Cork comes from the thick outer bark of cork oaks that are native to the Mediterranean region. After harvesters strip the cork, the oaks regrow their bark and can be harvested again in about 10 years. Most of the cork used for flooring is actually scrap from the bottle cork industry.
Cork is naturally fire and moisture resistant as well as sound absorbent. Rolls of cork are sold as underlayment for hard-surfaced flooring to reduce noise transfer to the room below. Cork intended for use as flooring is typically adhered to a wood fiber-based backing material. For easy installation, most manufacturers make tongue-and-groove products that don't need to be glued or nailed in place.
Choose factory-sealed cork flooring that doesn't have a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) backing or wear layer. If unsealed cork flooring is installed, use a low-VOC natural wax or low-VOC polyurethane sealer. Although cork is resilient and durable, it may dent or scratch, particularly in high traffic areas, and some products may fade if exposed to direct sunlight. Cork may not be advisable in areas with high moisture content such as bathrooms and kitchens; check with your flooring supplier. Proper maintenance is required: vacuum or sweep the floor weekly; damp mop monthly with manufacturer-approved products and minimal water.
SHOW MORE ►
There are many cork flooring products on the market in an ever-growing array of styles and colors. The Green Product Directory features a selection of cork flooring brands that have low-VOC emissions and aren't made with PVC. Some of these products also have FSC certification, giving you assurance that the cork and its backing material come from sustainably managed sources.