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What is Cork Flooring?
Cork flooring is an Earth friendly material created from the cork bark of trees. The main tree that is used is called the “cork oak”, also known as quercus suber. This tree is native to the Mediterranean area of the world and is harvested mainly from Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. It is interesting to note that harvesting cork is only done after a tree matures to being twenty-five years old.
Once the cork material is harvested from the trees it is then washed, stripped from the harder outer bark and boiled down. The boiled cork is then drained and set into slab shapes. The slabs are holed punched for stoppers but the resulting cork scrap is where the flooring comes from. To create natural cork flooring, non toxic scrap cork is ground back up and baked into blocks. Those blocks of cork can be organically dyed in various colors offering a myriad of flooring choices.
Beyond the ideal of safe and sustainable flooring, cork floors offer a wide range of bonuses. The flooring is water, gas and stain resistant. Because of the water resistance the flooring is also mold resistant, will not rot and is naturally resistant to termites. The resistance of natural cork flooring created this way allows for no harmful chemicals in the home. For more information of green building materials to enhance a eco-friendly home, check out The Benefits of Green Construction and Self Sufficient Green Homes.
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The Look of Cork Flooring
The styling of cork flooring is quite versatile. Some people many conjure up images of their flooring looking like a cork board but that is not always the case. You can have your flooring with the texture of a cork board but the majority of cork flooring often has the look of hardwood flooring or marble rather than pieced together cork.
To the left are some examples of finished cork flooring. Click on the image to get the full view of each finished version.
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Finding Cork Flooring
There are several places that offer natural cork flooring, non toxic can be an issue though. To keep the cork flooring environmentally safe, it needs to be treated with non-harmful chemicals and organic dyes for finishing. It is important to understand that just because a retailer sells cork flooring that doesn’t always mean that the finished product will be non-toxic. Here we are going to only list cork flooring producers who keep the process of making the flooring eco-friendly.
Dodge Cork Flooring - Creates natural cork flooring, non toxic shading of the cork when baked is used. Does not use toxic chemicals in their cork flooring creation process. Based in the United States they import natural cork material harvested from Portugal.
Natural Interiors - Organic home building store located in the United States. They use Natural Cork branded flooring that is installed using a pattened CorkLoc glue-less installation system. Natural Cork does not use formaldehyde or other toxic materials in their floor creation or finishing process.
APC Cork - This company is oen of the main creators of cork flooring. Based in the United States, APC has another facility in Canada for making the flooring tiles. The brand has several distributors that include Wal-Mart, Home Depot and sells through green building companies across the nation. Check their dealer page to find a distributor near you.
All three companies listed above have a distribution base. They are listed here has manufacturers of natural cork flooring sources. The listing of these creators does not detract from green building or design companies that offer cork flooring.
*images used are roylaty free and complied by the author to show several examples at once.
References: EPA Studies - Sustainable Flooring
National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)