Cork Flooring: Easy on the Eyes...and the Toes

When it comes to materials choices for your home, flooring is one of the biggest design decisions you will make. It’s a major visual presence in every room, and, unless you jump around a lot, you will be in almost constant physical contact with it.

Our choice of flooring for the main level of our cabin was easy. In fact, we chose not to install flooring. We built Artemisia on a concrete slab foundation and simply applied a deep brown finish and clear protective coating. Our polished concrete floor is super durable, beautiful, and acts as a great heat sink to even out the indoor air temperature. The downside is that it can be slightly cold to the touch, although we mitigated that with plenty of rigid foam insulation between the ground and the floor. It can also be a bit fatiguing to walk on. We added springy foam mats in the kitchen to make food prep more enjoyable.

In the loft areas, we had to pick out another flooring material. In our Seattle zero-energy home, we had installed reclaimed wide-plank fir flooring, which added a lot of character, but led to a ton of DIY work and dust. We wanted something simpler for Artemisia, so we talked to the helpful folks at Greenhome Solutions in Seattle. They recommended cork.

We ordered 400 square feet of their Alameda Natural cork flooring with plans to install it ourselves. The installation process couldn’t have been more different than my experience with the solid wood floor. Dave and I were able to finish the entire thing in a weekend.

The product we chose is a floating floor system, meaning we didn’t have to glue or nail it down. (You do want to make sure your subfloor is completely smooth.) The cork is glued onto a high-density fiberboard base, and each piece is engineered to click together. It came pre-finished so there was no sanding dust or finish fumes. Best of all, it’s oh-so comfortable to walk on.

What we love about cork floors

  1. Warm: Due to the natural insulating properties of cork, these floors feel warm on your bare feet.

  2. Cushy: Cork is a naturally springy material, and our flooring has a nice amount of cushiness, making walking and standing very comfortable.

  3. Easy to clean: Cork floors don’t require any chemicals or other harsh cleaners. Just a light dusting and a damp microfiber pad does the trick. Plus, the pattern we chose is great at hiding dirt between cleanings.

  4. Eco-friendly: Cork floors are the byproduct of the harvesting of a renewable resource. Cork trees are not cut down; rather the bark is peeled away by skilled workers. Cork stoppers are produced from the harvested bark, and what’s left is ground down to make cork flooring and other products. The trees will regenerate their bark and can be harvested again and again.

  5. Promotes indoor air quality: Cork flooring doesn’t harbor mold, mildew, and other environmental toxins like carpeting, so it’s great for people with respiratory issues.

  6. Easy to install: The pieces can be cut easily with a chop saw and just click together. Installation was fool-proof. Just be sure your subfloor is smooth and that you give the boxes of flooring a week or two to acclimate the the moisture level in your home.

  7. Durable: People worry about heavy furniture and pets ruining their cork floor. While we don’t allow pets upstairs in our cabin, we’ve found the flooring to be extremely durable so far, even in a high-traffic nightly rental.

  8. Quiet: We knew we didn’t want to hear footsteps transmitted from the loft floor to the rooms below. The cork flooring deadens sound, which, combined with a floating drywall ceiling below and mineral wool acoustic insulation in the ceiling, almost completely kills the sound.

Purchasing Cork Flooring

We purchased our Alameda Natural cork flooring through Greenhome Solutions as part of our Artemisia Lab program. It looks like they no longer carry that specific item, but they have a broad selection of other eco-friendly cork flooring products.

See also: What Flooring Do We Put in Our Own Homes? [Greenhome Solutions]