Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak. It is hydrophobic, very elastic, and poorly combustible. In fishing, for example, it serves as a float on fishing rods, it is also used as a sealing material in machines and devices and, as a cork floor, it beautifies every room when it is used as a floor covering.
General information about cork
Cork flooring as a floor covering for connoisseurs
Cork flooring promises a high level of living comfort. As a warm, soft, and natural material, cork flooring brings comfort and a natural living atmosphere. Cork has properties that are conducive to the air we breathe indoors. This makes cork, like other natural materials, particularly suitable for allergy sufferers. When laying cork as a floor covering, however, there are a few aspects to consider.
Cork flooring is not equally suitable everywhere
Cork is an organic natural material. Organic substances are naturally not designed for permanent existence but are subject to permanent, natural decomposition processes. Cork is known for its waterproof properties. However, these always go hand in hand with a high swelling capacity of the material. Its use in damp environments is, therefore, a particular challenge. Rot and mold can also become dangerous for a cork floor covering in the long term. For a complete cladding of the floor of an apartment with cork flooring, special sealing measures are therefore required in the damp rooms. But a cork floor also has other limitations in its applicability. These include, for example, the restrictions on underfloor heating.
Natural building material with tradition
Cork is a natural material. The soft, rubbery material is made from the bark of cork oaks. These grow in predominantly warm regions of southern Europe such as Italy, Greece, southern France and Spain. The cultivation of cork oaks is a very long process that requires a lot of experience. This makes cork materials relatively expensive and only available to a limited extent.
In interior design, cork is used as a wall and floor covering. For this purpose, the raw material cork is crushed into granules and processed into the desired formats by means of a binding agent using an adhesive-press process. Used bottle cork is also reused. The size of the individual grains in the granulate is hardly decisive for the insulating and damping properties of the cork. This allows for a wide range of appearances. Coarse grain sizes are used to produce the typical cork surface with its pleasant tactile properties. The finer the grain, the greater the variety of texture and color options.
types of cork
Choosing cork flooring
When it comes to cork floor coverings, you have to differentiate between thin cork ready-made parquet, cork mosaic and solid cork tiles (also often referred to as “cork parquet”). There are also numerous other possible uses for interior design where cork is also used. The following formats are common on the market for building materials, laminates and cork tiles:
Rolled cork are rolled mats of adhesive-pressed cork granules, which are used as impact sound insulation under laminates. It is an excellent alternative to plastic-based impact sound insulation. Rolled cork is therefore particularly suitable for users who value natural building materials. Impact sound insulation from a thickness of 2 millimeters costs around 2.30 euros per square meter.
Cork engineered flooring is an inexpensive way to enjoy the benefits of a cork floor. Parquet panels are now offered in click panel format as standard. Due to its granulated structure, cork in particular offers the possibility of furnishing a large room without visible joints in the floor covering.
The prices per square meter depend on the degree of processing and the thickness. However, the thickness always refers to the overall thickness of the individual element. The cork portion is only the top, visible layer.
- 4 millimeters thick, unsealed, structured: approx. 11 euros
- 4 millimeters thick, sealed, structured: approx. 15.50 euros
- 11.5 millimeters thick, sealed, granulated: 14 euros
- 8 millimeters thick, sealed, structured: 20 euros
- 10.5 millimeters thick, bleached, ground, polished: 32 euros
cork floor tiles
Cork tiles consist exclusively and entirely of solid cork. They are applied using the adhesive method. The advantage of cork tiles is that they have higher insulating and damping properties. Walking on thick cork tiles is particularly pleasant due to the resilient effect of the floor. As with the finished parquet, the price per square meter for the cork tile depends on the degree of processing and thickness.
Here are a few determined prices:
- 4 millimeters thick, unsealed, unstructured: approx. 20 euros
- 6 millimeters thick, sealed, structured: approx. 36 euros
- 6 millimeters thick, sealed, structured, printed: approx. 43 euros
Cork tiles are limited in thickness to 6 millimeters as standard. In addition, cork sheets are available, which can be used universally. Cork panels are available up to 40 millimeters thick and cost around 120 euros per square meter in the heaviest version. They are only offered untreated. Coloring and texture cost 10 euros per panel (approx. 0.55 m²) extra.
cork floor mosaic
Cork mosaic consists of mats to which many small and uniform cork plates are glued. They are laid like tile mats and then grouted. The prices for cork mosaic including glue and joint material start at around 50 euros per square meter.
A cork floor offers the following advantages:
- Natural material for a pleasant living atmosphere
- Thermal insulation effect, particularly pleasant when walking barefoot
- Impact sound insulation, ideal for quick and subsequent installation
- available in many colors and textures
- perfect for allergy sufferers
- Sustainable in cultivation, easy to recycle
Disadvantages of cork floors:
Cork can only be extracted to a limited extent. The natural limitation of the raw material ensures comparatively high prices. For comparison, here is a comparison of one square meter of floor covering
- Laminate: 2-12 euros
- PVC: 4-12 euros
- Carpeted floor: 5-30 euros
- Ceramic tile: 5-30 euros
- Cork: 30-80 euros
- Real wood parquet: 50-200 euros
Cork is one of the high-quality floor coverings. Supplying an entire apartment with this material is a cost factor that must be carefully calculated. Here is a rough breakdown of costs (per square meter)
- Ready-made parquet (unsealed, unstructured): from 11 euros
- Glue: 4.50 euros
- Sealing: 2.50 euros
- Notched spatula: 5 euros
- Roller with handle: 10 euros
However, if the processing of the expensive material is to be left to a specialist company, the costs can be doubled.
Cork has mechanical properties that must be taken into account when laying. Here you have to pay attention to the following:
- Swelling when damp and wet
- Stretching when exposed to heat
That is why you have to work with large areas with an expansion joint and at least in the bathroom and the kitchen the cork floor has to be sealed.
What is a positive property of cork floor coverings in many places causes major problems elsewhere: the insulating effect of cork makes it unsuitable as a top covering for underfloor heating. This is especially true for the thick cork tiles. The porous structure of cork prevents the transfer of heat to the interior. In addition to the stretching effects described, there is also a large loss of energy. In order to heat a cork tiled room with underfloor heating, a very high heat output is required. This is not only a big waste of expensive heating energy. The insulating effect of the cork covering can also lead to heat accumulation in the underfloor heating.
After all, cork only has a limited compressive strength. Heavy pieces of furniture or point loads from small contact surfaces can quickly lead to damage.
For comparison, here are a few compressive strengths of floor coverings:
- Real wood parquet made of hornbeam: 673 kg/cm²
- Screed: 800 kg/cm²
- Floor tile: 4000-5000 kg/cm²
- Cork floor : 5 kg/cm²
Disadvantages of the cork floor
In summary, cork flooring has the following disadvantages:
- Very expensive
- organically vulnerable
- working mechanically
- swells when wet
- unsuitable for underfloor heating
- Limited compressive strength
Quality differences in cork floors
Pay attention to quality
High prices always attract vendors who offer cheaper by compromising on quality. Cork is a high-priced material, but its quality can be easily checked. The following factors can be checked:
- 450 to 500 kg per m³ is the ideal value. This is on the packaging. Alternatively, the weight of a tile can be measured and its density calculated from its dimensions.
- If wood chips are visible in the cork, the volume has been increased by unfair means
the thickness of the plates
- Adhesive cork panels are at least 4 millimeters thick, and prefinished cork parquet at least 11 millimeters thick.
- Should be natural and not chemical, otherwise an inferior binder was used
The German cork industry has brought out its own logo, which serves as a seal of quality. Products that have this seal of quality can be bought without hesitation.
Tips for speed readers
- Inform about the costs
- Seal cork floors well in damp rooms
- No cork flooring on underfloor heating
- Allow for expansion joints in large areas
- Pay attention to quality