Cork and bamboo flooring are popular today but have been available in flooring since the 1950’s and in some instances since the early 1900’s. Once considered specialty flooring used in specific decorating schemes, cork and bamboo flooring have now become main stream products installed in both commercial and residential applications.
Cork is tree bark harvested once every 10 years from Cork Oak Trees grown in Portugal and Spain. Harvesting bark consists of peeling the bark without disturbing or felling the trees that often live 500 years. The green movement has given rise to the increase in sales with appreciation of the natural benefits this material has to offer. Cork is resistant to 38 species of of insects, including the Termite and naturally fire resistant. The bark is vegetal tissue made of an agglomeration of dead cells filled with air and lined with alternating layers of cellulose and a waxy substance. The waxy substance is suberin and thus the name; Quercus Suber.
Bamboo is a grass, or perennial evergreen, and is part of the grass family Poaceae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboos are the fastest growing plants in the world capable of growing 24 inches in a single day leaving this natural resource abundant and inexpensive. Bamboo used for flooring is not grown in the United States although species of bamboo are native to the Americas.
Problems Associated with Natures Flooring
Nature does not produce defects. Man changing nature into usable flooring is imperfect which may result in flooring failures after installation. The basis of failure is often associated with moisture, moisture imbalances, adhesives and the laminating process.
Unique to Bamboo Flooring is the simple fact that bamboo is round and flooring is flat. The bamboo is cut into lengthwise strips, compressed, flattened, dried and assembled into flooring with the compressed strips layered and glued together.
A much less costly process consists of bamboo fibers compressed, saturated with resins and molded into woven stranded bamboo flooring. Using the term “woven” is a misnomer as there is no weaving of the fibers.
Cork is soft, sound absorbent, resilient, fire resistant, anti-static, mildew resistant, insect resistant and naturally anti-microbial. Cork is used as a finished flooring, sound suppression in high rise condominiums, cork bulletin boards, wall sound suppression as well as it’s most important job of corking wine bottles. The waste from producing cork wine-stoppers is valuable in the production of flooring materials.
Converting cork oak to finished flooring begins by aging the cork for six months, or more, by exposing the slabs of harvested cork to the elements of sun, wind and rain triggering chemical shifts improving cork quality in converting to usable consumer and structural products.
Processing cork requires cleaning, boiling and stripping the rough outer surface making it possible to convert raw cork into usable products such as wine stoppers and composite sheets converted to flooring, wall coverings, rolled cork to name a few. Cork products are manufactured by granulating raw cork, mixing the granules with a non-toxic resin binder molded into large blocks and baked in dry ovens.
The baked blocks are cut into slabs of various thickness, sliced to standardized dimensions, sorted by color, sealed and shipped to manufacturing plant for conversion into their finalized form for re-sale.
Converting the natural raw cork to usable consumer products is the main source of product failure.
** Cork Plank and Cork Tile Flooring Inspectors are Certified by either the National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professionals (NWFAcp) or the Flooring Consultants and Inspection Training Service (FCITS)
** Solid Bamboo, Engineered Bamboo and Bamboo Stranded Flooring Inspectors are Certified by either the National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professionals (NWFAcp) or the Flooring Consultants and Inspection Training Service (FCITS)