Cork is a popular choice for use in the home. The look is unique, since each piece is natural right off the tree. It has a warm look, and there is a little give underfoot making it comfortable to walk on. It is durable and has great insulating properties. Cork is sustainably grown and harvested, is biodegradable, and lets off no emissions, making it eco-friendly. It is versatile used in walls, flooring, countertops, furniture and insulation.
Cork’s water resistant qualities make it a good choice for areas where there is water, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Should you use cork as your bathroom floor?
I say yes!
Natural and sustainable
Cork is the bark of the cork oak, native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe and northern Africa. It is the only tree that can have the bark removed without killing it. This allows it to be repeatedly harvested every nine years.
It goes through very little processing to make tiles, rigid insulation, countertops, flooring and, well, corks! When you buy cork for your home, it is 100% natural.
Cork contains a waxy substance called suberin, which makes it naturally resistant to water, bugs, bacteria, mold and mildew. It is the perfect material for a damp spot. Suberin also makes cork hypoallergenic.
Small air pockets make cork resilient. If you have bad knees or a bad back, cork is a good choice for flooring instead of concrete, because there is a little give to it. Those air pockets also make it a good insulating material, so cork floors feel warm.
Because cork is natural, there are no toxic emissions from it. It is probably the best material to use for good indoor air quality.
Cork tiles are installed on a subfloor. VOC-free glue should be used to reduce toxic emissions. The surface is sealed with a water-based polyurethane, which emits few or no toxic gasses. The sealant closes up the seams between the tiles. It is important that water not be allowed to get under the tiles, so sealing is very important and must be done thoroughly. Silicone is put around the edges where the floor meets the wall again to protect from excessive water getting under the tiles.
Cork is also made into planks for a floating floor. A thin layer of the material is put on a backing, and pieces are snapped together with a tongue-and-groove system. A vapor barrier below and seam sealant on top will prevent moisture build-up.
A cork floor is very low maintenance once installed. Go over it with a dry mop for cleaning, and reseal it every 5 years or so. If you have a busy family with children, you might consider a small area rug in front of the sink to avoid excessive water getting on the floor.
Drawbacks and Benefits
Excessive water and high humidity are the main drawbacks of cork, but if it is installed properly and sealed well, they should not be an issue. Get a professional to do the job, and be sure there are a warranty on the product and a guarantee on workmanship.
The benefits outweigh the drawbacks, though. Cork is sustainable and 100% natural, it resists water, mold, mildew and bugs, it is easy to replace single tiles if need be, it has great acoustic qualities that also give it resiliency, and it’s warm in feel and in look. It’s beautiful and unique. I can’t see any reason to not use it in a bathroom!