What is cork? It’s a hot topic in the construction industry, but what is it actually and where does it come from. To answer the question; Cork is an impermeable, buoyant material, a subset of bark tissue that is harvested for commercial use from the Quercussuber tree, or the Cork Oak. Common to southwest Europe, cork is composed of suberin, a water-resistance substance. Because of its waterproofness, buoyancy, elasticity, and fire resistant components, it is used in a variety of products, the most common of which is for wine stoppers. |
The benefits of cork were known to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for bottle stoppers for olive oil and wine, floats for fishing nets, sandals, and insulation on shipping vessels. In Northern Africa cork was also used as roofing material. Most of the benefits of cork are derived from its specialized cellular structure. Cork has a honeycomb cellular structure. Each cubic centimeter contains roughly 40 million hexagonal cells that are saturated with air. The air contained in the millions of cork cells provides a cushioned feel.
The first Portuguese regulations protecting cork oak trees date to the early 1300’s. During the 1920s and ‘30s, laws were passed that made it illegal to cut down the trees, other than for essential thinning and removal of old, nonproductive trees. Today, manufacturing processes utilize every bit of scrap bark for use as cork particles of fuel.
Once an oak tree reaches 25 years of age the cork is traditionally stripped from the trunks, a process that is repeated every 9-13 years. As the trees are capable of living for about 200 years, this allows for several harvests. The first two harvests generally produce poorer quality cork, but the older the tree, the better the cork.
The cork industry is regarded as ecologically sound as the sustainability and reduction of waste and the easy recycling of cork products and by-products are among its most distinguishing aspects. Cork is extracted only from early May to late August, when the cork can be separated from the tree without causing permanent damage. The workers who specialize in removing the cork are known as extractors. This is a most delicate phase of the work because, even though cutting the cork requires quite a bit of strength, the extractor must not damage the underlying phellogen or the tree will die. As a result this has led to an entire industry of specially trained extractors, some of whom are descended from generations of skilled workers. Whole villages and towns depend upon this skill for their livelihood.
These freed portions of the cork are called sheets/planks. The planks usually have to be carried off by hand since cork forests are rarely accessible for vehicles. Finally, the cork is stacked and traditionally left to dry, sometimes up to 6 months before being loaded onto a truck and shipped to a processor to be made into cork flooring or wall product.
cork floors have found favor with different cultures down the years and is seeing a new resurgence in its popularity these days because of the many advantages they offer. Are you looking for cork flooring for your home. Check out wide range available at iCork Floors.
Related Articles -
cork floors, cork flooring,