February 1, 2009
Q: We're thinking about new flooring at the lake. We're intrigued by cork flooring, but are unsure how durable it is. We have a fair amount of food and dog traffic through our kitchen. Can a cork floor withstand that? — Joe & Sally Morton, Spokane, Wash.
A: Cork flooring has great overall benefits. It’s a renewable resource that is soft, warm, quiet and anti-allergenic. If you’ve explored other options and are set on cork, go for it.
Reviews on cork floors are mixed; the main reason for this seems to be misinformation. Some installers and retailers say it’s more prone to wear and tear, requiring extensive maintenance. However, that’s not the case, says Alta Kirby, customer service representative for Jelinek, one of the oldest cork companies in the world.
Softness is exactly what makes cork so fabulous. The cellular structure, comprised of a multitude of air pockets, gives cork “memory,” making it impact- and dent-resistant. To maintain softness but offer protection, factory cork comes with a urethane, acrylic, varnish or wax protective coating. (Jelinek cork flooring comes with three coats of a water-based urethane.)
For kitchens or bathrooms, Kirby recommends adding a fourth layer of protective urethane for protection against moisture. And while commercial settings will need more frequent reapplications of urethane, Kirby says cork installed in residential areas will only need this every 10-15 years.
If you damp mop with a mild detergent and use the measures you would for wood floors – like using felt or cork pads on tables, chairs and appliances to protect from gouges and continuous weight – your floor will hold up wonderfully.