Tuesday, 10 May 2011

How Cork Flooring Is Made

Manufactured with little environmental impact and no waste products, cork flooring is valued as much for its eco-friendliness as for its durability, comfort, sound absorption and beauty.

Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is grown primarily in coastal regions of the western Mediterranean. The millions of tiny air pockets designed in a honeycomb pattern inside the bark create cork flooring's exceptional ability to absorb sound and provide a durable yet cushiony surface. Strict regulations govern the harvesting of bark from cork oak trees. A tree must be at least 25 years old to be harvested, and may have its bark removed only once every 9 to 11 years using a centuries old method of making small cuts in the bark then pulling off large pieces by hand. Because the trees have the ability to regenerate their bark, cork oak forests are valued and protected rather than clear cut, as many hardwood flooring sources are. A single mature cork oak tree can supply up to 450 pounds of cork per harvest for centuries.

After the bark is hand-stripped, the slabs are stacked and left exposed to nature's elements. The chemical changes caused by sun, wind and rain improve the cork's quality. Slabs may be left exposed from several days to six months or longer. Once cured, the slabs are cleaned, boiled and dried. The rough outer surface is stripped off to make the cork easier to process into different forms. The highest quality cork is used to make bottle stoppers, which are punched from the best sections of the slabs. The remaining scraps are ground into granules of various sizes, leaving no waste. The granules are mixed with a non-toxic resin to bind them together, molded into blocks under high pressure and baked. Color variations develop based on the size of the granules and how long the blocks are baked. As the blocks bake, the natural sugars in the cork caramelize, so a longer baking time yields darker cork.

Cork flooring planks and tiles are cut from the baked sheets. Custom colors can be created by painting or staining unfinished cork prior to the application of an acrylic finish. Unique mosaic cork floors can be pieced together using tiles with different naturally developed or stained colors. Floating cork floors are made of four layers of cork: the underlayment, a stabilizing layer adhered to fiberboard for structure, a third layer to maximize sound absorption and comfort, and a top layer for color. The top layer is sealed for added protection and durability.

Tag : floor,floor,flooring

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