Eco-friendly or 'green' living is gaining in popularity every month. As the planet's natural resources dwindle and disappear, 'green' options use less fossil fuels to manufacture and often are recycled or recyclable material. Today, cork and bamboo are the two most common gree flooring options available.
Using cork in floors is not new by any means. Commonly used in churches and libraries since the early 20th century, cork is gaining popularity as a renewable, eco-friendly and renewable flooring material.
Cork is a layer of bark of the cork oak tree, or Quercus suber, that is harvested only once every nine years. The inner layer of bark is left in place, allowing the tree to continue to thrive and grow another layer of cork.
The material used in floors is the remaining cork after bottle stoppers and bottle cap padding are produced, called post-industrial waste. The remaining cork is boiled and ground, then mixed with an adhesive and rolled.
Cork floors also aid sound suppression, naturally insulate and resist fire. Cork also provides natural padding; it sinks slightly under weight, helping to avoid shin splints and joint aches. Because of the stress relief it provides, cork is included in the two most often used floor materials in home and commercial gyms.
Cork can be used as a top or finished surface or as an underlayment to other surface materials. If intended as a finished layer, pieces of dried bark, wood chips and other color- and texture-contrasting materials are often included to present eye-catching designs and durability.
With proper care, cork can last four to five times longer than vinyl and continue to provide reasonable water-resistant properties handy in kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.
Bamboo is another green flooring option. Whether solid-all bamboo-or engineered-bamboo mixed with layers of plywood, bamboo is renewable, versatile and eco-friendly.
If the bamboo is fully mature, it provides greater water and mold resistance, but it is not naturally completely water-resistant. Care must be taken to promptly clean spills and avoid high-humidity areas, such as porches, laundry rooms and bathrooms. If exposed for long period or frequently to moisture, the bamboo can crack or buckle.
Bamboo is easily stained in natural wood grains and colors, called direct print bamboo, prior to pressing together, providing green flooring to any decor. Regular and direct print bamboo are harder materials than carbonized bamboo-that which is allowed to boil until the sugars carbonize, giving the bamboo a darker natural color.
This natural source also provides a variety of pattern installation options. Checkerboard patterns, diagonals or straight lines can create unique room atmospheres and appearances. A soft material, however, protect the bamboo floor from heavy furniture and high heels to maintain its longevity and quality.
With proper moisture-related care, bamboo can last longer than many hardwood floors, simply because it's flexible. Wood cracks and chips more easily than the flexing bamboo, and each impact point on wood can leave a permanent gouge much more easily than on bamboo.