Amorim’s Wicanders CorkPlank, in Traces Spice.

Cork flooring is in a growth mode thanks to efforts like the recently completed Décor(k) Tour, an event hosted by the Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) featuring a mobile showroom, which visited 16 cities across the U.S. Additionally, the green nature of the product is drawing in architects and designers who are specifying cork flooring for LEED points.

Qu-Cork’s Midnight Slate, pictured in an installation at this year’s New York Fashion Week.

Tim Tompkins, Amorim Flooring N.A.’s national marketing director, said people are excited about cork flooring for another reason as well: its unique looks. “The interesting thing that cork offers residentially is newer and different surface textures and veneers that give a different appearance than engineered hardwood flooring,” he said. “We can make cork [look] like bamboo, or stone, or many other things.” Tompkins noted that consumers are gravitating toward sizes similar to hardwood plank, at 5 1/2” by 48.”

Tira Cinzento is part of USFloors’ Almada collection.

The commercial side is more likely to specify cork tiles. However, he predicts that there were will soon be some crossover between the segments. “What is coming on the residential side is faux stone and tile looks. These designs haven’t been exposed yet to the extent that they have on the commercial side,” he said.

Gary Keeble, Jr., USFloors’ marketing manager, agrees that better looks can help bring the product into more homes. “When you add things like beveled edges and interesting formats, cork flooring becomes more of a design product and less of a utility product,” he said.

Timeless Baroque, from WE Cork.

He added that the company expects its commercial sales to grow in the next 12 to 18 months, as the company’s USFContract division focuses on bringing out new products, including additions to the Cork Décor program.

According to Randy Gillespie, Expanko’s owner, commercial cork options are starting to move away from engineered floating floors and returning to traditional, glue-down formats.

“There has been a push back from the design community to produce glue-down floors with more stability,” he explained. “They are also not looking so much for wild, fancy patterns, but something more like the traditional cork installations that have lasted for 100 years.”

APC Cork offers a wide range of cork flooring products.

At NeoCon last month, the company launched its Heritage series, a line of 12 mil cork flooring in 12” by 12” and 24” by 24” tiles, in light, medium and dark colors. Gillespie said these products are inspired by “the same material used in those installations that are 100 years old.” He added that the collection will offer an extended warranty “beyond the usual 10 years.”

He feels the product will also bridge well into residential because it offers many options. “You can be creative with it, and create checkerboards, herringbones and brick patterns. You can do custom cuts; it’s basically like having a piece of wood, but with all of the benefits of cork.”

Ann Wicander, WE Cork president, said it is hard to pinpoint any one trend in the segment. “Our beveled Timeless Collection, which includes tiles and planks in a floating floor format, is doing very well in the marketplace. We also see value products taking hold. While we offer some glue-down products, but by far the floating floors are what people are choosing.”

An installation of Expanko’s Heritage cork flooring at the Pennsylvania Historical Society.

She noted that it is important to demystify cork flooring for retailers so they are better equipped to sell it. To that end, the company is launching a Learning Program, which includes a PowerPoint presentation, flipchart/PDF, and an online video component.

“The program is supported by installation videos on our website for both our floating floors and glue-down,” Wicander said. “Everyone wants a warm, quiet floor and the attributes that cork offers. We put this program together so everyone can learn more about cork, from selling to installation, the whole nuts and bolts.”

She said that these types of efforts can help transition cork flooring out of being a niche product into something a little more mainstream. “I just came from a trip in Canada where cork is very prevalent and accepted. On the other hand, I was recently at a home show in Atlanta where about 60 percent of attendees didn’t seem to realize you could walk on cork. We’re so close to the segment, that sometimes we’re baffled by the fact that not everybody knows about it.”