Green flooring – Cork

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[I typically write about green real estate trends and haven’t written about specific green products.  Since I’ve been asked, I’m going to occasionally write about products or materials I think are worth your consideration.  This is the first installment with that in mind].

In the quest to go green, flooring has become an increasing interest to home buyers/renters who are attracted to making sustainable choices. A popular option available for sustainable flooring is cork flooring. Cork is beautiful, durable, comfortable and offers a resilient alternative to traditional floors.  Cork is truly a renewable resource as it is made by removing the bark of the Cork Oak. The Cork Oak is the only tree able to regenerate after harvest, without harming the tree itself. The bark can be re-harvested every 9-10 years without damaging the tree.

Some of the benefits of cork include:

  1. It’s extremely durable.  Most people think of cork as being as soft as wine bottle corks.  Cork flooring is a tough material and can withstand day-to-day foot-traffic.  There are cork floors over 50 years old in homes in Scotland that are still in good shape.
  2. It’s hypoallergenic and resistant to the mold and mildew commonly associated with other types of flooring.  Thus it’s a great choice (and good selling point) for people with small kids and pets.
  3. Cork is comfortable to walk on and provides a nice ‘spring’ underfoot.  If you’ve never walked on cork you should check it out.  It’s got a nice give to it without being too ‘springy’.
  4. Cork is a good insulator and is resistant to temperatures.  It stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  5. Cork is easy to install and comes in planks or tiles.  Any flooring contractor can put it in.

Once of the reasons I recommend cork to client so often to clients is that it’s perceived as an upgrade over other types of flooring.  While perceived as an upgrade it costs about as much as wood, tile or carpet. It’s a great alternative to put down in kids rooms, playrooms, etc.  Since it comes in so many colors you can really customize the look and feel of the room with cork.

It’s also truly renewable in that the Cork Oak tree doesn’t need to be cut down in order to get the cork.  Bamboo, while seen as a renewable resource (because it grows so fast) still needs to be cut down to be harvested.  Thus, cork is a better environmental solution.  It usually costs less than bamboo as well.

All in all, cork floors can be a great solution for you if you’re looking for green flooring.  Since it is the peeled bark from a tree it’s arguably one of the most sustainable flooring materials you can buy.  If you own rental properties you should consider cork since it’s relatively cheap, doesn’t need to be replaced often, is very durable and is the healthiest choice in terms of flooring.  All of which can work to help you gain a premium on your property whether you are renting it or selling it.

As I said, I’ll continue to do quick articles like this on green materials or methods that would make sense for real estate investors.  If there are any in particular you’d like to see, please let me know.  Thanks..

Photo: Alex Lomas

About Author

I help real estate investors increase profits and property values through a variety of green strategies. I help clients find hidden rebates, tax incentives and credits to maximize returns on any property.


  1. I’m not so sure that cork is really a green or sustainable option. Cork is only grown in a few specific areas and extracting the material reduces the natural habitat. i.e. Iberian Lynx. The wine world is going to Stelvin enclosures for this very reason. I’d love to see some additional data that supports this as a sustainable material.

  2. Joseph Smyrna on

    Frankly, I love the fact that cork is so sustainable. I’d imagine it would be a great surface for many people who want a warm and soft floor. Heck, I’d love pretty much anything over bamboo. I’ve never seen a product so loved yet so misunderstood. Yes, it’s sustainable, but the fact that so many natural forests are clear cut to make way for bamboo plantations in asia is disheartening to say the least. I’ve also been told by a friend who sells flooring that they use toxins in their glues. How that stuff can be called “green” is beyond me. Anyways, I’ll have to take a look at cork to see how it looks in person.

    • I agree with your comments about bamboo. To me, bamboo is ‘least worst’ of wood products available. So, if a client absolutely has to have wood floors/cabinets, then bamboo is the way we go. hopefully this trend will continue to drop. Thanks for the comment..jim

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