Airing our Dirty Laundry: Chapter 4, Pop the Cork!

Your patience will be rewarded, grasshopper.  You may have noticed that we have been MIA on the blog lately.  Call it a combination of being busy, celebrating a wedding anniversary (yes, ours!  Three years!), and just needing to avoid our house due to crazy Polyurethane fumes….let’s just say it’s been nuts!  Buuuuuuuuut…..

The floors are finally in and they look absolutely faaaaaaaaaab-uuuuuuuu-lous!  Cork floors, to be exact!  So pop the cork, my friends!  We have something to celebrate!!!  But let’s do a ho-hum before from way back when we first moved in the house:

…and an after…

Before (again, from when we moved in)…


Delicious, no?  Obviously we still need to do some of the finish work (installing quarter round, touch-up paint, etc.).  But what about all of those questions I keep getting from people about Cork, what is it, why, blah, blah?!?!  Brace yourselves – here’s the nitty gritty:

What is cork?! Cork is actually the bark of a Cork Oak Tree, which grows in the Mediterranean.  Apparently, the cork bark can grow to a considerable thickness and is harvested a little like Birch Bark, if you can imagine that.  The tree is not cut down, so it is a renewable and sustainable product that has been around for centuries!  I.e. – no trees were harmed in the making of this product.  Gotta love that!

Why Cork? Well, lots of reasons actually!  For the sake of argument, let’s just agree that carpet is Lord of the Sith evil. Now that we have *that* out of the way, let’s just say that our carpet needed replacing and since there was a ton of it upstairs, we thought a good solution would be to just get rid of it entirely!  Well, that and, let’s just say that I totally stole the cork flooring idea from a million dollar home that we toured here in Portland about a year ago.  We walked up the stairs to find a mystery flooring that I had never seen before.  I asked the realtor, “What is this?!  Why does it feel different than wood?!  But it *looks* like wood….but it’s not??”  And the answer was CORK!  This house was owned by a young family with wee ones and I was surprised to hear the realtor completely talk up the product like it was the second coming!  It’s softer underfoot than wood, doesn’t scratch (though it does dent, but that just contributes to its rustic charm), it has a wood look without the wood price, and it’s surprisingly durable, warm, and has been used in everything from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water to the Library of Congress – and if it’s been around *that* long, you know it’s durable!  It has natural antifungal, antimicrobial, and hypoallergenic properties (which probably explains why it has preserved many a wine bottle for centuries now!), and it’s also quiet to walk on with sound dampening properties to boot.  It’s also “self healing” (I’m a little skeptical of this claim, but we’ll see) and fire resistant.  This million-dollar home had installed the cork from the top of the stairs all the way through to their kids’ rooms, playrooms, and even the upstairs Media Room.  I was sold!  Bring on the cork!  Now the only problem is holding me back from installing it everywhere….hrmm….

Why now?  Why not change the floors downstairs first? Well, honestly, we just do projects as we have the time, money, and the need.  At the mo’ (that’s young people-speak for “moment”, as in RIGHT NOW), our laundry room needed some serious love (and since it’s already taken us two months to get this far, you *know* it was in a world of hurt beforehand!).  Since the adjacent hallway is so large, we decided to just go ahead and lay floors all at once rather than buying the flooring product at two different times and trying to do a color match – NO CAN DO, DANIEL SAN.  It was definitely one of those, “While you’re down there,” kind of things…(*wink*wink*)

Where did you get your cork floors? We got them from Lumber Liquidators and spent just around $1K for everything including supplies.  Overall, it’s been the best decision we’ve made on this house so far and we absolutely looooooove them!

Who installed them? Why yours truly, of course!  Now while I would admit that hiring somebody would have been preferential to installing them ourselves, we decided that saving the extra $1,000 to do an installation was definitely worth it in our books!

Dr. J, removing the grody old carpet!

Where's Dr. J?

Yes, that's me with painter's tape on my chest. I'm a classy gal, what can I say?

Even Maggie got in on the action!

Covering the grody old vinyl with cork!

How did you install it?  Are they glued down? No.  The product is what is known as a “floating floor” product.  It has finished and sealed cork on top, cork on the bottom (that looks just like a cork board if you can imagine that), and a mystery product in the middle to hold it all together.  The cork on the bottom keeps it from slipping (and it’s sound dampening as well), and then the top is just the finish, which actually looks like “strips” placed together to give it a “wood look”.  Now, admittedly, we did cheat on this install a little because we had approximately 8 doorways in this space (4 beds, 1 bath, 1 laundry, 1 linen closet, and one stairwell opening) and so we did use a few staples in some surreptitious locations to hold ‘er in place – otherwise we would lay a piece, and then when we went to hammer in the next, the last one would come flopping off through the open doorway – kind of annoying.  Overall, we only stapled in the doorways to just kind of hold it in place and most of those staple locations are now hidden by lovely thresholds like this:

Even our grody vinyl flooring looks so rich and luxe with these beautiful thresholds!

….so no one’s the wiser…and, by the way, didn’t my hubby do a fabulous job of staining those thresholds?!  I’m so proud of him!!  It’s a vast improvement over those metal tack strips we used to have – blech!  All of those are gone now, btw!

Did you have to polyurethane the floors after install? Yes!  Three times!  With sanding in between each coat!  Both ways!  With three feet of snow and my brother on my back!  What a pain it was to not be able to walk upstairs for a full 8 hours after application.  We finally wisened up and used poly in the morning before work, painted ourselves out of the house, left the windows open, and spent our days in cube-land before returning home to a dry floor that wasn’t *too* fumey!  We even got the lower-VOC  kind and it was still pretty stinky and headache-inducing.  I would always advocate steering as far away from your house as possible after poly-ing something – those fumes are *not* to be messed with!  Especially if you have pets, kids, and/or small woodland animals.

How do you keep it clean? Interesting question!  Most cork and wood flooring products don’t like moisture (which is why it’s a perfect candidate for a hallway, family room, and/or a bedroom – I’d say it’s an iffy prospect in a bath though some people do it).  Most manufacturers recommend only “damp-mopping” it with a mild water/soap solution (I’m a big believer in using Murphy’s Oil Soap and/or Dr. Bronner’s for these types of applications).  To be honest, I will probably just vacuum and spot clean with a damp rag as needed since this space sees a lot of “use”, but not a lot of “dirt”.

So there ya have it!  Our first foray into installing flooring!  Sadly, we still have about 1600 square feet to go….le sigh….it never ends!

Wanna see out other Laundry Room installments?  Click on the following chapters to read more: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and our teaser post! Stay tuned for the final reveal in the coming days!  Believe it or not, but it’s pretty much all finished!!


13 thoughts on “Airing our Dirty Laundry: Chapter 4, Pop the Cork!

  1. now that’s a sexy floor! i’ve only seen cork floors in the square tile-like form, but this is even better. we’ve been collecting corks to mail off to be recycled into shoe soles…wonder if anyone collects ’em for flooring?

    • Hi, Summer –

      Thanks for stopping by! Thanks! We think it’s pretty sexy, too! LOL! That’s a darn good question. I’ve seen people collect old wine corks and make bath mats out of them! Pretty clever, huh?!

      We love our cork! There’s very little we don’t like about it 🙂


    • Hi, Krysten –

      Cork flooring is fantabulous! We are absolutely loving it!

      thanks for stopping by!


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    • Oh, yea – we love bamboo too! We’re considering installing bamboo in our downstairs area later on, but we’ll see of course ;-).

      Thanks for stopping by!!


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