Cork Flooring Adds Historic Warmth to Home Remodel

In Refinished Wood Floors Bring New Life to Historic Home, we mentioned that Jennifer Morrow discovered pressboard floors when Classique Floors + Tile came in to in to take up the old carpet in the upstairs rooms of her historic McMinnville, Oregon home. Since pressboard can’t be refinished into usable wood floors, she chose another surface instead. Her choice for that other surface? Cork flooring!

>> See How a Flooring Remodel Transformed an Historic McMinnville, Oregon Home

Here are details and before & after images so you can see for yourself how warm and welcoming these rooms become with cork floors.

Why Choose Cork Flooring?

Cork is an ideal flooring option from multiple perspectives.

From an environmental perspective, cork is recyclable and “green,” because trees aren’t cut down to harvest it. As a result, cork has earned the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council certification) for forest management.

According to The Benefits of Cork Flooring,

“As a building material, cork has little negative impact on the environment. The harvesting practices are sustainable, for one thing. A tree must be at least 25 years old before its bark can be harvested; after that, cork can be harvested every eight to 14 years without killing the tree. Cork trees can live up to 800 years, but the typical life span is 150 to 200 years.”

Furthermore, cork offers significant benefits to homeowners, such as:

  • Cork has more give, making it easier to walk on and softer on the joints which reduces fatigue.  It has actually been proven to be better for your posture.
  • Cork’s built-in thermal insulating properties can generate energy savings, making cork a truly economical choice.
  • Cork floors are naturally stain resistant, scratch resistant and safe, thanks to their non-slippery surface.
  • Cork is also extremely hygienic, hypo-allergenic, insect-resistant, sound-resistant, moisture-resistant and warm to the touch, making it a great choice for kids and barefoot-prone adults.

Jennifer liked the idea of cork flooring for its warmth and historic feel. She also appreciated how environmentally friendly it is, how it can deaden sound and how it looks with old woodwork.

Choose cork flooring for its warmth and historic feel.

The image above with the semi-circular window was formerly Jennifer’s office. Notice the ugly sub-floor. As we mentioned, when the old carpet was stripped off, Jennifer discovered pressboard – a natural for cork.

So Many Cork Design Options to Choose From!

From a design perspective, cork is truly versatile! It can look like stone, leather, ceramic and metal.

Although traditionally associated with brown and beige patterns, cork offerings have expanded to offer you choices in a range of colors and textures, the likes of which you have likely never seen. When you visit Classique Floors + Tile, you’ll find many different cork styles to choose from and the following three options:

  • Planks which are typically used for the glue-less floating floor option that locks together and can be placed over an existing floor.
  • Strips that can mimic the look of hardwood or simply give you more design versatility, allowing you to alternate patterns.
  • Tiles that are typically glued down and are still environmentally safe since there is no off-gassing and no VOCs in the water-based contact adhesive. Tiles also give you design flexibility and can be more easily replaced if one is damaged.

For this historic Craftsman house, built in 1905, Jennifer opted for the more traditional brown and beige color palette in planks.

Here you see the four cork samples she considered.

So Many Cork Flooring Design Options to Choose From!

Jennifer ultimately selected the sample on the far right. She liked the color and tone of that specific selection. The others looked too light or too busy when she considered them in her home. She wanted something soft, natural looking and neutral, and loves the look and the easy upkeep (damp mopping and dusting).

She also really likes how the cork “frames” the refinished hardwood floors, making for a nice transition between the rooms with hardwood floors and the rest upstairs.

What’s Involved When Installing Cork Flooring?

A critical next step for installing cork floors is ensuring that the cork has time to acclimate to the environment in your home. For that reason, the cork need to be delivered at least 48 hours prior to the installation date.

In the image below, you see the packages of cork planks sitting and acclimating before the start of installation.

A critical next step for installing cork flooring is ensuring that the cork has time to acclimate to the environment in your home.

Another important requirement for a successful cork flooring installation is for the subfloor to be flat to within 3/16” in 10’.  If the subfloor has humps and valleys and isn’t flat, the cork planks will “bounce” as you walk across them. Bouncing will compromise the structural integrity of the flooring and the flooring could fail.

When installing a floating cork floor, it’s important to leave 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, depending on the product, around the flooring perimeter so it can expand and contract appropriately with temperature changes. Floors exceeding 30’ in length or width will require an expansion joint. An expansion joint will also be required when transitioning from one room to another.  This is accomplished using a “T” moulding.

If your existing wall base is narrow, you may need to change it to a base that’s wider at the bottom to allow for the expansion gap required. This can also be accomplished by adding base shoe molding to the existing wall base, if the existing base is a straight style.

Some cork manufacturers recommend 6 mil plastic sheeting under their floating cork floors, with overlapped, taped seams and a few inches of plastic up the walls behind the wall base. This helps keep the cork floor from being affected by moisture coming from the crawlspace or other moisture source.

Before installing the planks, it’s necessary to clean and clear the existing flooring surfaces. Installers will set up a table saw close by to custom cut boards. As they install the cork planks, they may use a mallet to properly position the plank grooves, as you can see in the image below.

When installing a floating cork floor, it's important to leave a 1/2 inch around the flooring perimeter so it can expand and contract appropriately.

See How Cork Flooring Transformed these Rooms!

And now for the fun part! How the cork floors added warmth to these rooms.

Jennifer’s former office space

We mentioned earlier that the room with the arched window was Jennifer’s office. Given the pressboard floors, it was covered with cork as you see below. Note the different shades of cork and how this shows this is a floor made from a natural material.

Jennifer's former office space was covered with cork flooring.

Add furniture, curtains and a throw rug to the room, and the effect with cork floors is truly welcoming and cozy!
Add to the room furniture, curtains and a throw rug, and the effect with cork floors is truly welcoming and cozy!

A former side office

The former side office became a sitting room. Look how beautifully the cork works with all of the wood details – doors, refinished floors, baseboard…

Look how beautifully the cork works with all of the wood details - doors, refinished floors, baseboard...

Add wall paint, artwork, furniture and another throw rug to the cork flooring and you have a space perfect for not just sitting, but also thinking, reading, and more.

Add wall paint, artwork, furniture and another throw rug to the cork flooring and you have a space perfect for not just sitting, but also thinking, reading, and more.

You can explore the entire house and learn more about its history by visiting 726 Fourth Wortman House in McMinnville, Oregon.

Are you ready for cork flooring in your home?

How might you transform your home with cork flooring?

We invite you to visit our Portland, Oregon showroom where one of our Classique Floors + Tile project consultants will guide you through everything from initial estimate to product selection to final installation, as we did with Jennifer.

You’ll be delighted, we promise!

Thanks for reading,

Judith

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