By Carolyn Weber
Not just for wine bottles and bulletin boards anymore, cork is one of the most versatile flooring materials around. Popular in the 1930s and 1940s, (Frank Lloyd Wright used it at Falling Water), cork flooring gave way to carpeting for many years. But it's back in style now that buyers again prefer hard surfaces. "It's just another wood," says Eric Buchanan, sales manager for Augusta, Ga.-based manufacturer Natural Cork (www.naturalcork.com). "And the maintenance and installation are similar to hardwood flooring."
The environmentally friendly product is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees that grow primarily in Spain and Portugal. The adhesives and finishing products are water-based and low VOC. In addition to its eco benefits, builders are choosing cork for its noise deadening qualities and comfort. Small air pockets in the material serve as shock absorbers, making the product especially well suited for kitchens, exercise rooms, or children's play areas.
The two basic product types are 12-inch-square, glue-down tiles and a floating system of 12 by 36-inch, tongue-in-groove planks. According to Buchanan, cork prices are comparable to those of a good wood floor. The tiles average $4 to $6 per square foot, and the planks $6 to $8 per square foot.
For more information, check out the "Frequently Asked Questions" on the Natural Cork's award-winning and easy-to-maneuver Web site.