Our New Cork Floor

Our New Cork Floor

Hi everyone!  I apologize that I have been MIA these last several weeks.  2017 has had a bit of a bumpy start and my to-do list seems to be growing far faster than I can cross items off.  I’ve been struggling to maintain a happy balance between work/general adulting obligations and being present for my family.  I find that I get frustrated, even upset, at our son because he just simply wants me to play with him.  His attempts to get my attention end up interfering with whatever tasks I feel I must complete at that moment.  I don't like this feeling.  It makes my heart hurt and makes me not like myself very much.  I am really trying to make efforts to find my balance and to prioritize what is truly important.  Mix this work/life balance battle with some ongoing health issues along with just wanting to avoid the Internet completely lately and you have my excuse for not making much progress on the blog in the past weeks. 

Last week we started off with two snow days here in the Seattle area and a power outage at our home.  Then we had a dramatic teething episode.  Now I'm desperately trying to play catch up!  As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to kick off the new year by doing a month long deep clean and purge of the house.  I’ve found The January Cure program hosted by the website Apartment Therapy to be very helpful with this home refresh process.  One of the first assignments is to walk through your house and make a list of all the projects that need to be tackled.  Then you are supposed to pick just one of those projects that you want to accomplish in the month of January.  Well…I have to admit that I've fallen WAY behind on my Cure assignments this year.  I still have every intention to complete all the assignments but I will definitely be going well in to February before that happens.  One success that did come of this year’s January Cure though was that we did complete our selected house project and it was one of the larger ones on our list.   

This time last year I was working through my Cure cleaning assignments with a four-month-old babe wrapped to me.  I managed to knock a bottle of hot pink finger nail polish off the bathroom sink counter on to the floor, somehow, shattering it (didn't even think this was possible) and exploding bright pink polish across the middle of our bedroom carpet.  I felt so defeated at this point after all my hard work and now I had to deal with this.  That horrible pink stain has been haunting me all year long so updating the flooring in our bedroom was the top priority on our home project list.  I was so thrilled to finally be rid of that pink stain, as well as the carpet I already despised before said polish incident.

When we started discussing options for new bedroom flooring, we knew we wanted some sort of hard flooring.  I am not a fan of carpet.  Not really at all.  (Shout out to the fabulous carpet reps who help me out on an almost daily basis.  Please don’t hate me for this…)  Carpet is dirty, toxic (unless the very expensive wool carpet) and difficult to keep looking nice long term.  Though hardwood flooring would have been awesome, spending that kind of money on this project was not an option.  Our goal was to find a solution that would be easy to install and maintain, affordable and, ideally, earth-friendly with minimal toxic off-gassing.  After checking out the flooring sale at our local green building supply store (GreenHome Solutions) we decided to go with a 12” x 36” cork plank flooring system. 

cork samples

So why cork flooring?  Here's the highlights:

  • Sustainability - Cork is a natural, biodegradable and rapidly renewable resource.  The cork that is used for bottle corks, cork boards and flooring is made from the bark of the cork tree.  Cork trees can re-grow their bark several times throughout their lifetime.  The bark is harvested by hand and the trees are not harmed.  No pesticides or fertilizer are used and none of the bark is wasted.
  • Low VOC’s* and No Formaldehyde - Cork flooring contributes to clean air quality which makes it great for those with allergies (like me!).  Cork is naturally mold and mildew resistant.  It is also naturally fire resistant.
  • Aesthetic – Although cork is less popular then wood, or even bamboo flooring, it still provides the benefits of a natural material in visual warmth and texture.
  • Extremely Durable – Cork can have a 40+ year life span if properly maintained.  Cork is easy to clean and maintain.  It can even self-heal from dents.
  • Sound Absorbent
  • Thermal Quality – Cork is a natural insulator and provides softness and comfort underfoot.

* VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are both naturally occurring and human-made chemicals that exist in the air.  Many VOCs are harmful to us and the environment.  Exposure to VOCs, compounded over time, may be responsible for many negative health effects.  Most products used to build and maintain our homes contain and off-gas VOCs.  This is why it is so important to have good ventilation and to open your windows in your home often.   

 Cork Bark Sample

Cork Bark Sample

I wanted to go with a floating flooring product for easy, quick installation and to avoid the need to use glue (VOCs).  Our bedroom, including walk-in closet is a little over 200 square feet.  In total the project took us about two full days from start to finish.  My husband and I don’t have a big supply of our own tools but we were easily able to borrow what we didn’t have ourselves to avoid additional costs.  The interlocking floor planks make this project definitely doable for anyone interested installing their flooring themselves.  I was thankful though that we had an experienced contractor (my dad) to help lead our charge, saving us from some learning through trial and error.

Here’s the quick overview of the installation process:

The existing carpet needed to be pulled away from the wall and the tack strips removed.  This is an easy and fairly quick process.  You just need a pry bar and hammer.  Careful to keep track of the little tacks if you have children around.  If your carpet is glued down, then this first step of removing the carpet and prepping the sub floor will be a bigger undertaking.  If you have an existing sheet flooring product, like vinyl, you may be able to install a new floating floor system right on top of it.  As always, make sure you read the manufacture’s installation requirements and instructions ahead of time for the product you want to use.

Removing Track Strip

Roll up and remove the carpet.  We did this in sections, cutting the carpet in strips as we shuffled furniture around so we didn’t have to remove the bigger furniture pieces from the room.  Then I did a good sweep and vacuum.  The dust in and under the carpet was so gross.  I had a sore throat from it when I woke up the following morning.

Removing Carpet.JPG
Vacuuming.JPG

Before installing the flooring planks, it’s a good idea to put down an underlayment.  An underlayment can help smooth out the subfloor, provide a moisture barrier to protect the new floor and help with sound and thermal qualities.  This is the product we used. 

Underlayment.JPG

We had to deciding where to start laying the floor down and how to deal with the transition at the door between the bedroom and the closet.  We wanted to minimize the amount of cutting required.  Depending on the manufacture’s interlocking mechanism, some floating flooring systems “click” together more easily than others.  Turns out the flooring we selected was one of the more difficult ones.  It took a while to get going at first but once we got enough tiles installed to help limit movement and a rhythm developed, then the process moved along quite smoothly.  We did discover a flooring installation kit with a tapping block and pull bar was a must have.  You can pick one of these up at any hardware store.  We installed the planks with the seams staggered at about 12” or at 1/3 the plank length.  Once a few rows were down, then we starting stair-stepping the planks as we installed them.

Installation.JPG

We left our existing wall base in place and just slid the new flooring underneath because it was high enough.  To cover the gap and create a finished look, we installed pre-stained solid wood quarter-round along the existing wall base.  We avoided nailing this into the new flooring so that as the flooring moves overtime from temperature changes, it won’t pull the quarter-round away from the wall.  We didn’t have a nail gun so we had to do this step the old fashion way with a hammer.  A nail gun would have been quicker.  Fill in the nail holes with a little wood putty over the nail heads and we are done!

Installing Quarter Round.JPG

FYI - We did discover, after a little mishap with a pry bar during installation, that if you do accidental gouge out a chunk of your cork flooring, you can press the missing chunk back in with a little wood glue and you won’t even be able to see where it was missing.

Tools.JPG

All together the project cost about $900.  It took us a few days to get accustomed to the change from carpet to cork, especially for the running toddler in socks.  We are several weeks in with the new floor now and so far we are very happy with it.  For me, the easy cleaning and lowered accumulation of dust in our bedroom has been the best part.  And, of course, the lack of pink finger nail polish.  Huge thank you to my dad who helped us out far more than he should have with a torn rotator cuff injury.  Wishing him a speedy recovery from last week’s surgery.

If you have any questions about cork flooring or the installation process, feel free to send me a note.  I’d love to hear what you think about the look of cork flooring.   

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