When it comes to renovating the home, an increasing number of people are narrowing their options down to Mother Nature-friendly materials. From counter tops to appliances, choosing new items explore what is sustainable and earth and budget friendly.

But when it comes to flooring, carpets are a powerful polluter. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, one of the major sources of indoor cork-tilespollution is carpeting and rugs; which can be 2 to 5 times greater than any outdoor pollution. From their petroleum-laden plastics, and added chemicals to repel embedded dirt, they also trap various bacteria, pollen, dirt, allergens, and other contamination. Yes, there are eco-friendly carpets available, but they still require upkeep far greater than their  carpetless counterparts.

Among these eco-friendly choices is cork flooring – but don’t picture your memo boards glued to the floor of your home.

cork-treeCork flooring comes from a renewable source. Stripped from the cork oak tree, only the bark is peeled away without destroying the tree itself. None are cut down, and it completely grows back within nine years, allowing the process to be completed again.

How do they compare?

Cork floors are just as durable as others – as well as anti-static, sound absorbing and insulating. Unlike a carpet, it is naturally resistant to mold and mildew, and hypo-allergenic. Although it’s easy picture our office bulletin board tacked to the floor, the visual and durable appeal is far from that.

It is likely to assume that the floors are easily damaged, but instead, they have a high density threshold and recover well from any kind of compression. Tiny air cells, allow it to spring back once the pressure is removed.

It is suitable for all rooms, and safe from spills and scratches (keeping in mind sharp corners will do damage, as they would on any flooring). Most companies coat their flooring with a water-based finish that is highly resistant to stains or water damage.

Very forgiving and very comfortable, cork floors perfect to pad around with in bare feet in the summer, or sit comfortably upon in front of a roaring fire the winter. Because of it’s construction, it adjusts easily to heat and cold, and maintains warmth in your home, unlike stone or ceramic flooring. If you are often on your feet, like cooking in the kitchen, its easy on the back and knees if standing for a long period of time.

Have you ever been in someone’s home who doesn’t have a lot of furniture, with a base of hardwood or stone flooring? It sounds terribly echo-y when you speak, and part of that is due to the acoustics penetrating from the ground up. Cork is 60% air, absorbing the various vibrations and noises in your home, making it perfect, especially, if you have vast spaces, high ceilings, or want have a room that needs a little extra insulation.

With a  little extra cleaning with a vacuum, broom, or very damp mop, the floors are easy to maintain. You can do away with your harsh cleaners  – they damage it – keeping your c house even more chemical-free.

As cork flooring is becoming increasingly popular in North America, the prices don’t reflect it as “specialty” flooring. Quality cork flooring begins at an affordable $2.50 per square foot, and ranges up towards $8.00 per square foot.

Where to buy:

Most flooring companies have a cork line, but some places specialize in this terrific tile.

APC Cork Floors (apccork.com)
BHK Glueless Cork Flooring (bhkuniclic.com)
Globus Cork (corkfloor.com)
Interiors Only (floor4you.com)
Jelinek Cork Group (corkandfloor.com)
Jostes Floor Coverings (jostescarpet.com)
NovaCork Flooring (novafloorings.com)
Torlys Smart Floors (torlys.com)
West Cork (corkfloors.com)

Images courtesy of Interiors Only Inc. (middle image: cork tree) and Jostes Floor Coverings (bottom image)

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