Most recently, cork flooring has been heralded as a green flooring option. "It's definitely getting more popular as people are looking for more environmentally-friendly flooring," says Jennifer Biscoe, marketing vice president at Globus Cork.
Its environmentally friendly nature starts with the actual product and production process that are used to create cork flooring. Only the bark of the cork oak tree is harvested and the tree continues to flourish after the product is removed. The bark is replenished every nine years, which makes cork a renewable resource [source: Wicander]. Cork flooring can also be considered to be made from recycled content. Instead of ending up in a landfill, the waste from the production of corks is transformed into cork flooring. Finally, many companies are utilizing adhesives that are categorized as no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) [source: Biscoe]. Volatile organic compounds are gases that are emitted from certain products which can adversely affect the air quality within a room [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency].
Along with eco-friendly benefits, cork flooring has other qualities that might lure homeowners. Several of the benefits stem from the unique structure of the cork product. "Cork, by nature, has 200 million closed air cells per cubic inch," says Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork. Envision a wine-bottle cork. You can squeeze it, and it will condense under the pressure, but then it will bounce back to the original shape. This gives the flooring a cushioning effect under foot. The air cells within the cork also help to trap heat acting like an insulator for the floors. Cork flooring is also sound-resistant and has a degree of fire-resistance. Due to a naturally occurring wax called Suberin within cork, the product is insect-resistant and anti-allergen [source: Tolli and Globus Cork].
Cork is a durable option for flooring, but quality and maintenance can affect its lifespan. "For the glue-down, the Classic Collection, we have had it out in the market for over 100 years," says Wicander. "We have jobs that are still in service where it's been in use for over 100 years."
Now, let's take a look at the drawbacks to cork flooring.