In case you haven’t noticed, cork flooring has undergone a quiet revolution in recent years, shedding its dreary 70s homespun image and emerging as a wholly interesting and infinitely greener alternative to traditional hardwood flooring – and the latest manufacturing and coloring techniques means that you can achieve cool and chic aesthetics to match any of the latest design trends.
In fact, when researching this post, even I was surprised by the extraordinary advantages of cork flooring. For a start cork is a natural, harvested material making it a great environmentally friendly choice; it also has a long life span and is easily repaired, so there’s longevity and durability in-built. Whilst cork is softer (and more comfortable) than hardwood, its inherent elasticity means that it is less prone to dents and scratches, unlike hardwood; and it has excellent thermal and acoustic properties too.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, then it’s good to know that cork contains a substance called suberin that repels bugs, mold and termites, making cork naturally anti-allergenic and insect repellent! And its also suberin that helps make cork both fire and water resistant – cork can be submerged under water for yonks without rotting, one of the principal reasons it’s used for wine bottle stops!
The cost of cork is also reasonable, although not exactly cheap, with average prices of around $5 per sq/ft; click here for more on cork flooring prices. Finally, cork is definitely one of the easiest flooring options to install – usually coming in pre-glued adhesive tiles that are simplicity itself to stick down, even for a DIY novice. So, now that you’re convinced, let’s review some of the best cork flooring brands available on the market.
Wicanders – Amorim Revestimentos, the group behind the Wicanders brand, are quite clearly the global market leaders in cork flooring, with a presence in over 55 countries around the world. This global superiority, plus the fact that the Wicanders brand has been in the business of producing flooring since as far back as 1868, is most beautifully demonstrated in the utterly covetable cork flooring they offer.
Wicanders’ four cork floor collections offer multilayered engineered flooring combined with cork, wood, or digital photographic veneers to give a huge range of floors that covers traditional hardwood, natural stone and classic cork aesthetics. This means that you can get the comfort, durability and green bonus points of cork with whatever look you want, be it the elegant linear natural cork pattern of Corkcomfort Reed Meridien (below right), the distinctive tawny grain of Artcomfort Prime Rustic Oak (below left) or the cool deep gray of the Vinylcomfort Coal Slate.
If it sounds like I’m a bit infatuated with Wicanders, well it’s because I am – I just can’t get over the breadth of flooring looks they’ve achieved using cork! If you’re still not convinced about cork, have a look at the fantastic images on the Wicanders’ website: I’d be surprised if you too weren’t converted on the spot!
Globus Cork – Globus bill themselves as the “premier manufacturer of cork floors… [who] pioneered the development of colored cork flooring, matching beauty and function in a sustainable flooring choice”, and it is true that they have an absolutely exemplary record both in terms of product choice and green credentials. Since 2007 Globus have been using “only renewable wind energy for our manufacturing energy needs” and their manufacturing process involves non-toxic water-based colors, adhesives and finishes. Their range is huge: three different textures of tiles come in over 30 colors, more than 20 sizes and any square geometrical shape you can think of! Easily customizable for those with design flair (their website provides no less than 27 pattern ideas for those that don’t), pretty much any design that you’ve seen in ceramic tiles can also be achieved with Globus cork tiles. Plus they have both glue down tiles and floating floor options (note that floating floors are not 100% cork, but fiberboard/cork combination), both of which have been designed to effectively deal with the environmental expansion and contraction that occurs with all natural products.
Capri Cork – A relative newcomer, Capri Cork established in 2006, aims to offer a “fresh approach” to flooring products with its high quality cork and recycled rubber flooring ranges. Cutting-edge green technology works at its best here, particularly with the very interesting AND/ OR rubber cork range – a hybrid floor tile made by combining recycled rubber granules and cork dust, resulting in some unexpectedly fantastically bright colors and textures. And even Capri’s standard 100% cork range Mediterra Cork, with its earthy tones, is unusual in the variety of pattern and texture available. For instance you have the Mediterra Rigato collection which is made with strips of different toned cork; and also worth noting is their offering of the Mediterra ranges in plank format which allows you to create lovely parquet style patterns in cork. Capri Cork has also recently introduced a new Eco-Clicks range constructed in laminated layers and with a tongue and groove system for floating floors. The range currently comes in sixteen color combinations including one called Channel White – a very covetable bleached white cork floor.
USFloors – USFloors pride themselves in specializing in “unique and sustainable’ flooring and have a number of interesting products including cork, bamboo and natural oil finished hardwoods. They have impeccable green credentials: not only do they ensure that their cork is sourced from trusted renewable sources, they also work hard to reduce their environmental and energy footprint at their factory in Georgia in various ways, including using solar power, having energy efficient lighting and even installing low flow toilets for their staff! USFloors currently have five cork flooring ranges – all in generally earthy tones (except for the Custom Almada Pacifico which is a startling gorgeous deep ocean turquoise) – including a glue down cork parquet range, both wide tile and narrow plank ranges and the excellent customizable Almada range. The US Floors website is very comprehensive with detailed information about specifications and installation, and all of US Floors cork flooring are finished with their excellent proprietary Endura AR UV-cured finish. The US Floors cork range is widely available at various retailers across the USA, including Lowe’s. Click here for our reviews of USFloors luxury vinyl COREtec flooring range.
WE Cork – WE Cork boast 5 generations in the business, so you’ve got to believe that they know a thing or two about cork! It’s clear that they do love cork, with a surprisingly diverse range of products, including flooring options, building materials such as cork underlay and insulation, but also fashion and home accessories such as cork made baskets and bags! Their flooring comes in two types. First there’s the Classic Collection, a small but perfectly formed 100% cork range with just four colorways available in both tile and plank formats that can be finished either with wax or varnish. Second there’s the more extensive Floating Floors range comprising four collections of engineered cork and high-density fiberboard layered planks and tiles. The Avant Garde, Timeless and Eco-Nomical Collections all offer what most would call “classic” cork aesthetics in various colors; but the Serenity Collection is particularly interesting because WE Cork have used high definition digital print technology to reproduce hardwood or stone tile aesthetics on a cork substrate, meaning that you get the look of hardwood or stone but with the comfort of cork – neat!
Expanko – This company, part of the Stonhard group, specializes in high quality commercial cork, rubber and cork/rubber mix flooring; they also have a small collection called Vallarex which is a floating cork floor more suited to residential installations and available in six colorways/ looks including the rather beautiful and chic Algarve plank that has an integral rectangular mosaic aesthetic to it. Among their many high-end commercial customers are the Pennsylvania Historical Society, the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Harvard Baker Law Library and Houston Ballet, so you’re in very good company, and clearly in very reliable hands with Expanko. With their Heirloom range, Expanko are unique in offering a 1/2″ (12mm) thick, Class 1 Fire Rated, solid cork floor tile that has excellent performance qualities ideal for commercial installations; and the XCR4 blended recycled rubber and cork flooring is available in a large range of colors and formats so that your floor can be customized entirely to specification.
APC Cork – APC Cork work in conjunction with a specialist Portuguese company called Granorte which was established in 1972 with the express purpose of recycling cork waste from the wine stopper industry. Today, Granorte is one of Portugal’s leading manufacturers of cork flooring, with a focus on creativity and innovation that results in some truly beautiful products. APC Cork carries the full range of Granorte floor that includes five floating cork floor collections and one collection of glue-down cork tiles. One of the selling points at APC Cork is the real breadth of styles and colors available, including marbled/ variegated, mosaic linear and cubed or densely packed natural cork looks. In particular, I like the Gem Collection which has five colorways including the sage green toned Jade and the periwinkle blue toned Spectrolite – great choices for kids bedrooms; and in the glue-down tile collection there is also a great variety of interesting textures and colors, from the swirly terracotta Mirage to the variegated gray/ cream Sky tile.
Home Legend (available at the Home Depot) – Home Legend is one of four brands of engineered cork flooring available at the Home Depot, and to our mind the one that offers the most interesting range of choice. Attractively priced at between $3 -$3.60 per square feet, the range features attractive patterns and textures that will suit most interior design schemes. What caught our eye however, particularly because we haven’t seen them anywhere else, are the two Home Legend “parquet” patterned cork tiles – Herringbone (shown below left) and Basket Weave – where the cork fibers have been arranged and compressed into these classic linear parquet style patterns.
Have you installed any of these cork flooring brands in your home? If so we’d love to hear your personal review of these products, just drop us a line in the comments section below.