An installation featuring Cork Direct flooring.

Gordon Lewis, spokesperson for Cork Direct, said he was introduced to the durability of cork flooring nearly 15 years ago, when he worked as a museum director near Atlanta. For a photography exhibit, the museum needed flooring that could withstand the weight of extremely heavy sculptures that would be placed in the room along with the photos.

“The cork’s resistance was amazing,” Lewis remembered. “There was almost a ton of sculpture sitting in one place on a couple of planks of flooring, but it left no mark whatsoever.”

From that experience, Lewis delved deeper into the cork flooring business. For another job, in which he had to choose a floor that wouldn’t significantly off-gas and potentially damage sensitive archived manuscripts, he said he chose cork once again.

“We did a lot of testing to check the off-gassing. We tested five sources of cork and ended up with Cork Direct in part because of the way the MDF was treated,” he said. “Cork Direct wasn’t using formaldehyde in the glue. Because cork is porous, it’s going to permit off-gassing of whatever is below it, so it was very important to us the product did not contain formaldehyde.”

“We were also very impressed by Cork Direct’s Monocoat finish,” Lewis added. “It’s an all natural, oil-based finish derived from plants, and has no VOCs.”

Cork Direct offers a full range of cork flooring, in floating floor planks, parquet tile and underlayment. Planks are available in 36” by 12” by 1/2” sizes. Parquet is available in 12” by 12” by 3/16” sizes. The flooring line is offered in 12 patterns. Underlayment is offered in both sheets and rolls. For more information,

Lewis acknowledged that while not every cork user is looking to install the flooring in a museum, many are using it in installations ranging from exercise rooms to convalescent homes for its durability and resilience.

“Cork is great when you need a smooth floor with deep resilience,” Lewis noted. “Anytime there is a lot of jumping up and down, or applying a lot of shock, good cork flooring is great at absorbing that.”–Michael Chmielecki

Cork: How green is it?

Gordon Lewis noted that while cork is an environmentally sound product in its natural state, marketers often pump up the green attributes of cork without admitting to a particular fact.

“What marketers continually omit when they talk about safely harvesting cork bark from a tree is that the bark must be harvested every 10 years or so or it kills the tree,” he said.

“In its natural state, cork is resistant to bugs and mildew,” Lewis noted. “However, what happens to cork when it’s made into flooring is another story. Cork can be baked, compressed, even turned into a slurry. And these processes are going to significantly change the attributes of the product.”

His advice: “Research before you buy. Cork has become a commodity recently because a lot of it isn’t cork in the true sense of the word anymore. Cork now embodies a wide range of hybrid products, reflecting a wide range of product quality.” –M.C.