Material spotlight: CORK

Hands up, who knew that the material cork was so amazing?! Whilst it might conjure up memories of the 1970s for some, over recent years it's been given a fresh facelift and repurposed in such inventive, creative ways.  This article is about celebrating the wonder that is cork.

 First things first. The material itself is incredible. Why? Because it’s extremely waterproof (despite what you might think!), it’s resistant to abrasion, it acts as a fire retardant. AND it’s an acoustic insulator!

What’s even better is how it’s made: Most cork is grown in Portugal in forests of cork oak trees called “montados”. The process by which cork is made also could not be more sustainable. It is harvested by stripping the outer layer of skin off the tree with a small hatchet that then regrows in time for the next harvest. The cork is shredded and compressed at high temperatures, causing it to expand and the sap to melt to form a glue that binds it all together. Once cooled, it can be cut to measure ready to be put up as cladding. None of the harvested bark goes to waste in the process apart from the dust produced along the way, and that’s it. No added ingredients!

Are you totally sold on cork already? Let’s take you through some awesome examples of just how you can incorporate it into your home!

Image Credit: Megan Taylor
Image Credit: Megan Taylor

Clad it inside and out

We are completely in love with this project by nimtim architects! They used cork to externally and internally clad the rear extension to a terrace house in South London. Not only does the cork complement the existing brickwork on the original house but the pop of pink on the window and door frames brings vitality to the whole design.

nimtim architects have a brilliant collaborative approach to making projects, and this project was a co-creation with the clients - a graphic designer and photography agent. “It’s important for us to create an outcome that everyone could feel a sense of pride and ownership in” - Allie Mackinnon, project runner.

"The cork offers so much as a building material," Mackinnon said. "It ticks all the boxes when it comes to thermal and acoustic performance.  But it is also breathable, free from chemicals, synthetic resins and carcinogenic materials and creates a healthy environment inside the house."

Too good to be true? Well, there is also the added benefit of cost savings. The cork cost approximately £35/m2 and was a saving of approximately £66/m2 if compared to the traditional internal wall build up (plasterboard, plastering, paint).

Lay it all down

If cladding your home in cork is a step too far, then consider cork as a great material for your flooring. It’s durable, easy to clean and easy to maintain and is a VERY budget friendly flooring finish.

It looks great in small spaces like bathrooms, with its natural warmth and texture, but also works in larger living spaces. Check out these projects below for some inspiration!

One of our favourite suppliers is the Colour Flooring Company who do a great collection of cork flooring, all for £44 per sq/m. See our top 3 favourites below:

Camada Cork Flooring By Colour Flooring Company
Lasca Cork Flooring By Colour Flooring Company
Espira Cork Flooring Product By Colour Flooring Company

Pinpoint a wall

Some might claim that the concept of a “feature wall” has had its day, but there is definitely still a place for a functional backdrop like in the images below. It’s a great choice for that study nook or the designated home office corner. You can use it as a giant pin-board; but it can also be used in one area or on one wall to signify that this is a designated study area.

Use Cork In Your Home Office
Image credit: Petra Bindel
Cork Gives Interior Interest As A Backdrop
Image credit: Nyde
Cork Works Well As Inspirational Wall
Image credit: Catlin Mills

Add a little something

We totally get that incorporating cork as a external cladding material or as an internal wall or floor finish to your home might feel like a big commitment! So we wanted to end this article of exploration by showing you just a small sample of the array of products that have been developed with cork.

These products demonstrate just how versatile and wonderful this material is. It also means that whatever the budget or aesthetic you are going for, including a splash of earth-friendly cork is a must for every home.

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