship. Walking barefoot in your bedroom or bathroom in the middle of a cold night is a warm, quiet, and comfortable experience.

The grain less patterning of cork makes it ideal where space is a challenge. Cork tiles installed in two contrasting colours or tones, checker-board style, create a dramatic effect in an entrance way or kitchen.Cork is an environmentally friendly and sustainable resource. It is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak, grown primarily in Portugal. Bark is harvested every nine years from mature trees, and they can thrive for up to 200 years.

Of course not everyone agrees with everything that is said about cork as a flooring material. On another Web site that reviewed and tested a number of the newer flooring materials, they warned that some of the cork products that they tested were prone to scratches and also stained if spilled liquids were not immediately wiped up. That same site warned against some of the newer exotic wood flooring materials, such as Brazilain cherry wood, which they state wears very fast, and some of the newer engineered or laminate floors, which were subject to both wear and UV ray damage. So, like other consumer products, you need to research the quality of the cork flooring products that you are considering.

I suppose that any flooring that you could choose would have its detractors. There are no indestructible floors that are low cost, never wear, resist stains and UV rays and are reasonable to install. If there were, we'd all have them. In the mean time, I am noticing that more and more wine bottles have the new plastic stoppers in them instead of cork. Maybe they'll go the way of laminate flooring and put a picture of cork on the outside of those, just to keep us traditionalists happy.

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