Cork is a 100% natural material, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly.
Cork is an impermeable buoyant material that is harvested form the bark of the Cork Oak Tree. Those trees grow in southwest Europe and northwest Africa, with Portugal having almost 50% of the world production of cork in the world.
Bark is stripped from the trees when they are 25 years of age. Every nine years there is new bark to be harvested. The first two harvests are generally of a lower quality. The cork tree can live for about 300 years and is the only tree whose bark regenerates itself after each extraction. With this awareness that the cork industry is regarded as environmentally friendly and sustainable since the cork tree is not cut down to obtain the cork it is a great alternative to material that is harvested by cutting down trees. Also, cork can easily be recycled.
Properties of cork materials:
- matte appearance
- lightweight material, that is soft to the touch
- fire resistant and flame retardant
- water resistant and repellent
- stain resistant
- scratch resistant
- mosquito repellent
- environmentally renewable
- natural resource
The extractors who are specialized in removing the bark are using a special designed hatchet to slice through the cork layer on the trunk of the tree. It is a process that doesn't harm the tree and is renewable. The cork planks are stacked outdoors for a few weeks to six months. The air, sun, and rain improve the quality of the cork. After this period, heat and water are used to remove the dirt and tannin from the planks to make the cork softer and more flexible. The outer layer, which is poor quality, is scraped off.
The planks are stacked in a dark, humidity-controlled cellar for a few weeks to dry and cure. They will be trimmed to a uniform, rectangular shape and sorted by quality. Since cork is a natural product it requires very little processing.
Cork has been used since ages: Cork bottle stoppers have been found in Egyptian tombs, the ancient Greek used it to make fishing net floats and sandals. The Romans used it to make life jackets for fishermen. And the people living in the regions where cork is produced have been using it as building material for centuries. Cork used as roofing material would be perfect to keep the heat out in the summer. In winter it would keep the cold out. Cork used on floors would provide a soft walking surface.
Although cork has been used for hundreds of years, it’s only recently that it found its way back in our homes. Using cork feels completely different than hardwood or linoleum; it is soft with a cushiony surface. Works very well in a kids' room and it can even be used in bathroom and kitchen.
Advantages of cork floor
- It provides soft surface; perfect for kids' rooms and gymnasium.
- It works as an insulator; reducing the noise transmitted to the room below.
- Cork is easy to refinish and given a clean look.
- It’s hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Easy to install.
- Easy to maintain.
- Cork is very durable.
Disadvantages of cork floor
- As a soft material it is susceptible to damage.
- Cats or dogs can scratch the floor with their nails.
- Even when sealed, it can be stained by water.
- High humidity can cause the tiles to expand.
- Exposure to sunlight can cause discoloration.
A cork floor can last as long as 40 years when well cared for. For maximum longevity, the floor should be washed with mild soap and water or vinegar. Scrub softly to remove stains. Sand the cork once or twice a year, and protect it with a cork sealant.
As in every industry, the cork industry is looking for different ways to make their product more appealing to the consumer. Laser cut, 3D developments, and wallpaper are just a few of them. Young designers are attracted to cork for its versatility, it will respond to their concern for nature, they also love the aesthetics, and the functionality.
Cork is used in a large variety of products; the most common is the wine stopper. Other products made from cork are flooring materials, wall coverings, shoe insoles, roofing panels, cores for golf balls and baseballs. Cork board in the house to pin a to-do list or to collect inspiration is common in most modern homes. It is very trendy for offices to have complete walls covered in cork. It is sustainable and is also a damper for noise. The natural appearance also adds to the well-being of the people working in environment in which cork materials are installed.
The natural combination of cork and plant materials will impart that natural feeling as when surrounded by nature. So time to prepare for the months when more time will be spent indoor: create a nice corner with plants. Some cork supports, and small tables that will bring just that extra touch of nature inside.
Cork stools, and small tables, will find their way into a modern and young interior. Look for some storage solutions for the living area, bathroom or kitchen.
Cork objects are perfect for a modern and minimalist interior. In combination with ceramics, metal, glass, and even concrete, they will surprise you. The natural color of the cork will give a warm touch to the neutral colors. Even though cork has been used since ancient times it provides a modern look.
Cork got back in trend a few years ago and it continues inspiring designers today. The Campana Brothers developed the collection Sobreiro in partnership with Corticiera Amorin in Portugal. The brothers realised that cork was the ideal material to develop items of furniture with a solid design that could be light and curvilinear. The furniture collection is currently on display until 19th August in São Paulo, Brazil.
Knowing that it is a soft material, antimicrobial, and environmental friendly, we can choose cork without fear for our children. Cork as a material is tested and approved for children less than 3 years of age. It contains no poisons and is free of pollutants. Cork also has some surprising building and construction characteristics.
Cork could be something for you?
- use as floor covering in kids' room
- cork is child friendly
- cork is easy to clean with soap and water
- a good option for flooring material
- cork absorbs noise
- contributes to a more sustainable world
While researching cork I became aware of many characteristics of cork, I hope it inspires you as much as it did for me.