From carpet to sheet vinyl, to laminate and hand scraped hardwood, flooring retailers are always on the lookout for the “Next Big Thing”. Recent research indicates that the “Next Big Thing” may be the “Next Big Green Thing”.

According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s New Sustainability Initiative, the green building market is growing at a rate of 23% per year and green flooring will become the fastest growing segment of the green building market by 2011. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trend Survey of 500 firms concentrating on residential architecture, “The demand for sustainable materials and solutions continues to rise” and 61% indicated their clients would pay more for renewable flooring.

The flooring industry has several options that fit this category, but none have the unique combination of features and benefits that cork flooring provides. Cork is the only flooring surface that performs like hard surface flooring AND has the warmth and comfort of soft surface flooring. And, cork is one of the most renewable and sustainable floor coverings available today.

Cork trees are relatively slow growing and found throughout the coastal regions of the Mediterranean. Cork is actually the bark of the cork tree and is harvested by hand-peeling the bark away from the tree using centuries old techniques. This does not hurt the tree and actually helps it to thrive. The initial harvest occurs at 25 years of maturity and the cork bark can be re-harvested every 9 to 11 years. It’s typical for a cork tree to still be producing cork bark after 200 years of age. The harvested cork is used for stoppers for wine bottles. The post-industrial cork granules from this process are then graded. The premium grade granules are used for flooring while lesser grades are used for other products such as cork boards.

Cork flooring has a unique visual surface, with distinctive patterns and textures, and a combination of features and benefits not found in other flooring types. Cork flooring is:

  • Durable and extremely resilient
  • Easy to maintain. Regular maintenance is similar to a hardwood floor.
  • Warm and comfortable underfoot – you’re literally walking on air!
  • Fire resistant and does not spread flame
  • A thermal and acoustical insulator that helps reduce energy consumption AND absorb sounds and noise.
  • Resistant to termites.

Technologies are continually improving and manufacturers today are offering a wide array of sizes, colors and finish options to make cork flooring a suitable choice for just about any room in the home as well as for many commercial applications. Cork styling is showing a trend toward wider width tiles and narrow planks in widths similar to hardwood flooring planks, with growing interest in bold and exotic designs.

As more and more consumers learn about cork flooring, it could very well be the “Next Big Thing” in flooring. Are you ready for it?

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