Cork is increasingly popular as a material of choice for flooring, in part because of its green credentials, in part because of its excellent insulating properties, and of course because of its appearance. Granted, it can be somewhat controversial, but there is no doubt that in the right setting a cork floor can be beautiful and elegant.

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What is Cork

What we call cork is in fact a layer of water resistant cells that separate the outer layer of bark from the tree body and can be found on almost all trees. It varies in thickness depending on the tree, and the tree that is generally used for commercial cork production is the Quercus suber, or cork oak tree, which grows in the Mediterranean, principally in Portugal. This tree produces a thick layer of cork which can be removed every nine years or so, without causing damage to the tree. This can be repeated for the rest of the tree’s life which can be up to 150 years.

How is it Made

The cork is removed by hand, using a specially designed hand axes. The highly skilled workers make horizontal incisions into the tree, being careful not to cut into the living cells below the bark. They can then peel away the cork in long strips or planks.

The planks need to be dried in the sun for up to six months to drive out the moisture in the cells. The outer layer of bark is then removed by boiling the planks. The separated cork is then dried and cured again, in a carefully controlled environment of specific temperature and humidity, and in darkness. It is then ready for manufacture.

Cork Usage

The vast majority of cork is used to make cork wine stoppers. The waste material – planks full of holes, basically – goes to make, among other things, cork floor tiles. It is ground up into small pellets, then moulded into blocks and baked to produce cork tiles. Cork can be a Marmite choice, so you can’t get cork floors just anywhere. You would think that a major outlet such as ukflooringdirect.co.uk would have an excellent range. Sadly not.

Where to Get a Cork Floor

Better to try a specialist such as The Cork Floor Company.