By Gary Keeble, LEED AP

Before it was used as a flooring material, natural cork had a long and distinguished history as an agricultural product. In ancient times, cork bark was used to for sandal soles, food storage containers, and floats for fishing nets. There are mentions of cork and its uses in ancient documents and literature from as far back as 400 BC. The development of agglomerated cork in the 19th century led to the use of cork as a flooring material. In addition to residential applications, cork flooring could be found in schools, public spaces and businesses. Cork flooring remained popular until the 1950’s when other flooring materials such as vinyl and linoleum emerged. However, cork is once again back in favor as a floor covering as consumers, seeking more environmentally friendly flooring materials, are also discovering the performance and aesthetic benefits of cork.

Today, cork flooring is created primarily from the post-industrial by-product of the bottle-stopper industry. This ‘waste’ material is ground up and then formed into sheets using minimal amounts of adhesive to bind the particles together under high pressure. The size, quantity, and type of cork granule in conjunction with varying degrees of pressure make the difference between “bulletin board” material and material suitable for flooring applications. Natural cork floors combine the best characteristics of hard surface and soft surface flooring.

USFContract’s Cork Décor from Natural Cork® takes traditional cork flooring and adds extreme durability to create a collection of eco-friendly flooring designed to perform in the most demanding commercial applications. What sets Cork Décor apart from traditional cork flooring is its uniquely engineered finish. Cork Décor is finished with Endura AR+ Nano™, an advanced generation surface coating incorporating nano-technology to produce durability ratings not typically found in traditional cork floors. The high performance attributes are achieved by applying an acrylic nano bead lacquer finish to the surface of the vinyl clad cork core. The nano beads are embedded into the top layer to provide improved scratch, scuff, stain, and slip resistance. Cork Décor also utilizes Acrodur®, a water based binder that significantly reduces the level of emissions without compromising the technical performance of the floor. The vinyl backing provides dimensional stability and strength to the Cork Décor tiles making it highly resistant to tearing and moisture.

Natural Cork® Cork Décor Tiles are certified by the very stringent GreenGuard® Children and Schools Indoor Air Quality certification program for low emitting interior building materials, furnishings, and finish systems. GreenGuard Children & Schools Certified products can also be used as a strategy to earn valuable credits in the CHPS Best Practices Manual for K-12 schools, U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System, Green Guide for Healthcare, NAHB Green Building Guidelines, Green Globes, Regreen and many other local green building codes.