What is cork flooring?

How Is Cork Flooring Made?

The majority of cork used for flooring, as well as wine-bottle corks, actually comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, or Quercus suber, native to the Mediterranean [sources: World Wildlife Fund and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew]. The bark is hand-harvested every nine years, leaving a protective inner layer of bark that allows the tree to continue to grow and regenerate new bark [sources: WE Cork and Tolli]. After drying in the forest for several months, the bark is transported to a factory, where wine bottle corks are punched out of the bark. The leftover material, or post-industrial waste, is boiled and ground up, then compressed using adhesive resins. This ground-up product can be cut and used as a final flooring piece or for some unique patterns, such as pieces of shaved bark used as a veneer with the ground-up material serving as the backing [source: Wicander]. Some cork flooring planks include a high-density fiberboard within them as well.

Cork flooring comes in a wide variety of styles offering a range of design possibilities. There are as many as 40 different colors available and shapes ranging from squares and rectangles to hexagons [source: Biscoe].

Quality of cork and the intricacy of the pattern both influence the price of cork flooring. Yet, the average cost range for cork flooring is about $4 to $8 per square foot (per 0.09 square meter) depending on quality and style, within the of other hardwoods and bamboo flooring options [source: Wicander and Tolli].

The type of flooring you choose can influence how it needs to be installed. Let's look at the two major installation methods.