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Cork Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of most cork floors begins in Portugal and the Mediterranean Basin region, where cork oak trees are primarily grown. Examining a particular product's lifecycle is essential for properly determining its carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Everything from the materials used to the recycling of the product at the end of its life is significant. Fortunately, cork flooring is one of the greener products as it's made using sustainable materials and can be reused at the end of its life. Use this section to learn more about the process, transport and manufacture of cork floors.

Featured Cork Products

Origin of cork flooring:

Globe or Earth image representing Origin

The material that's used in the manufacture of cork flooring is actually the bark of the cork oak tree. Cork oak trees are primarily grown throughout the Mediterranean Basin–about a third of it in Portugal. The majority of cork products are manufactured in Europe.

How cork flooring is transported:

Frieghter illustration representing shipment of product

Cork flooring is transported by boat as well as trucks. It is, however, relatively lightweight, which makes shipping fairly efficient.

How cork flooring is processed:

Factory illustration representing the production process

The bark of cork trees is stripped every 9 or 10 years, without harming the trees. After it is allowed to weather outside, the bark is cleaned, ground and mixed with resins (binders). It is then compressed into blocks and baked in an oven. The colors of the cork blocks are determined during this process; the longer the cork is baked, the deeper the color will be. Granules that range in light and dark tones are often added to the cork prior to the baking process in order to naturally alter the overall color of the cork. After the cork is baked, it is then shaped into flooring tiles or planks.

How cork flooring is installed:

Illustration of tools representing installation

Cork tiles and planks should be allowed time to acclimate (or adjust) to the environment where it will be installed. This could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the manufacturer's recommendations. Cork tiles typically are glued to well–prepared subfloors. Some come with pre–applied adhesives, but if they are not installed within a specific period of time, additional adhesives are required. VOC–free* and eco–friendly adhesives are available for cork installation.

Cork planks can be fit together with tongue–and–grooves or click–lock applications.

*VOCs or volatile organic compounds are carbon–based compounds that can be found in certain flooring and floor materials. VOCs are believed to induce allergy–like symptoms, asthma irritation and even increased cancer risk.

Disposing of cork flooring:

Green Recycle Symbol

Cork flooring cannot be recycled at the end of its useful life, but it is considered biodegradable.