In the quest for a more environmentally-friendly approach to our daily living, many areas, from cleaner burning fuels to widespread recycling of waste materials, are now being enthusiastically addressed by the world’s industries. In our homes and offices, the desire for a more eco-friendly environment continues. In this respect, the use of renewable resources such as cork for surfacing of floors represents one more important step towards the desired goal of providing a greener and cleaner environment for future generations.
In contrast to the processes involve in the manufacture of wooden furniture and paper, the preparation of this type of material requires no felling of the trees or their subsequent re-planting. Instead, it is only necessary to harvest of their bark. This is a task that may be repeated every nine years and poses no threat to the health of the tree itself. In fact, the tree simply proceeds to re-grow its bark; something that it is known to be capable of continuing to do for 200 years or more.
The material is still widely used in the wine industry for sealing bottles. This is despite the trend toward the use of modern plastic stoppers that, unlike the age-old natural product, are far less likely to spoil the contents over time. Curiously, it is the wine industry that provides the source of the raw materials used in the fabrication of cork floors. Rather than harvesting new bark for the purpose, the manufacturing process makes use of the waste that is generated when making wine stoppers. The use of a sustainable resource combined with this opportunistic recycling means that the end-product is doubly eco-friendly.
The material can be produced either in the form of individual tiles of different sizes or as continuous sheets and these may be applied not just to the provision of a durable surface underfoot but also to act as decorative coverings for walls and even for ceilings if required.
An Earth-Friendly Flooring Product with Some Amazing Properties
When, during a special meal, we pause to open a favourite wine, we are normally too pre-occupied with the promise of the bottle’s contents to pay any great attention to the amazing natural material used to create its stopper. However, its range of remarkable, and especially useful properties are certainly more than worthy of some closer inspection.
To begin with, this is a material that is surprisingly durable; a fact that makes cork the perfect choice for use on the floors of any building that experiences a lot of pedestrian traffic. For this reason, it is often found in churches, courtrooms, banks and libraries. The exceptional longevity that is the consequence of this durability makes it very economical in use and, even in the event that it may sustain some damage, it is very easily repaired so does not require large-scale replacement.
The material displays a natural softness due to the tiny bubble of air trapped within its millions of individual cells and sealed with a waterproof waxy substance. This means that, it is slightly compressible and is thus particularly comfortable underfoot; a property that anyone who is required to spend long periods on his or her feet will be quite certain to appreciate.
Other very convenient and earth-friendly aspects of this flooring product derive from its insulating properties. The same air-filled, cellular structure that gives rise to its durability and springiness also explains its efficiency in the role of an insulator. It is noticeably warm to the touch, clear evidence of its ability to act as a highly efficient thermal insulator. In addition, this same structure also serves to dampen the effects of vibration and thus the material provides the perfect choice in situations where it is require to exclude extraneous noise and/or to keep any noise generated contained within a given area as desired. As such, it is widely used to insulate the walls, floors and ceilings of recording studios as well as in the manufacturing environment where it can help to reduce the noise pollution created by heavy machinery.
While woollen and synthetic carpets exhibit at least some of these properties to varying degrees, when using cork to surface floors, the material has other important properties that fibre products cannot duplicate. Due to the presence of significant quantities a plant wax known as Suberin, these floors are, not just resistant to mould and infestation by mites or termites but also highly resistant to rot and can survive extreme damp almost indefinitely.