Although cork flooring has been around for many decades, it has recently come into vogue in a major way, due mostly to the fact that it is a "green" renewable resource that can be used without the guilt associated with using fine hardwoods from old-growth forests or tropical rainforests. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber) and is periodically harvested from the living trees in plantations planted for commercial purposes. To create flooring products, cork is ground up, compressed, and formed into sheets bonded with resins.

Cork flooring has many merits, to be sure, and its trendy popularity has led to cork installation almost everywhere in the home—including some places where it may not be the best choice. It is important to understand the underlying characteristics of cork so that you can make an informed decision when choosing whether or not to use it in a specific space.

Cork has a soft, cushiony surface. One of the best things about this material is how soft and yielding it feels beneath your feet. When people first step on a cork flooring installation, their eyes often light up with delight with the recognition that this is neither wood nor vinyl but something completely different. Because of this, cork is popular in rooms where you will be standing for long periods of time, such as kitchens. The soft surface of a cork floor can act as a kind of cushion that provides a certain amount of protection when someone accidentally trips and falls. This makes it a great choice for children’s rooms and for older residents prone to falling.

Cork is susceptible to damage. This is not the right material if you are looking for a perfectly pristine floor, as cork is a very soft material. While this might be delightful on bare feet, it also makes these floors relatively easy to damage. If any sharp object is dropped, it can puncture the floor, and chair and furniture legs can pierce and scrape the material. High heels, if not properly padded, can cause punctures in the surface of a cork floor. Even small dirt particles can act like sandpaper grits, tearing across the surface of the material.

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