Something's Afoot: Cork and Bamboo

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As wood floors are becoming standard in many new homes — rather than pricey upgrades or risky features from a sales and resale standpoint — unusual materials are becoming more popular as well.

June 01, 2002

 

Many new home buyers are floored by cork’s benefits.

As wood floors are becoming standard in many new homes — rather than pricey upgrades or risky features from a sales and resale standpoint — unusual materials are becoming more popular as well. National Wood Flooring Association president David Williams says cork and bamboo are two of the more requested floor coverings aside from the usual oaks and maples.

Actually, cork is oak — the ground-up and reconstituted wood pulp from the bark of a specific type of oak tree from Spain. The pulp is formed into squares and held together with a binder. The color of the tiles is decided by how long the tiles are heated. Usually finished with wax, cork is popular for its sound-deadening capabilities, no-skid characteristics and environmental advantages (trees are not cut down during harvesting).

Bamboo, a fast-growing grass that grows in stalk form, is native to China. Flat strips are milled from the core of the stalk, boiled in a boric-acid solution, kiln-dried, sanded and laminated together.

“Because it is laminated like plywood, bamboo doesn’t expand and contract with changes in temperature and moisture,” Williams says. “Therefore gaps, cupping and warping are less likely to form.”

The NWFA recommends these general installation guidelines and techniques to ensure quality:

 

 

 

 

  •  Check for moisture in the subfloor, the adhesive and the air. Cork reacts to moisture and should be installed in the least humid conditions possible.

     

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  •  Double-check the subfloor for imperfections before installation as cork and bamboo, like vinyl, can transfer bumps or imperfections on the subfloor to the surface.

     

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  •  Bamboo is typically very smooth, so sanders should not use rough grit, nor should bamboo be sanded against the grain.

     

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  •  Any quality hardwood floor finish can be used over new cork or bamboo. If using a water-based finish, use sparingly because excess moisture could cause the tiles to lift.
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