Cork in the kitchen
Cork, as flooring, is a material that I always thought to be old fashioned and outdated until I recently stumbled across an image of a kitchen that used a cork floor, and with further research, it has fascinated me with its durability and best of all sustainable properties. So for those of you who, like me, don’t know a lot about cork flooring here are the basics of this brilliant material.
When I think of cork, I instantly get the image of a pinboard, the stuff that crumbles easily and smells a bit funny. Fear not, the cork used in flooring is much denser than this and can withstand a fair amount of wear and tear well. So what makes this material so wonderful for flooring?
1. It’s sustainable. Cork is a natural product, coming from the bark of Oak trees mainly found in Portugal and Spain. The bark is not harvested before the tree is 25 years old and then is carried out every 8-14 years. Harvesting the bark is done without killing the tree, allowing multiple harvests to be taken from the same tree over its lifetime, which can be anything from 150-800 years! Not only is natural cork sustainable, but the type of cork suitable for use in flooring is also a natural by-product in the production of cork stoppers for wine bottles so cork flooring is a perfect way to put to use what would otherwise go to waste.
2. Now about the material as a product; corks natural spring and flex make for a lovely cushioning effect under the foot. With the added benefit of less chance of dropped glasses and plates shattering, it is a particularly great floor to have in the kitchen, or other areas where you may spend a significant amount of time standing.
3. This natural cushioning also provides excellent thermal and sound distribution properties. Absorbing and retaining both heat and sound means this flooring is a joy with little children running around.
4. Cork is naturally fire resistant, doesn’t gather dust easily and contains natural substances that fend off mould and mildew extremely well, perfect for the allergy sufferers home!
5. Aesthetically, the natural variations in tone and colour of cork can make for interesting and very unique flooring. It can be dyed or stained extremely well and is available in many forms from the more traditional wood plank look to almost a stony appearance and everything in between.
A cork floor will require some effort on your part, is cork the most durable floor surface you can buy? The answer would have to be no. It bounces back from small impacts well but continually scraping that wooden chair across it is going to leave a mark. So consider felt pads on the bottom of the furniture. Likewise, it is very water-resistant and many manufacturers apply an extra layer of water seal to the top of the cork, however, sitting in pools of water for long periods will show damage over time. So consider a rug under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom and other high-risk areas. Do not let these minor maintenance issues put you off, it is no more than you would expect to need to do for a solid wood floor, after all, cork is a type of wood. For many, the benefits of cork far outweigh its negatives, imagine that cold winter morning and instead of creeping across the freezing kitchen tiles for that much-needed cup of tea, you walk calmly across corks cushioning warmth. A nice thought eh?