Cork in Beaumont, TX
With all the talk of being eco-friendly at work, play, travel and even in how we dress and eat, it's surprising that we hear so little about how the floors we walk on every day can contribute to sustainable living practices. Perhaps that's because our standards are more personal when it comes to where we entertain our guests, tromp in dirt and snow from outside endeavors, and watch our babies go from crawling to toddling to teenage romping on the floors beneath us. Choosing a floor that stands up to our lives while giving proper homage to Mother Earth is a bit easier now that designers have dusted off the now-retro trend of cork flooring from the 1960s and 70s.
Known by some as the "lifestyle flooring," cork earns this moniker by having an ultra-sleek aesthetic, while also being lightweight, hypoallergenic, sound and shock absorbent, and resistant to insects, fire, mold and rot. A cork floor springs back naturally when you step on it, making it easy on your feet and spine when standing for long periods of time while working, cleaning, cooking or exercising. It holds up to generations of use, from baby strollers to grandma's wheelchair, while soaking up the sound of brother Billy's bodacious band practicing in the garage.
The sustainable part comes from the fact that evergreen oak cork trees live up to two centuries, and their bark is harvested over and over to make the cork used in flooring and wine stoppers. It takes care of itself when left to regenerate after each harvest season, making it a naturally renewable resource. It can also be stained with natural dyes to achieve the look you want, without harmful chemicals polluting the indoor air that your family breathes day and night. Another superpower secret is that cork contains an natural waxy material called suberin that thwarts the movement of water and buildup of mold and mildew.
A cork floor is easy to install, with many manufacturers providing peel-and-stick versions for instant application. Some cork floor products come pre-sealed, but they can get scratched over time and require sealing every few years.
Most cork comes from Portugal and northwest Africa. It isn't the cheapest option out there, but it's not the most expensive either – which lets you factor in the benefits and determine which way the scale tips.