It can be said that the U.S. marketshare for cork flooring is still fairly small. However, cork is starting to appear in everything from corporate boardrooms to bedrooms all across the country. Part of the growing popularity may be a result of its properties as one of the most sustainable floorcoverings on the market.
The new trendy flooring commonly known as Cork floors are made of the ground up leftovers from the bottle stopper industry, most of which is based in Portugal. And cork, which is actually produced from the bark of the cork oak tree, is a totally green product as products go. Cork flooring is classified as a rapidly renewable resource, and is fast gaining a reputation as valuable asset for green construction. Each cork oak tree can have its bark harvested every nine years.
In the last few years, has been widely accepted in Europe. Statistics report that in Germany alone, 60 million square feet of Cork are purchased annually. Equal per capita sales in the U.S. would require sales of 225 million square feet, which would represent at least 20 fold increase. Traditions and product awareness are making a tremendous difference.
"In Europe cork floors have been mass produced for 350 years, but in the U.S. it's been about a hundred," said Randy Gillespie, one of the owners of cork flooring producer Expanko. "In the U.S. it's been more of a fad. Also, no (homogenous) cork production is done in the U.S., so it's a little more difficult to market it and support it domestically."
Cork sales, will be most likely to hold up fairly well, given the growing interest in green building and the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program. In addition, cork has truly captured people's imaginations. Designers across the United States love it. the texture has intricate and detailed feel and look, yet creates a quality rich look unlike any other flooring. New designs and constructions have been able to keep cork sales dynamic. It is reported that a larger number of producers are even creating hybrids using cork and rubber.
"In a commercial setting, we see it becoming more accepted and widely used," Gillespie said. In addition to its sustainability characteristics, cork is also softer than other hard surfaces and deadens noise.
In addition, Dossche said, cork that's constructed with high density veneers and finished with quality UV or ceramic coatings can handle high traffic areas.
Dossche has indicated that cork flooring can become widely used in homes and commercial settings in the not too distant future. With the dramatic increase in urban lofts and apartments, Cork tiles and floating floors are are here to stay.