Cork Floors and Green Design are Divine says HGTV Star Candice Olson

Cork in the bathroom

Cork in the bathroom

Want some green tips from HGTV’s Divine Design Star, Candice Olson?  I bet you do.  Me too!  So when the RealCorkFloors initiative contacted me about an interview with Candice about cork floors, I jumped at the chance.  Who wouldn’t want to learn more from the diva.  She answered several green design questions.  Additionally, Gary Keeble Jr.,  APCOR North America Committee Member, gave me an education about the campaign and everything you would ever want to know about this amazing flooring!

Just so you know, I am very partial to cork since I have it in my basement. I love it and hope that the Q and A below inspires you to buy cork as well.

Candice thinks Green Design and Cork Are Divine

Just a quick aside, Candice designed a 53 foot mobile trailer with multiple cork flooring layouts for APCOR for public preview.  So, she is intimately acquainted with this flooring.

Candice Olson

Candice Olson

What do you think are the top 5 ‘bang for your buck’ green trends for updating the house?

Green design is definitely at the top of my green trend list. Green design is conscientious and economical, and super stylish. Whether in traditional, contemporary or transitional spaces, green design reflects not only practicality and versatility, but also beauty in its materials, like cork – which makes it the perfect choice for today’s interiors. Cork is 50 percent air, which makes it lightweight and highly resilient. It has excellent insulating properties and is warm underfoot, helping you save on your monthly heating bills.

Other green trends that top my list include anything that works to reduce waste – buy furniture that is made from reclaimed wood, re-purpose old furniture by repainting or restoring it, use recycled materials such as carpet tiles to create a new area rug or transform old materials into new home décor pieces. Anything that increases the energy or water efficiency in your home can be a great ‘bang for your buck’ green investment. Install high efficiency windows or low water consumption bathroom fixtures and you will reap the rewards in the long term.

If you are on a limited budget, what are 5 green suggestions?

I always suggest starting by creating a plan. Prioritize your design list so that when you actually spend money, you will spend it wisely and not impulsively. Go shopping in your home first by taking something that’s been in the living room for years and refresh it with paint or a stain, reupholster or a new slip cover. Plan your room arrangement so you know what size furniture, accessories or flooring will fit in the space. Search consignment stores, thrift stores, flea markets or antique stores, this is not only a great way to save money while going green, but it’s also a lot of fun too. And last but certainly not least, add a fresh coat of paint in a new color.

If the sky is the limit, what are your favorite green suggestions?

Solar panels are the perfect splurge!

What is the Real Cork Floor Campaign?

I wondered why all the sudden there was a cork floor campaign.  Cork has been around for a long time.  Gary Keeble Jr.,  APCOR North America Committee Member and Marketing Manager of USFloors answered the following questions:

Why are these companies banding together?

Gary Keebling, Jr.

Gary Keeble, Jr.

The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) commissioned the Real Cork Floors initiative as part of an international campaign to promote the various benefits and features of Portuguese cork. A collective of cork flooring manufacturers and distributors, who are members of the association and are based in North America, support the Real Cork Floors initiative. APCOR was created to represent and promote the Portuguese cork industry. It is an employers’ association, of national scope, founded in 1956 and based in the north of Portugal.

Why didn’t all the cork companies band together.

The eight companies that are currently represented through the campaign, worked with the association to support and launch the campaign. All companies that operate in the fields of production, commerce or export of Portuguese cork products can join the association.

Are these companies the main sellers or manufacturer of cork?

The eight companies that are associated with the Real Cork Floors campaign are some of the larger distributors and manufacturers of Portuguese cork flooring.

Cork in the Living Room

Cork in the Living Room

Last but Not Least, the Picky, Detailed Cork Questions.

We all know cork is beautiful, but don’t you have more questions about maintenance and installation?  So, since I had a cork representative’s ear, I thought I would ask some more detailed questions.

Can you install cork in a bathroom?

Cork is actually great for bathrooms. Cork flooring responds well to water if it is correctly installed. (After all, cork is the most common closure used for wine bottles.) Also, as cork has the natural ability to retain heat, cork flooring provides a warm surface after a hot bath or shower.

There are a few guidelines to follow when installing cork in the bathroom. With a floating cork floor, always ensure the installer uses a silicone seal around the perimeter of the room.  Each plank should also have a bead of glue attaching the edges and ends. If installed with the proper seal, cork flooring is moisture resistant and provides a solid insulation between floors. With it’s natural mold resistant properties, cork helps fight against damage commonly found in bathrooms. A vacuum and broom is all that is needed to keep the floor looking fresh.

There are a lot of companies selling cork.  What should you look for when buying from a cork company?  What are the red flags?

Always buy Portuguese cork! In Portugal, cork is still harvested by hand in the traditional method leaving the habitat intact and with minimal impact on the overall environment. Cork oak trees are never harmed or killed in the harvesting process and in fact, the Portuguese cork oak forests or Montados are one of the most well kept ecosystems in the world. These forests help prevent desertification, fight greenhouse gases and are home to a wild collection of flora, fauna and endangered species. Portugal is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cork, supplying more than half of the annual global production level of 300 thousand tones. What can you do to support this valuable bio-diverse ecosystem? When buying cork flooring ensure that it is sourced in Portugal.

But why Portuguese cork?

There is a real difference between Portuguese cork and cork that comes from other parts of the world, like China. Portugal has been nurturing cork oak forests and manufacturing cork wine stoppers for centuries, so cork is an inseparable part of Portuguese heritage and history. With generation upon generation of cork farmers passing down their time-honored skills in cork harvesting, Portugal has a long-standing history for exceptional craftsmanship in this industry. As a result, Portuguese cork offers a superior grade and quality of cork that is unmatched by regions outside the Mediterranean. Moreover, Portugal has some of the world’s strictest eco-standards and regulations when it comes to cork oak forests and its harvesting and product processes. Knowing this, consumers can feel good knowing they have chosen the world’s best, most eco-efficient cork when they choose Portuguese cork.

Please note that APCOR’s position is not to point to the faults of other cork producers in the world, but rather explain the difference by talking about how Portugal manages this industry.

Do they all sell cork for all places in the house including basements?

Cork flooring is well suited for any room in the house and can be installed below grade, over concrete and even over existing floors. Cork flooring performs very well in basements because its durable, a non-conductor of heat and cold, mildew, rot and mold resistant and it is easy to clean and maintain.  However, as it pertains to basement installation, due to a risk of moisture migration from the concrete slab, a moisture barrier is required for cork flooring. Floating floors only require a moisture barrier and glue down cork tiles require both a moisture barrier and a plywood sub-floor or MDF backing.

Do any of them sell formaldehyde free cork plank or floating floor for basements?

There are hundreds of retailers in the United States that carry cork flooring with a core board material (MDF) that is formaldehyde free. Look for retailers who carry Wicanders, USFloors, WE Cork, Qu-Cork and Expanko brands of cork flooring. You will be able to find a list of local retailers that offer Portuguese cork flooring from one of the 5 companies listed above. All of our partners carry Portuguese cork flooring that includes formaldehyde-free MDF cores. Here are a list of companies, with links to their manufacturer’s websites , there you will find information on how they are all eco-conscious and formaldehyde free, many of them satisfying LEED credits for Rapidly Renewable Resources, Recycled Content, and Low Emitting Materials under the LEED Rating System.

I found cork to scratches easily (the finish).  Can your refinish?  If so, how?  And how do you make sure in heavy traffic areas that the finish does not scratch?  I found my wood floors are doing better than my cork.

There are many examples of cork flooring that have stood the test of time, including 200 year old floors in the US Library of Congress and in architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous design, Fallingwater in Pennsylvania. Most recently, over 21,000 square feet of beautiful cork flooring was laid down in one of the most popular monuments in the entire world, The Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

In your home, your cork floors can last for years with basic care and maintenance. For cork floors that are sealed with an acrylic finish, a new coat of polyurethane will make the floor look new again and prolong its lifespan. The entire floor will need to be gently abraded and thoroughly cleaned before applying one or two coats of high quality water based polyurethane. Under normal use in a residential environment, a urethane finish should last between 8 – 10 years between refinishing.

Cork flooring that has been finished with curable oil or hardwax oil will be cared for through spot application of maintenance products to high traffic areas only. Provided the finish is properly maintained, it will not be necessary to strip and refinish an oiled cork floor.

To maintain your cork floors and minimize wear and tear in high traffic areas, place good mats at all doorways to wipe dirt, gravel and grime from shoes. Gravel, sand and other hard dirt particles can damage floors over time. Use felt pads or sliders on furniture, especially chairs and other items that move around.

Typically, what is the cost per square foot?  A range would be good.

It depends on the retailer but generally speaking cork flooring can range in cost from $6.00 to $15.00 per square foot.

Join the Conversation!

  • Thoughts about this flooring?
  • Would you install cork flooring after you read this article
  • Do you love Candice Olson like I do?
  • Did you ever think green design could be so hip?

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