Cork Flooring: Pros, Cons and Alternatives

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Cork flooring has been existent for the past 100 years but was only introduced in the U.S. in 1890. Since then it’s been the top choice for commercial and residential flooring, especially from 1900 to 1945. It reached its peak in 1927 with 2.9 million square feet sold in the country. Some of the famous buildings with cork flooring include the First Congressional Church in Chicago (1890); the Mayo Clinic and Plummer Building (1912);the U.S. Library of Congress; the U.S. National Archives (1930);  and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania (1930).

The turn of the 20th century saw the decline of popularity for cork flooring as other options began to emerge. Some of these flooring options proved as strong alternatives especially for those who aren’t too impressed with cork.

A floor with an integrated underlayment made out of cork.

Costs $3.98 /sq. ft. at Home Depot

Pros

  • It’s very soft to stand and walk on, meaning that you will be able to remain standing on it for a long period of time without any pain in your legs or knees. Additionally, its softer feel means that it will hurt less if you fall on it.
  • There aren’t many flooring options that can be refinished, but cork is that can. This will give it a fresh look and can be done a few times.
  • As long as you take the time to correctly install this flooring with a sealer on top, you won’t have to worry about time consuming maintenance.
  • If you are worried about noise traveling through your home, then cork is a great alternative because it will insulate your space. This is especially important if you have more than one level on your home and don’t want sound to carry up.
  • Just like cork can help limit the amount of noise that travels through your home due to its insulating properties, it will also reduce your monthly electrical bill. Wool carpet is the only flooring option that does a better job at keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
  • Installation is simple, and you can easily replace a damaged tile without having to redo the whole floor.
  • Due to a substance in cork known as suberin, cork will deter insects and small vermin, making your home healthier.
  • Since cork is a renewable resource, you don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of this flooring.
  • Homes with cork floors enjoy better air quality because cork is hypoallergenic. While carpet will collect hair, dust, and pet dander, cork will repel it.

Cons

  • The comfort that you enjoy walking on cork makes it susceptible to damage. This soft material can be dented and dinged if something is dropped on it or if you drag furniture across the surface. Even high heels can punch holes in the floor, and animals can damage the floor with their claws.
  • Sunlight is particularly damaging to cork, and in the same way it can cause upholstery or fine paintings to fade, it can fade the color of your floor.
  • Taking care to seal your floor against water is important, but even when done correctly the floor can warp if there is a lot of water on the floor. High humidity can damage the floor as well, which means you should take the climate into consideration before opting for cork.

Alternatives

1. Rubber

Black rubber flooring with noise isolation, comfort and vibration absorptionCosts $18.97 /roll at Home Depot

While not as attractive as other floors, in the right rooms, rubber can be a huge benefit due to its comfort.

Pros

  • Fast becoming a popular option, especially in mudrooms, hallways, and home gyms, rubber flooring is a very inexpensive flooring option.
  • Rubber tiles are great at absorbing the shock of people walking or standing on them, making them a very comfortable flooring option. This is great for very active homeowners or for the elderly who want to reduce the stress on their bodies.
  • This hard-wearing floor can last for more than 20 years as long as it is properly maintained.
  • Available in a several colors, patterns, and embossing, it’s easy to choose rubber tiles that can complement your home. Of course, plain color tiles are going to be less expensive than ones that are designer.
  • Rubber floors absorb sound and will keep it from traveling through your home. This is great for controlling footsteps, talking in another room, and even the sound of a TV.

Cons

  • Tends to be slippery when it gets wet, so it’s important to either clean it right away or install tiles that have raised bumps on them to help with traction.
  • The dull finish on this flooring means that it doesn’t look great through the main areas of the home. It can be polished but will not look as elegant as other flooring options.
  • When rubber floors get stained, they can be very difficult to clean and can discolor easily. They require special cleaners that are more expensive than just bleach or soap.

 

2. Bamboo

Smooth and lightweight horizontal, bamboo flooring.Costs $2.29 /sq. ft. at Home Depot

Bamboo is growing in popularity as people realize how sustainable it is. Thicker bamboo floors can be refinished a number of times.

Pros

  • High quality choices will wear as well as hardwood floors and are just as durable.
  • This is a sustainable flooring option, as bamboo will reach maturity in about seven years. This is a lot faster than hardwood flooring.
  • When the floor becomes damaged, you can easily refinish it, which involves sanding down the surface and applying a sealer.
  • No special cleaners are necessary, and bamboo can quickly be mopped with a mixture of water and regular soap.
  • Bamboo is a strong flooring option and is great at resisting water damage and stains.
  • This is a stylish flooring option that will appeal to homeowners who are looking for a modern and updated look in the home. It comes in a number of colors and styles, making it easy to find flooring that will fit with your aesthetics.
  • Often a less expensive option than hardwood, this flooring is great for homeowners on a budget.

Cons

  • While high quality bamboo is so durable and resilient, lower quality flooring will easily scratch and dent.
  • Water left on the surface of the floor can cause it to warp and even mold. In addition, in very humid environments, the floor may even expand, while dry areas can cause the plank to shrink, which will both lead to cracking.
  • Not the perfect fit in a more vintage home, as it lends itself to an updated and modern aesthetic.
  • Some homeowners worry about the emission of toxic chemicals from the floor due to the process by which it is made.
  • Additionally, while bamboo itself is a green flooring option, some harvesting practices are not environmentally friendly.
  • It’s important that the bamboo is allowed to harden after harvest or your floor will look great at first and then slowly soften.

3. Tile

Ceramic wall tile with a glazed finish.Costs ‎$0.49 to ‎$0.69/tile at physical stores of Home Depot

Classic in a kitchen and in bathrooms, tile is very easy to clean and won’t become damaged with a little spill. It is important not to drop heavy items on it, as it will crack or pop the tiles.

Pros

  • Tile floors are very tough and built to last. Professional installation can often last for decades, but you will need to replace any cracked tiles to ensure the integrity of your floor.
  • There are many tile options to choose from, and it’s easy to create a patterned floor if you want one.
  • It’s easy to care for tile floors by sweeping and mopping, and you won’t have to worry about stains damaging them.
  • Due to their hard surface, tiles won’t collect dust, dirt, and pollen, and are great in a home where the family suffers from allergies.

Cons

  • This floor is very cold, and many homeowners put down throw rugs to help combat the chill. In addition, it’s also very hard and can be difficult to stand on for long periods of time.
  • These heavy tiles don’t always work well on upper floors in a home, and it’s important that you make sure your home can handle the additional weight before installing them anywhere.
  • To make tiles fit, you will often have to ground them down, which means that installation is a task best left to the professionals.

4. Laminate

Classic hickory wood grain flooringwith a glossy finish.Costs $1.49 /sq. ft. at Home Depot

Newer versions of laminate can almost perfectly mimic hardwood floors with much lower price tags. Unfortunately, this floor isn’t the most comfortable and tends to sound hollow.

Pros

  • Laminate is very easy to clean with a vacuum and slightly damp mop. You won’t ever have to worry about waxing the floor.
  • It is really easy to install laminate flooring, and you can quickly put down this new floor in your home. Due to a clicking and locking installation process, it’s easy to snap it together like a puzzle and pieces can be cut to fit with a utility knife.
  • This flooring can be used in any room in the home as long as it is correctly installed to help resist a little water.
  • Homeowners can choose from a number of different appearances when selecting their new flooring, including stone and wood.
  • There’s a tough surface on laminate, meaning that it will resist not only stains but also scratches and dents. This makes is a great choice if you have a busy household.

Cons

  • Standing water can damage the floor and cause the boards to swell, so it’s important to be careful when mopping.
  • It doesn’t provide you with a high resale value when it comes time to sell your home.
  • You can’t refinish laminate. Once it is has been badly damaged, it will have to be replaced.
  • Installation can be tricky since there will only be a few patterns in the boards, and you don’t want to end up with the same boards right by each other.

5. Hardwood

Hardwood flooring in a natural, pale honey tone.Costs $2.99 /sq. ft at Home Depot

The classic flooring, hardwood is both the most expensive option and the one that will last the longest. Make sure the wood grain stands out with a great stain job, which will add value to your home for decades.

Pros

  • This flooring is considered an upgrade, and when you want to sell your home you will generally be able to ask for a higher amount.
  • It’s easy to clean hardwood floors, and since they are so durable, they will last for decades. A simple sweeping and wash with a quality wood cleaner will keep them in great condition.
  • There are a lot of styles to choose from, which means that you can install hardwood floors in almost any home, and they will look great. From farmhouse to contemporary, there are hardwood floors that will improve the appearance of your home.

Cons

  • These floors will need to be refinished on occasion, and this process can be quite costly. It also creates a fine layer of dust over everything in your home.
  • Sound carries in homes with hardwood floors, and it can be annoying to hear people above you walking around. Rugs are a great idea to help muffle the sound, especially in busy rooms.
  • While they look great, hardwood floors tend to be expensive. In addition, most homeowners can’t complete the job themselves, which further increases the price.

6. Vinyl

Vinyl in neautral tones that provides a stone and marble design.Costs $0.85 /sq. ft. at  Home Depot

A great way to redo a floor on a budget, vinyl offers several designs and patterns to choose from, allowing homeowners to pick and choose what they like best. It can be installed over itself.

Pros

  • Vinyl floors are usually completely water resistant, making them ideal in the kitchen and in the bathroom, as you won’t have to worry about the damage standing water can cause.
  • They’re incredibly low maintenance and only require sweeping and occasional mopping with a vinyl cleaner to get rid of any stains.
  • A very inexpensive option, vinyl is great if you want to redo a room but have a tight budget. While premium vinyl is more expensive, it’s easy to opt for a more budget-friendly option.
  • This floor is generally softer to walk on than hardwood and ceramic tiles, and it won’t be as cold during the winter months.
  • Vinyl is easy to install, making it a great DIY project after you have had a subfloor professionally installed.

Cons

  • Vinyl is not biodegradable and won’t break down after you have replaced it in your home. Additionally, manufacturing it uses non-renewable resources.
  • It’s easy to accidentally damage vinyl floors, and rubber in particular will create a chemical reaction that will stain the floor.
  • There is no easy way to repair vinyl, and if it tears, you will have to remove the whole floor and replace it.
  • Less expensive vinyl tends to turn yellow after a while, which can be unsightly in any room.

7. Carpet

Textured carpet with high quality fiber and and a virtually stain-proof coloration.Costs $702/roll at  Home Depot

The top flooring option if you are most interested in comfort, carpet is always a classic. From shag to Berber, there’s a style of carpet perfect for every home.

Pros

  • Carpet floors are not only very comfortable to walk on, but they will help insulate your home and keep sound from traveling, perfect for small spaces.
  • It comes in a myriad of colors and designs, making it easy to match the other colors in the home.
  • When installed properly and cleaned regularly, carpet will last for a long time.

Cons

  • More than any other flooring option, carpet tends to hold onto dirt and debris, which can make it hard for homeowners who have allergies to live with this type of flooring.
  • Wear patterns in carpet are unattractive, and unless you are careful about where you walk, they are very easy to create.
  • Carpet does not add a lot of resale value to your home, and wall to wall carpeting can actually turn some potential buyers off of your property.

 





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