Cork Floor Buying Guide How to Choose a Cork Floor What you need to know to make the best cork

Cork Floor Buying Guide How to Choose a Cork Floor What you need to know to make the best cork

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Cork Flooring Buyers Guide

Step 1 How to Choose cork floors

Warm, natural cork is fast becoming a unique alternative to hardwood and bamboo. But is it right for you? Before you buy, consider your lifestyle, your budget and the advantages and drawbacks of cork.

The cork used to manufacture flooring is actually a by-product in the manufacture of cork wine-bottle stoppers. The waste material from cork stopper production is collected, ground up into granules and pressed into sheet material under high pressure, using a small amount of binding adhesive. The sheets are then formed to create surface floor material and underlay.

How cork is used in flooring

Surface flooring: Cork flooring is manufactured into glue-down tiles and loc connect floating planks.

Glue down tiles typically consist of a cork base, a cork veneer pattern and a prefinished coating.

Locking, floating planks consist of a cork sound insulation base layer, a core layer of high-density fiberboard, a veneer cork surface layer, and a prefinish coating. The veneer surface layer holds the colour and pattern and is laminated to the core to create a permanent bond. The prefinish coating is designed to speed up installation and increase durability.

Subflooring: In the past, cork was commonly used as an underlay, to reduce sound transfer in laminate and hardwood floating floors. Today, advances in technology have made it possible to develop superior subfloor materials with improved vibration absorption qualities. As a result, cork has been restyled as a unique surface material with sound deadening features that once made it an ideal underlay.

Glue-down versus floating cork flooring

Traditionally, cork was manufactured into glue-down tiles that came prefinished and ready to install using an adhesive, such as water based contact cement. Glue down tiles are still available today, but must be installed on a well-prepared, smooth subfloor of concrete or wood to ensure a defect-free surface. This need for subfloor preparation makes glue down tiles more time consuming to install than their newer, glue-free counterparts.

More recently, cork has become available in a thicker, click-together plank form. Featuring a tongue and groove locking system, cork planks are installed as a floating floor, eliminating the need for glue or nails, and reducing subfloor preparation time. As the floor floats, it expands and contracts as a single unit, making it ideal over radiant heat flooring.

Both glue-down and floating flooring comes in a wide variety of styles and is easy to install and maintain. Availability, the state of your subfloor, and use of radiant heat are often the determining factors as to which type of flooring you choose.

Installation Considerations

Floating cork panels can easily be installed over almost any subfloor or existing floor except carpet, eliminating the need for costly removal of old flooring and the health risks associated with the harmful chemicals older floors often contain. Floating cork floors are typically installed over concrete, wood subfloors and tile, and can also be safely installed over radiant heat. If additional acoustical sound deadening properties are desired, we recommend the use of the Floor Muffler underlay. The Floor Muffler can also be used in applications such as concrete basement floors that require an additional vapour barrier.

As with any floating floor, its important to maintain the manufacturers required expansion gap around the perimeter of the room to allow for expansion and contraction. This gap will be covered by the baseboard and not visible to the eye.

Both glue-down and floating cork floors can be installed anywhere in a home except routinely damp areas such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements with newly poured subfloors. If installed in a kitchen, powder room or high traffic area you may want to seal the joints during installation. You can do this by running a small bead of water-based glue in the groove before you click the tiles together. Its okay to have a small amount of glue squish out, just be sure to wipe this off before it dries.

With normal wear and tear and proper maintenance, a urethane finish should last several years before refinishing is required. Oil/wax finishes may require more frequent but very easy treatments to maintain the finish. Regardless of the coating you choose, remember to follow the manufacturers instructions and basic care guide to maintain the beautiful finish of your floor surface for years.

Polyurethane with aluminum oxide finish (eg. Haro Permadur Matte Finish)

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