Cork is the corked bark of a cork oak. (Great Soviet Encyclopedia).
Today, such a “logically flawless” definition of traffic jams, given in the memorable years by the compilers of TSB, looks at least amusing. Alas, until recently, most of us associated this unique material exclusively with the products of the wine and vodka industry. Moreover, even in this case, attention was paid to his physical qualities only in the absence of a corkscrew, when the stubborn cork “plug” had to be pushed inside with improvised means. What really are cork materials and why today not only winemakers, but also interior designers are not indifferent to them?
To begin with, let us slightly supplement the laconic formulation of the Soviet encyclopedists. About half of the world’s cork – the thick, porous bark of cork oak (quercus suber) – comes from Portugal. The rest of the plantations of this unique tree are scattered throughout the coastal countries of the Mediterranean – Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Spain. For capping amphoras, cork was used in ancient Rome, but its “construction career” began only in the 18th century, when the Portuguese first used cork oak bark as a roofing material..
The cork extraction technology is simple and environmentally “painless”: in some ways it resembles: shearing sheep. Upon reaching the age of 25, oaks on specially grown plantations are manually freed from the bark over the entire surface of the trunk. Paradoxically, this does not affect their life in any way, moreover, after 9 years the trees completely restore the lost cork shell, and the whole simple, but rather tedious procedure is repeated.
What is the appeal of cork for modern manufacturers of finishing materials and designers? In the words of famous advertising, “it’s all about magic bubbles.” The peculiarities of the molecular structure of the cork (more than 85 percent of its volume is occupied by cells filled with gas – nitrogen and oxygen) determines its valuable qualities – lightness, elasticity, elasticity, durability, as well as high heat and sound insulation properties. They make this material indispensable for interior decoration of houses and offices..
Today, a wide range of wall and floor coverings are made from cork, the main supplier of which to the Russian market from Portugal is Wicanders. Their varieties and areas of application should be described in order. Let’s start, as it should be in any construction, from the floor.
Floor coverings made with cork can be divided into two broad categories based on the principle of installation – standard adhesive floors and so-called “floating floors”, which we will discuss a little later. Adhesive floors are square sandwich tiles of 300×300 mm, the basis of which is pressed cork, covered on the front side with decorative cork veneer and a protective layer of transparent polyvinyl (CORC MASTER). The veneer has a natural color or is dyed to look like granite, marble and other natural materials. Available in packs of 11 tiles, the price of a set, depending on the color of the veneer, varies from $ 25 to $ 37. Due to the same thickness (3.2 mm) and multiplicity of sizes, they are perfectly combined with another type of adhesive floors – plates with dimensions 900×150, the front side of which, unlike tiles, is decorated with veneer of valuable wood species – cherry, walnut, rose oak, etc. … (WOOD-O-CORC). The cost of a pack of 10 plates ranges from $ 55 to $ 68. In various combinations, these two types of cork coverings allow, despite the extreme standardization of details, to create your own unique floor design.
In addition to an attractive appearance – the original cork pattern not only emphasizes the natural beauty of the material, but also perfectly matches today’s demand for discreet, abstract interior tones – cork floors also have a number of other advantages that do not depend on the changing fashion. First of all, it is unique strength and elasticity, which distinguish them favorably from other natural and synthetic coatings. These qualities are given to the floors by the interlayer of pressed cork, which, as already noted, has a specific “airy” structure. Under any load, be it a short-term “prick” of stiletto heels or prolonged exposure to heavy furniture on wheels, it absorbs pressure and takes its original shape. It is this design feature that allows Wicanders to provide its customers with a ten-year warranty – fantastic for flooring..
Together with the cushioning, the cork core gives the floor another unusual property. The resilient action of millions of cork cells makes your steps virtually silent. This can be easily verified by throwing a coin or a bunch of keys first on a regular parquet and then on a cork floor. The difference will exceed all your expectations.
Compared to other natural finishing materials, cork floors are also more environmentally friendly. Transparent antistatic coating made of polyvinyl (in medicine it is used to make artificial heart valves) make the cork absolutely harmless for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. As a result, cork floors do not have the annoying odors of other materials, are easy to clean and do not accumulate dust. Most soiling liquids, including ink and machine oil, will not leave a trace on this floor. If you suffer from diseases of the musculoskeletal system, this construction will make your life much easier: when walking, the cork core softens the pressure on the spine and makes steps softer and more elastic.
The latter quality is mostly inherent in floating floors, which occupy a special niche among the rest of the “cork” range due to the unique installation technology. Imagine a floor that, when you move to a new place, you can simply disassemble and take with you, like a carpet or carpet! And this is just one of the many undeniable advantages of floating floors (WOOD-O-FLOOR) over other floor coverings. Let’s make a reservation right away: the concept of “floating” has nothing to do with either “the earth floating away from under your feet” or with the creaking waves of a swollen old parquet board. On the contrary, the effect of elastic, silent recoil with each step resembles simultaneously walking on a thick layer of rubber and a long-haired Persian carpet. This type of floor is called “floating” because the thick 9-mm sandwich plates (900×185), of which it is composed, are not glued with their base to the previous floor, but assembled according to the “thorn-groove” principle with gluing the joints with a special waterproof PVA glue … The structure of the plates is similar to that of adhesive cork floors: with a pressed cork base and decorative wood or cork veneer covered with a protective layer of polyvinyl. Floating floors are available in packs of 6 plates, the cost of a set, depending on the type of veneer, ranges from $ 44 to $ 49.5.
There are few floor coverings that can be installed as quickly and easily as floating floors. You will not need almost any additional processing of the old parquet or linoleum, on which they will be laid. The process of laying does not require special tools and is in many ways similar to making up children’s cardboard “puzzle” mosaics. Thanks to this, one person can lay the floor in a room the size of a decent living room in a day. As a natural material, floating coatings may expand slightly with changes in temperature and humidity. When laying the floor, this should be taken into account, leaving a gap of at least 10 mm along the walls (it will be closed by the plinth). For the same reason, floating floors should not be installed in bathrooms and other places with an abundance of moisture – for all its advantages, cork, even laminated, is extremely sensitive to it. The floor in the office can be installed gradually, moving from room to room, so that work in the adjacent premises will not be interrupted. If the office is rented by you, after the expiration of the lease term, you can transfer such a floor to a new room along with other equipment, having previously disassembled it “in reverse order”.
Now let’s move on from silent floors to the same silent walls. Wall cork coverings are sheets (600x300x3 mm) of agglomerated (crushed and pressed) cork covered with decorative cork veneer. They are available in two versions: polished and with additional impregnation with natural wax (the presence of the latter can be verified by lightly scratching the sheet with your fingertips – a thinnest layer of wax will remain under the nails). Unlike flooring, polyvinyl is not used here – its shine on the walls is not justified for purely aesthetic reasons, and physical activity is practically absent. A variety of cork veneers, as well as the use of dyes, allowed us to create a wide range of wall coverings – over 20 types. All come in 11-sheet packs ranging from $ 21 to $ 40.
Thanks to the same unique structure, cork veneer is practically resistant to aging, does not require special maintenance, and also does not absorb foreign odors, for example, cigarette smoke.
Walls covered with sheets of agglomerated cork have not only good heat and sound insulation qualities (as is the case with cork floors), but also excellent acoustic properties. It is for this reason that cork wall coverings are often used in the interior decoration of recording studios and concert halls. They eliminate echo and, like no other material, reduce noise between floors and rooms. Special cork panels can reduce it by 17-20 decibels. In addition, according to experts, such coatings also have favorable bioenergetic properties, protecting the body from the harmful effects of geopathogenic zones and weakening the level of abnormal radiation.
Cork coverings will give any interior a stylish, unusual look. The natural beauty was appreciated and used in their designs by the designers of such famous buildings as the airport in Gothenburg and the National Library in New York. The cork is used for the Swedish offices of IBM, Ericsson and Volvo, as well as all Ives Rosher offices in Germany. Typically, Germany and Holland annually account for about 40 percent of all cork-based finishing materials produced in the world. In Russia, such coatings have not yet managed to gain such impressive popularity. However, judging by the growing demand for them, our compatriots liked the extraordinary charm of cork, reminiscent of antiquity and, it seems, still keeping the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea.