Cork is a novelty in flooring. To date, disputes around the advantages and weaknesses of this material do not subside. He is exotic, expensive. Why is cork better than laminate? Can cork floors be laid in the kitchen, bathroom? Let's analyze the situation from different angles.
What it is?
Cork floor is an environmentally friendly material, for the production of which the top layer of cork oak bark is used. This is a unique natural raw material: cork oak groves are found only in Europe. The technique of removing the bark has a non-standard specificity. The process requires exclusively manual labor. The task is performed by master virtuosos: careful and directed actions are required to separate the upper layer of the bark from its massif, without harming the tree itself.
Only thirty-year-old oaks (not younger) are used as donor trees. If the top layer is carefully and according to technology, the bark continues to grow, and in 6 years it will replenish its reserves for a new portion of the material. The natural harvest obtained from the tree is processed into cork slabs. They are the basis for creating a new floor.
The ecological purity of the plates is guaranteed by their production. The bark is crushed and passed for special processing through heating in ovens. Then the resulting mass is pressed. Under the press, the particles of wood cork are combined, creating a unique texture that looks like a honeycomb.
It is a fairly strong substance saturated with air bubbles (suberin). To make the material of the cork floor more durable and practical, a second layer of suberin is built up in production. Cork flooring is an interesting design solution for decorating an apartment or house.
Natural cork has a beneficial effect on the human musculoskeletal system and its nervous system.
Experts are talking about a number of features of cork plates. Solid veneer is an expensive type of cork. Cork agglomerate is more affordable. This is crumb pressed at high temperatures. It contains any small pieces of material. There is also a compromise option - large veneer mixed with agglomerate. In terms of mechanical properties, the expensive and budget options practically do not differ. Differences exist in appearance.
The highest characteristics are inherent in class 33 cork coverings. Their properties consist in the presence of a different base, but equally effective wear resistance. The hygiene and environmental friendliness of such material is guaranteed by the manufacturers. Grade 33 cork laminate is considered the best. It is perfectly assembled, in composition it has several layers: first balancing, then shock-absorbing, moisture-resistant and a layer of natural cork 3 mm thick.
It is a 100% natural material, high quality cork veneer, which plays a decorative and artistic role. The floor of the 33rd class cannot be damaged by the claws of pets, or dropped knives or even axes. It is restored if, after moving the cabinet, dents from the legs remain in the floor.
Doctors advise to sit on such a floor: to what extent the natural covering conveys the healing effect.
The main types of cork flooring are as follows:
- Technical cork rolls. On the market, this material can be purchased by the footage. It is used mainly as a substrate for floor insulation.
- Cork tiles. The products are used for gluing when installing flooring. The adhesive size options are different: square tiles are 300x300 or 450x450 mm, rectangular tiles are kept in the parameters 600x300, 450x150 mm. When shaping the floor, the variety of tile shapes makes it possible to lay out different patterns and ornaments.
- Cork parquet. This flooring is sometimes referred to as a floating floor. It has an MDF base on which a cork is glued. Its size is 900x185 mm, the slabs look like a laminate, but the texture of the material is completely different, natural. They are also fastened with locks.
Cork finishing material is divided into several main groups: sprayed, tiled; liquid.
The tiled cork coating provides for operation up to 40 years. It is resistant to aggressive substances and is easy to install. For laying, tiles with a thickness of 6 mm are offered, now manufacturers are selling thinner ones (4 mm), but thin tiles are much more difficult when decorating a floor. It is better to put it on a board or sheets of wood.
Liquid coating is a recent addition to the market in finishing. It is easy to install: the technology is similar to conventional painting. In the finished dry form, the liquid coating looks porous and at the same time a dense surface. In the interior, it differs little from the tiles, it looks elegant and prestigious. The spray coating differs from the liquid coating in the method of application. This work is performed with a pistol or compressor; it is better to entrust it to professional craftsmen. Various companies also offer larger pieces for the production of works (cork panels), which allow you to quickly update a large floor area.
Advantages and disadvantages
Cork has many undeniable advantages. Despite the fact that its price is higher than that of the common laminate, this is a profitable and useful material:
- The cork is environmentally friendly. The material itself, as well as the process of obtaining it, is natural.
- The coating has high antistatic properties. The surface is not covered with dust, which is important for people prone to allergies.
- The cork does not emit toxic substances when heated. Fungus does not form on it, so a cork floor will be appropriate in the bathroom.
- High sound insulation is a valuable quality. Cork coverings dampen noise on ceilings, walls and floors. If something falls on such a floor, the ringing and rumbling is practically inaudible, therefore, cork lining is used in recording studios.
- The cork floor has good thermal conductivity. No one can deny themselves the pleasure of walking barefoot on such a floor. There is a feeling that a "warm floor" system is installed under the cork. The elastic cork seems to spring back when walking, reducing the overall stress on the body.
- No special skills are required to install cork boards or a package. This is a fairly simple and inexpensive procedure.
- The cork is easy to clean. You can do wet cleaning, clean the surface with a vacuum cleaner.
- This is an extremely durable material that can last from 10 to 40 years. After assembly, the floor is ready for use.
- Cork coverings are not afraid of temperature changes, it is logical to lay them in summer cottages, balconies, verandas, in loggias.
- It has a high coefficient of friction, so you cannot slip on such a floor.
In fairness, it is necessary to voice the shortcomings. The first is the high cost of the product. Even glued cork is more expensive than the lock, not to mention the cork veneer option. The tube is quite susceptible to water. To achieve good moisture resistance, it will be necessary to complicate and increase the cost of the process: install wax impregnation.
An unavoidable drawback is flammability. To mount an adhesive cork floor, like any cork flooring, a perfectly flat surface is required. The cork is susceptible to direct sunlight. With a bright and constant exposure to the sun, the coating and decorative patterns on it fade.
Hard and sharp debris can be pressed into the cork.
In the general picture of the feedback from the owners of the cork floor, positive prevails. The owners of houses and cottages appreciated the ecological purity and beauty of natural materials. Most of all they like the "silence" of the cork, its cleanliness, warmth, the fact that it is safe for children to play on such a floor. Fans of cork cover say: at the appropriate level of installation, it is functional in the kitchen, bathroom.
Experts believe that it is necessary to take into account in which country the cork material "grew". Preference should be given to European, Mediterranean, African types of raw materials. The best materials are considered from Portugal, Spain, North Africa. Chinese cork oak has the looser properties of wood. It is easy to fall for the tricks of advertising here, which claims that the Chinese cork version is not inferior in quality to its European counterpart.
Anticipating the conversation about the colors of the cork cover, we note that in Russia a somewhat derogatory attitude towards cork has taken root, although the trend is gradually changing, opinions are in favor of natural material. In the interior decoration of modest and presentable apartments, cork is 100% justified. Depending on the functionality, the colors may be different.
In the kitchen, for example, a warm, natural yellowish color looks original. A brown cork floor or a shade of ocher color harmonizes with the furnishings. If you have light-colored furniture, you can use a white cork. Cream, beige tones visually enlarge the space, emphasize the cleanliness of the room.
Keep in mind that cork flooring takes on additional color shades based on how it is lit, what panels or curtains are reflected in it, how the flooring is laid.
Manufacturers today are promoting cork interspersed with textures that are interesting for design, using the most unusual shades. The top layer can be made in any color palette, it is suitable for sophisticated design solutions. Modern technologies make it possible to apply photo printing in the design of plates and plates. So your photo market and photo field will become spatial and bright.
The owners of cork-covered areas are still more attracted by the stylization under the natural texture. They like cork imitating pine, oak, cherry, birch, alder. Supporters of the exotic allow themselves rare options: color imitating American walnut, rosewood. Depending on the selected shade of cork plates, the coating takes on the colors of stone, sand, pebbles.
How to choose?
When choosing, pay attention to the country of origin. Having an alternative, for example, choosing between Portuguese or Chinese cork, experts advise to give preference to the first one, since it is of better quality. The cork from Portugal is denser, it contains a higher percentage of suberin, does not carry risks, that soon the cracks will go along it. If this is an adhesive option, the qualities of the varnish and glue used to create the coating are important here.
When buying a floating kitchen floor, it is important to consider what kind of “weather” you have in your home. If there is more shade in the kitchen, pay attention to the moisture-resistant coating of the lock between the tiles. If the kitchen is sunny, decide on a tinted finish to prevent the cork from discoloring in direct sunlight. It is more practical to put a dark cork floor on the balcony. It is better to decorate a children's room, a bedroom with a light one.
Adhesive plates are about half the price of castle counterparts. When purchasing glue and varnish on the glue option, you need to "throw" another third of the cost of the material. Installation of an adhesive floor is twice as expensive as a floating one. So in sum, the difference will be negligible. If we are talking about designer tiles, this is an expensive pleasure: 1 sq. m.the finished coating can cost several thousand rubles.
Tiles from Wicanders, Corksribas, Baumtex, Ibercork are considered to be of good quality.
The main point in the installation technique of cork flooring is to lay the material on a good base. It cannot contain any irregularities or cracks. A concrete, wooden or metal base will do. If you notice flaws in it, start leveling the floors with special mixtures, decide to lay plywood sheets on top. Then proceed with gluing the tiles.
Professionals voice the following recommendations for the process:
- leave the coating for about a day to "rest" in the room after purchase, then proceed with installation;
- look through the packaging of rolls and packages with tiles, sort them so that everything matches in texture and color;
- the direction of laying the tiles is from the center to the walls of the room (it is more convenient to use the option of laying crosswise, which gives the effect of a full sheet);
- if you like the pattern, first work with it without using glue: adjust, shape the tile;
- apply the glue to the tile and the base, let it dry for a few minutes before joining the surfaces;
- freshly glued tiles can be tapped lightly with a hammer;
- Use a damp cloth to wipe off excess glue immediately.
See below for the installation process of the cork floor.
The floating floor is made using the technology of interlocking joints, with which it is customary to lay laminate. This is a widespread technology, any owner of a home who has made repairs at least once, completely owns it.
The cork floor does not require an individual approach. The cork does not attract dust, tobacco odors or other vapors. Therefore, a vacuum cleaner and a damp cleaning cloth will be sufficient. Now, complete with cork coverings, they often offer care products with detailed instructions. The choice of these drugs is quite diverse.
Cleaning liquids must be used with care. They must be free of solvents. Aggressive chemicals threaten the color and texture of the cork. Varnish, glue, paint must be removed immediately after installing the boards or plates with a regular cotton cloth. Cork floors are gaining popularity in modern home furnishings. The consumer has the right to count on a wide selection of products made of practical and beautiful imported natural materials.
When you decide to switch from a regular floor to a cork floor one day, you are choosing the perfect, durable option for your home.