Cork - A truly sustainable flooring solution
Agglomerated cork tiles, made from the hydrophobic suberin bark of the Quercus suber (the cork oak tree), are one of the most durable and sustainable flooring solutions on the market.
Origin and production process
Cork trees are grown in the semi-arid climate of the Mediterranean, East Africa and Australia.
Individual trees have a life of approximately 300 years and can be harvested in continuous cycles for cork production after maturity. After the tree reaches maturity at 25 years, the cork bark is stripped from the trunks and harvested on a 9 year cycle. Harvesting is not only important for the longevity of the tree, but also encourages vital suberin production necessary for both the tree and integral for the agglomeration of cork when turning it into tiles and other products. This process means that no trees are felled for harvesting purposes.
Once harvested, the cork bark is ‘seasoned’ in the field for 12 months. This ‘seasoning’ will both ‘age’ the cork and ‘dry’ the naturally occurring oils and resins. The seasoned cork is then steamed clean and the natural bio-organisms growing on the bark are removed. At this stage, the cork is assessed with the thickest part of the bark is used for wine corks and the remainder granulated.
Cork tiles are produced from the granulated cork bark and in accordance with agreed international standards (ISO3813:2004). The granules are washed and then formed into large blocks using 300 to 500 kilogram per m3 of steam pressure. The heating process releases naturally occurring resins within the cork which solidify when cooled and bind the compressed granules together.
Another benefit is that naturally occurring resins eliminate the need for adhesive or other binding concentrates resulting in no additives to the natural structure and an environmentally friendly and sustainable flooring product. The blocks once compressed are sliced to form large sheets which, in turn, are cut to form tiles.
This process means that from harvest to installation, the tiles are truly sustainable and retain the insulating and resilient properties of natural cork, not to mention that the cork forests continue to provide a habitat for a variety of terrestrial animals and bird species.
Eliminating the need for felling trees and use of toxic binders means that cork tiles are one of the most sustainable and renewable sources of flooring product and continue to positively contribute to the environment through the natural carbon capture and storage of the tree itself. Thanks to its resilient cellular structure, cork remains pliable throughout the production process and during its life.
The positive benefits of cork include that it is:
Natural insulator that adapts to the surrounding environment: warm in winter and cool in summer
Durable and impact resilient
Soft under foot
Adds a variety of textures and colours to the interior designers palette
Its long-term durability as a flooring product is obtained by finishing the floor with a cork floor finish that is specifically manufactured for cork. Cork Imports Australia recommends the use of its ‘Tradies Own’ water based primer, adhesive and polyurethane to ensure both environmental integrity and the long term viability of your floor.
In up to 8 to 10 years after significant foot traffic, the floor can be brought back to life. The resilience of cork means that when it is refinished, the floor will look as new as the day it was initially installed. This does not apply to colour cork which will return to its natural colour if sanded and refinished as the colour is applied to the natural tile and sanding will remove the finish.
Installation and Maintenance
Installation in accordance with the Australian Standards is a breeze! Whether you direct stick to concrete, ply or yellow tongue, installation couldn’t be easier! On timber, install masonite first and then off you go!
Cork is pleasant to work with and because of its thickness, can be installed on most floors without any additional work such as shortening of doors or leveling. It can be cut simply with a Stanley knife and glued to most floor surfaces with some minor preparations. This means that although your cork will last for generations, the under floor will not be permanently impacted.
Once installed, maintenance is as simple as regularly cleaning with hot water and disinfectant. The anti-static properties of Cork mean that it does not attract or retain dust. The resilient qualities means that it won’t be impacted by heavy or sharp objects. But, if a piece of cork is gouge out of the tile, simply apply a coat of polyurethane to the raw cork and your floor is sealed and secure once again.
Because cork is made of a natural product, no two tiles are identical. Every cork tile design is unique. Shade variances are a natural occurrence that give cork its uniqueness. The texture variation even in colour cork will be visible and is a feature of the design.
Aesthetically, the ‘new generation’ cork tiles are less likely to remind you of your mum’s kitchen from the 1970’s and more likely to conjure up images of high end galleries , hotels and restaurants .
The durability of cork is perfect for entrances and commercial spaces. It is important to note that this range is not merely a veneer but rather a solid tile.