Natural Cork

August 22, 2006
natural cork design
Cork flooring can be a fabulous. It can also be a nightmare. Glue-down cork tiles, which are solid cork with a thin patterned veneer, should be more durable than a floating cork floor, which has a middle layer of a hard material like HDF (high density fiber). There are low-VOC glues for attaching the tiles to your floor, keeping the air in your home or office healthier. Read on to learn about our experience with the company Natural Cork.

One Experience With the Company Natural Cork

A few years ago my husband and I built a house that was designed to have a minimal impact on the earth. We kept our footprint small. We incorporated energy and water conserving appliances. And we selected a flooring and counter top that were made of sustainable resources. The floor initial flooring material we selected was floating cork from Natural Cork.

Because we installed a hot water radiant heat, we were counseled by the president of Natural Cork to not use glue-down cork tiles. The basis of that advice came from the notion that the heat would cause the glue to stay soft, allowing the tiles to move, harming the integrity of the flooring. We were told the floating cork tiles or panels were the way to go.
We loved the look of the cork, with swirls of light, dark, and various shades of brown. The pattern gave our flooring an exotic look, something we enjoyed. The flooring company laid the cork throughout the house, except the stairs. Our builder glued the cork on the stairs, using alder for the stair nose. What an amazingly beautiful look!
There were two things we noticed immediately: there were gaps between a couple of the tiles, and the floor didn’t lie flat, each tile was slightly cupped length- and width-wise. We were disappointed to have the resulting look, but didn’t think to ask about them; we accepted what we got — for a short while.
Within a few months we found there were a dozen gaps between tiles all around the house. And the initial gaps had gotten quite large (over 1/4″ within a year). The flooring company we bought our cork from came out to look, and to try to pull the tiles together to get rid of the gaps. They then called the Natural Cork salesman who came out and looked at our floors too see what was wrong. He immediately told us that we had cork from a faulty batch and that the company would make good on it. That gave us both a sense of relief and a sense of dread.
The relief came from feeling we were dealing with an honorable company that would take care of its customers. When you have a new house with over 2,000 square feet of expensive flooring, you want to feel you haven’t made a huge, expensive mistake. The salesman made us feel we mattered, and would be made whole on this.
The dread came from the awareness of the hassle of moving all of our furnishings out of the house, a move we weren’t looking forward to. Mind you, we had just moved in and were finally settled. As we thought about the move, we realized not only would it a hassle and inconvenient, it would also result in considerable damage to the house because of moving furniture, ripping old floor up and laying new floor down. Then there was the disruption to our businesses, which we operate from our home. We were assured it would be no hassle to us; Natural Cork would take care of everything and at no costs to us.
Negotiations drug on for months, something we didn’t expect from a company that said they’d take care of us. They claimed the installation was faulty because we didn’t have expansion joints every 30′ or at doorways. (They claimed our low humidity was the problem). None of these requirements were addressed in their website or any other sales materials we saw when we were buying (though they started adding those disclaimers as our negotiations progressed). They admitted their product was faulty, yet they tried to blame everyone else involved for the floor problems. It took getting our attorney involved for Natural Cork to honor their warranty.
By the time we needed to select another flooring, we’d lost confidence in Natural Cork and their cork flooring, but we were stuck with Natural Cork. A friend has had their glue-down cork tiles for years and swears by his flooring. But this floating floor product just wasn’t lasting. We have a shoe-free house, yet the scratches through the veneer of cork were disturbing.
Though we loved the concept, look of cork, and feel of cork, we wanted nothing more to do with Natural Cork’s cork flooring. We proceeded with another of their products. What a nightmare! It took longer than promised (isn’t that the way with construction projects). Walls, doors, cabinets and furniture were damaged. We of course ended up helping, especially in moving our delicate and fragile items to storage, just to make it happen faster. And Natural Cork was difficult during the entire process.
Our learned lesson: Even with the radiant heat, we’d use glue-down cork tiles (not the floating tiles), using a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) glue. We’d also use a low-VOC water-based polyurethane for several coats on top of the factory finish after installation to protect the cork veneer.
Dealing with Natural Cork was an awful experience, one I hope you can avoid. We understand that they have been bought by another flooring company, so we don’t know what that will do to their product quality or their customer service. Buyer beware.


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