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May 05
2008

Kitchen Flooring - Stick a Cork in It!


Posted by C. Mason Hearn in value, renovation, remodeling, kitchens, green, floors, DIY

Mason,

Would you recommend cork flooring for a kitchen?

Brenda G. Dallas, TX

Dang, Brenda, I didn’t know our blog went all the way to the Lone Star State! Welcome, and know that I love your question!

There are SO many choices for flooring these days. Kitchens, obviously, have some very special needs in terms of durability, maintenance, clean-up, comfort, and of course, STYLE! The “best” floor for your kitchen should be based on which of these considerations you personally find most important. Porcelain tile is durable and sanitary, but not so comfortable for long periods of standing. Wood is beautiful and comfortable, but may not be the best choice for finish durability under heavy traffic and wet conditions.

Cork? Yes, it is wonderful on most counts! Warm and soft underfoot, this environmentally-friendly product is also now available in many styles - from the familiar “bulletin-board”-look to interesting multi-colored swirling grain patterns. There are also stained, whitewashed and color-dyed varieties.

Cork materials have a naturally-occurring waxy substance within, called Suberin, which helps prevent rot and repels mold growth. While some cork flooring products come factory pre-sealed, others must be sealed (in much the same manner as a hardwood floor) following installation. The quality of the finish system is key to its durability. I would rate a properly-finished cork floor in that regard as similar†to a wood floor.

Caution: While stilletto heels are said to enhance the beauty of a woman’s stature, their effect is quite the opposite on a cork floor! So, if regularly entertaining supermodels is on your “must do” list (hmmmm...supermodels? Cork Floor? Supermodels? Cork Floor?), well, make your choice.

Installing cork is a potential DIY project; relatively idiot-proof if you closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. There are a multitude of sytems from glueless snap-lock units to solid cork tiles. Sealant at the joints / edges is quite important in a “wet” application.

One interesting historical note: Frank Lloyd Wright loved cork flooring. In fact, I saw that he used it in the floor of a shower at his famous Fallingwater house.

Mason






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written by C. Mason Hearn, November 09, 2008
Joy,
Thank you for your feedback and question. As is the case with so many components for home improvement, you will find that there is a broad range of material costs for both bamboo and cork flooring products. Be suspicious of “cheap” materials. There are thin-veneer cork materials that are cheaper, but will not hold up to refinishing. Bamboo also comes in a range of assemblies from pretty darned cheap to costly. Another price-point determinant is the quality of the finish system – indeed, some of these products are available unfinished, so you will have to figure-in the cost of field finishing after installation.
As well, figure the cost of installation. There are some snap-lock bamboo “floating floor” systems, that are quite simple to DIY install (but PLEASE follow the instructions!). Conversely, there are certain systems that may not lend themselves so well to DIY, and you will want them professionally installed.
Another issue to consider, should eco-friendliness be of concern to you. There was a great recent article in our local paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where Architect Patrick Farley points-out that while bamboo is a renewable resource, there are several factors in its harvest-to-market cycle which render its carbon footprint not-so-sustainable. Take a look at this:
http://www.inrich.com/cva/ric/search.apx.-content-articles-RTD-2008-11-07-0016.html
Lastly, consider the life cycle of these products in your particular application. If there is significant traffic and special wear (such as high heels), cork may not be your answer. In either case, the use of a good quality material with a durable finish and proper installation will increase your anticipated life cycle, and therefore your long-term value, many-fold. That’s where you will find the best value, and the most sustainable installation.
Mason
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written by joy, November 09, 2008
Very interesting. I am planning of installing bamboo flooring for our kitchen that I found in this article http://www.bathroomandkitcheng...chen.html, which do you think will be more cost effective in the long run without sacrificing design?

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