C20: Cork

I am crazy about cork. And as part of the Re-think It challenge I wanted to describe my project to give my home missing baseboards. But, instead of wood baseboards, I will use cork from wine bottles. The inspiration came from this photo, though my approach will be simpler. I don’t want to include the wood strips.

My son is a general manager at a local restaurant, so I keep bugging him for corks. Alas, I am not a wine drinker. Thank goodness, because I’d worry that for the sake of my baseboards I’d be a drunken sot.

I also have a cork floor that I laid myself. This is a sustainable material from the past. My understanding it's had continued use in Britain, like linoleum, and is making a comeback in this country. I am an unabashed fan of this product. Here are some fun facts to know and tell.

Cork Flooring
  • Superior Resilience
  • Acoustic Insulation (sound absorbing qualities)
  • Compressible and Elastic (returns to shape after subjected to pressure; cork is 82% air, and within that, for every cubic inch there are 200 million air cells; cork will recover 99% after compression)
  • Impermeable to liquids and gases
  • Low Conductivity of heat, sound, or vibrations
  • Extremely high coefficient of friction (very slip resistant)
  • R=5;Natural product that warms and enriches any interior
  • Fire Resistance – cork is inherently fire resistant
  • Good thermal insulation
  • Naturally Hypo–allergenic (resists rot, mildew, and mold)
  • Naturally Anti–Static
  • Easy to install and care for (similar to wood floors)
What’s the history of Cork Growth and Development?
The cork that is used to make cork flooring tiles comes from the Cork Oak, which is found and is most prosperous in a narrow band around the western coast of the Mediterranean. A distinct mixture of temperature, sunlight, relative humidity, and soil make–up is needed for the Cork Oak to flourish. The laws set–up in these areas to protect both the development and peeling of the Cork Oak are stringent, and punishable by strict and ever–present fines. It is considered a natural treasure.

For millions of years, the cork oak has survived on its inherent strength and spontaneous natural regeneration, though artificial regeneration is becoming more common. Selective thinning is also necessary to regulate the density of the cork oak communities, and to remove the aged trees. Cork trees that grow too close together heavily jeopardize their neighbors’ development, for the nutrients in the soil are detrimental to the cork oak’s longevity and success. In general, cork oak communities are thinned every 9–10 years, similar to the time period between which the stripping and pruning is undertaken. Regarding the actual stripping, most countries can only (by law) prune the oak when it is dormant in the winter months between December through March.

These photos were taken during my remodel. The original flooring was covered in yak vinyl. We removed all of this and a whole portion of the rotten trailer floor (not shown here). After all the drywall work was done I laid the cork tiles over the wood subfloors. This lower photo was taken when I decided how to arrange slate tiles for my shower tiling project. Too bad I didn't take a better picture of the cork flooring installation of the 12 inch square tiles. I got them on sale in 2005 for $3/square foot. Besides this good price and all of the features described, I found one of the nicest aspects for me is that this cork pattern hides dirt. Since I've writing about cleaning this week, this seems notable. Oh yes, indeed it is. When I get enough corks to complete the baseboard project I will publish them on make-a(green)plan.