Cork - Composition and Production
Cork flooring is manufactured from cork which is a natural product. There is no man made material that can match cork, nor is one likely to replace it. Cork flooring is very resilient. It possesses a unique ability to adapt to various climatic conditions as well as hold up under the highest traffic.
Cork's cellular structure is very similar to that of a honeycomb: each square centimeter is composed of millions of cells. These cells are filled with a gaseous mixture similar to air. This remarkable structure and unique composition leads to the three most important characteristics in its application as flooring: thermal insulation, elasticity and sound reduction.
Cork is made from the bark of the cork oak tree. It is a renewable and sustainable resource making it a very environmentally friendly product. In cork oak plantations, the first cork bark is not harvested until a tree is 25 - 30 years old, and harvesting is done carefully by hand to ensure the health of individual trees. After harvesting, the bark of the cork oak re-grows completely, with a smoother texture after each harvest. Due to strict regulation, the individual cork oak is harvested only once every nine years. The cork oak itself can live for 150 - 200 years well after multiple harvests.
The process of manually stripping off the bark in sections is a tradition that dates back centuries. Cork is harvested from the cork oak tree that is grown primarily in only seven countries around the Western Mediterranean basin including Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Portugal with 30% of the cork trees in the world is the largest producer of cork today. Cork flooring is now available in even greater quantity with a diverse choice of colors and finish.
Cork flooring is actually a secondary product of the cork wine-stopper manufacturing process, a process which wastes none of the cork which is harvested. High pressure and heat is applied to grind cork granules, making a large block of cork. This process enables production of cork underlayment, cork planks, cork tiles or cork sheets in both unfinished and prefinished types. These products are now available for use as underlayment, crack suppression, plank or tile floors.