Cork is not just for use in bottle stoppers anymore. The material has taken off as an affordable, alternative floor covering for the kitchen. Cork flooring can be a durable, comfy, and sustainable option, making it an attractive choice when you design your own kitchen. Cork floors can be insulating, insect repelling, resistant to fire, sound-dampening, and tough against mold.
Cork is available for purchase in planks or individual tiles. Expect costs to vary between $3 and $22 per square foot. Suberin, a waxy material common in the top layer of cork, has been known to repel water as well as retain the moisture resiliency inside the cork itself.
The insulating, sound-absorbing quality of a cork floor can be particularly useful if there are family members living below the kitchen.
Cork flooring typically comes in pre-finished or unfinished stock. It's certainly easier to install than wood flooring. Depending on your kitchen design layout and size, you may want an installer to come in. Pre-finished cork tiles and planks don't need sealing after installation, but you may want a special seal to help fight mold and moisture. When you use unfinished stock, the sealer has a better chance of penetrating seams and natural edges of the tile.
When considering your kitchen design layout, remember that cork can be installed over your exiting tile floor or concrete sub-floor. The hard work is in determining the total square footage to cover, measuring, and cutting the planks or tiles to cover completely.
Some modern cork floors are engineered with snap-together edges. Remember too that cork breathes and can swell or shrink, making it imperative that the installer account for an expansion gap. You might consider shoe molding around the baseboard to conceal any gaps in coverage. An installer can show you how to use half-inch spacers along the existing wall.
Direct, long-term exposure to sunlight can affect the color of your cork floor. Beware of the light sources from windows and skylights. Since cork is absorbing and pliant, you should place furniture padding or protectors beneath any objects or appliances you set on the cork floor.
Once the floor has been sealed, you can maintain it with regular sweeping, a damp mop, and annual re-sealing.
About the author: Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.