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Cork: Combination of technology, natural attributes create durable, quality floors

Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.01.17 PM Although cork floors have gained popularity in the U.S. over the last 100 years, they have actually been in use for well over 300 years in Europe, where the product first originated. In fact, despite cork’s rocky start and reduced usage in the U.S., some cork floors installed in high-traffic areas like government buildings, banks and churches are still in service today, proving its ability to withstand scratches, dents and wear over time.

“The scratch and dent resistance of these floors is evidenced by many buildings from the early 20th century that still have cork floors in excellent condition in spite of their age and high volume of foot traffic,” said Deborah Hardin, chief customer officer, USFloors. “While no floor is bulletproof, cork floors are very durable and will continue to perform for many years after installation.”

While cork is known best for its sustainable and green attributes as well as sound abatement, comfort and warmth underfoot, most people—salespeople, dealers and consumers alike—don’t know that cork’s durability, impact resistance and resilience are key advantages of the category. “When people think about cork they just remember the bulletin boards, but there is an incredible number of solutions with different applications,” said Patrícia Fernandes, public relations and online marketing, corporate marketing department, Amorim Revestimentos.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.00.58 PMOne cause of this common misconception of cork is lack of education and awareness on both the sales and consumer fronts. Most people have not been exposed to modern cork and are unaware of the options that come with a cork floor. Since there have been countless advances in technology in recent years, cork floors offer a variety of finishes, veneers, colors, decors and visuals—all exceedingly durable.

“A majority of the public doesn’t know cork can even be used as a floor unless they are watching HGTV or other similar programming,” said Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork. “It’s not something that crosses the radar very often. It always goes back to education. If a salesperson is nervous about something or doesn’t know too much about a product, he will tend to shy away from it.”

USFloors’ retail training includes a program called “Bustin’ Myths and Takin’ Orders,” which highlights some popular misconceptions of cork and explains in detail the truth behind them. For example, cork’s durability is complemented by its water resistance as the raw material is naturally impermeable, a feature not known to many shoppers.

“USFloors has been on a campaign for the last year to make a concerted effort to educate retail salespeople of the features and benefits of cork so that they will sell this [viable] flooring option with confidence,” Hardin said. “Cork naturally repels water. Think about some of the most common uses for cork: wine bottle stoppers and fishing floats. Both of these applications require that cork will not allow liquid to be absorbed.”

Cork’s durability comes from a combination of natural, inherent attributes with advanced technology. “One of the characteristics Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.01.09 PMof cork is that it has an elastic ‘memory’ and therefore recovers well from compression, very much like how a wine cork stopper being pulled out of a bottle expands,” said Mário Pinho, vice president of sales for North America, Amorim. “Due to its resilient qualities, cork flooring has the ability to bounce back from hard impacts. A durable surface finish further protects the cork and allows for easy maintenance.”

A number of highly durable, scratch-resistant floor covering options available in the hard surface market today are rough on the feet. Not only are cork floors soft underfoot, they are also recommended for people with joint pains or arthritis, without compromising its durability.

Amorim, a pioneer in offering cork-based floors suitable for both residential and commercial high traffic applications with 145 years of experience, recently launched Hydrocork by Wicanders, which offers maximum durability by combining LVT with a cork core. “It also has the unique PressFit vertical installation system that takes full advantage of cork’s inherent properties—flexibility, elasticity and compressibility—functioning exactly like a cork stopper,” Pinho explained. “It is the perfect product for heavy traffic commercial jobs and also for DIY residential applications.”

WE Cork also uses technology to enhance the durability of its cork floors. Its most recent launch, the Serenity collection, is available in both glue down and floating formats and features a high density and new generation of finish technology while retaining cork’s natural cell structure (closed air cells allow for thermal and acoustic insulation). The trifecta results in an AC rating of 5, which surpasses the performance of LVT.

“With this we can offer custom visuals and 10-year warranties with no fading,” Wicander noted. “At the same time it’s still green, comfortable, quiet and extremely dent resistant.”

USFloors’ Endura AR high performance UV-cured aluminum oxide finish provides advanced abrasion resistance for the company’s cork floors. Endura AR protects these floors from everyday wear, making sure they look new after many years of use. “State-of-the-art finishes like Endura AR protect the floor and make it as durable as any prefinished or site-finished hardwood floor,” Hardin said.

While cork does not lose its strength over time, reasonable care needs to be taken regarding furniture and heel protection to ensure that the floor is not damaged, as with all hard surface flooring. Pinho noted that most cork floors are prefinished, meaning they can offer long wear warranties without the need of applying any additional coats on site.

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Cork: Latest looks

Volume 27/Number 24; March 31/April 7, 2014

As environmental awareness spreads throughout both retail and commercial markets, an increasing amount of manufacturers have created products to help meet the needs of green-minded customers and end users. Recently, numerous cork companies have refreshed their offerings to include the latest from the sustainable, fashionable and practical category.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.17.34 AMExpanko

Over the years, the look and feel of classic homogeneous, gluedown cork has evolved through everything from patterned cork to colored cork. Recently, Expanko has noticed a trend toward the use of cork planks, an evolution from the more traditional square tiles.

By utilizing plank dimensions, designers are able to increase the creative possibilities of cork and pay homage to the look of traditional hardwood floors. Expanko has recently added 4- and 6-inch-wide plank dimensions to its Heirloom and Prestige cork lines. The company also offers the option of custom dimensions to suit any project’s needs.

By utilizing plank dimensions for unique designs rather than mixing colors of cork within a single tile, Expanko is able to maintain the inherent structural integrity of cork to create a strong, long-lasting floor.Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.18.06 AM

Wicanders

Following the latest décor trends and maintaining the uniqueness achieved by integrating the Corktech label, Wicanders has introduced a new plank size in the Artcomfort collection and expanded its Vinylcomfort product line.

Artcomfort, which uses the latest optic image technology to reproduce appealing and realistic visuals, now features a longer board at about 6 feet long. The long board is emphasized by four sides of beveling and reinforces the authenticity of the wood planks, creating a more refined atmosphere.

The new board is available in seven wood visuals ranging from light to dark tones. All options are protected with Natural Power Coat (NPC), a highly wear-resistant and eco-friendly top layer that offers a higher standard in wear warranty with up to 20 years of coverage.

In the Vinylcomfort product line, five new visuals have been added with exclusive wood patterns, reflecting the trends in interior design. From natural and light pastel shades to gray and black tones, the new pallet range is available with a 0.3 mm wearlayer for domestic areas in planks measuring approximately 7 inches wide by 4 feet long.Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.18.28 AM

WE Cork

The Serenity Collection from WE Cork is a cork floor with a high definition, 3-pass, digital print technology that reproduces the essence of wood or tile on a cork substrate, offering the best of classic beauty with the resiliency and comfort of cork.

The Serenity Collection allows the end user to use her imagination as any image she can conjure up can be printed with great clarity and vibrancy, turning a cork floor into a truly unique focal point for any space.Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.18.45 AM

USFloors

Over the last six months, USFloors has introduced several new looks in cork from traditional square-edge planks to beveled-edge 18 x 24 tiles to, most recently, digitally enhanced (printed) cork with hardwood plank visuals, representing an expansion of the Cork Canvas collection. Cork Canvas was launched in 2012 as part of USFloors’ Green Island collection with four square-edge, 18 x 24 tiles featuring slate and stone visuals.

This year, the Cork Canvas collection has been updated with four new beveled-edge, 7 x 48 x 10.5 mm hardwood plank decors in an engineered locking construction with the 2G CorkLoc profile.

Digitally enhanced Cork Canvas takes a sustainable Natural Cork floor and replicates the look of natural stone or travertine directly onto the surface of the cork with the advanced digital imaging optics of Enhanced Realism Technology (ERT).Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.19.06 AM

EcoTimber

EcoTimber, a leader in the supply of sustainably sourced wood and bamboo flooring since 1993, recently added cork to its portfolio of natural-growing products. In adding cork, EcoTimber has partnered with Corksribas, a Portuguese manufacturer, as its supplier.

EcoTimber, in addition to a sizeable selection of traditional cork tiles and planks, also offers stone and wood looks, underlayment and is adding new collections of wider and longer plank wood options, as well as rustic cork wall treatments.Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.19.35 AM

Capri Cork

In its gluedown cork flooring business, Capri Cork is seeing trends develop with its Pick-up Strips selections.

The Pick-up Strips Dark pattern is part of Capri’s Mediterra Rigato collection and offers a random linear pattern. The entire Mediterra Rigato collection includes similar features ranging from subtle to bold. According to Margaret Buccholz, who is part of Capri Cork’s marketing and design team, the company is seeing annual increases in Mediterra Rigato sales.

In addition, a collection of Mediterra Planks includes 34 patterns and colors available in 4 x 18, 4 x 24, 6 x 18 and 6 x 24 gluedown selections. As with Mediterra Rigato, sales of the Mediterra Planks are increasing annually.

All Mediterra cork products come prefinished with three coats of water-based, commercial-grade polyurethane; have an anti-curl back coating, and are FloorScore certified.

 

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FCICA to host fourth webinar

West Bloomfield, Mich.  – The Floor Covering Installation Contractors Association (FCICA) will host its fourth webinar on November 7, 2012 at 11:00 am EST. During the event, Christopher Capobianco will present “The Fascinating World of Cork.” This introductory webinar will focus on cork floors, particularly how they have been used for over a hundred years but in the past decades have made a “comeback” because of their sustainable characteristics, functionality and unique look.  One of the industry’s experts on cork looks at the history of the natural product, how it’s made, how it’s installed and maintenance basics.

To register, visit www.fcica.com/events/webinars.  The registration deadline is November 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm EST.

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Retail education: The new green frontier

by Kelly Kramer

After spending an entire career of selling away from cork flooring, I’m starting to lean in the other direction. Because I write training manuals and this column, I have studied every flooring and wall tile product like few ever have, and I’ve focused on the durability, toughness and longevity of each product category. Continue reading Retail education: The new green frontier

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Retailers find profits popping with cork

Cork, in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, is quite popular right now. While it has been around for decades, in recent years applications for the product Torly's cork flooringhave soared, as have sales. How are retailers selling cork these days? The key seems to be education—not only about its green story but also its benefits once installed.

“In today’s marketplace those who are looking for a floor are looking for a product that is kind to the environment and/or provides a value,” said Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork. “Nobody disputes the green factor of cork, but often the value is not recognized. What floor provides the durability of hard surface, quiet and comfort underfoot, and thermal insulation while being hypoallergenic, anti-static and beautiful? Only cork flooring can tout those characteristics.” Continue reading Retailers find profits popping with cork