Why choose premium cork flooring?
A recent industry survey has shown that many “discount” cork flooring and underlayment products are not discounted at all: they are being sold at the lower prices appropriate to their lower quality. Consumers need to know that it is not possible to sell premium quality European cork flooring and underlayment at the prices being advertised by some vendors.
Things to watch for in substandard cork flooring
When new, inferior finishes appear uneven when seen at an angle to the light. When installed, some areas lose finish sheen and show wear before others.
When installed, substandard planks show gaps, particularly along the long dimension. This is caused by uneven alignment of the surface layer with the tongue-and-groove layer during manufacture. It cannot be cured.
Second-quality cork flooring planks can have poor connecting layers, often made of MDF with high post-industrial waste content. While the cork surface layer may be valid, immediately below it the structural layer can consist entirely of recycled waste. Immediately above the cork layer, surface finishes can contain volatile organic compounds and other chemicals that outgas into room air.
Cupping of poor quality cork plank flooring
This occurs when moisture enters the side of the plank and the surface layer expands at the joint. While this can take place when quality wood or cork floors are subjected to flooding and standing water for long periods of time, it should not be present under normal conditions or as a result of household spills. The only remedy when cupping occurs with cut-price flooring is to wait until both pieces dry and see if they realign. If not, replace.
Things to watch for in substandard cork underlayment.
Inferior Cork Underlayment
Inferior cork underlayment is made of brittle granules, waste products and environmentally unsuitable binders, providing significantly less acoustic and thermal insulation, regardless of thickness. Because it is brittle, such underlayment also breaks down into its granular components, which in the industry is considered complete product failure.
Deterioration of Substandard Cork Underlayment
The most common problem with substandard cork underlayment is separation of the brittle granules in the underlayment layer of planks, and of the underlayment itself. In this situation the sheet becomes a granulate, much like breaking a Styrofoam cup into the little pieces that form it. This deterioration cannot be reversed, the acoustic and thermal properties are lost, the underlayment must be replaced.
How Cork Flooring and Underlayment is Made
Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. The bark, and only the bark, is harvested every nine years.
The tree is never felled, and can live for more than a hundred years, yielding bark every decade.
The bark is used first to make bottle stoppers. Then it is ground and used to make cork composition products.
Those include our cork flooring and cork underlayment, gaskets, floatation devices, bulletin boards and more.