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A Visit to The Cork House in Oakville, Ontario

November 30th, 2010

The Cork Store

I contacted Alison Ostner at The Cork House a few weeks ago and asked if I could come and have a tour. The Cork Store is the company store for Jelinek Cork Group which includes not only cork flooring but also cork furniture and accessories. The store is located in Oakville, not far from Jelinek’s world headquarters so you could say it’s about as local a cork company as we Canadians are likely to get!

The Cork Store is located in the oldest house in Halton. It’s a white clapboard house located on Neyawaga Blvd. in Oakville and provides quite the contrast to the strip mall stores in the same complex.  The house has been completely restored and renovated by Jelinek and now serves as their showroom.

Alison Ostner

Cork is a great material for so many things and, in fact, Jelinek’s primary cork business is still wine corks. The flooring, furnishing, bulletin boards and other cork items they manufacture were developed from the leftover cork “waste” after the corks were made.

Cork bark with "wine cork holes"

Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree which grows primarily in Mediterranean countries where the climate and soil conditions are the most suitable. The bark is stripped off the trees after no less than nine years and used to make a variety items. The trees are left to regrow their bark, and then it is harvested and used again. This cycle continues for up to 200 hundred years per tree. For more information on the cork oak tree, see the Jelinek website.

Cork Flooring: The advantages of cork flooring and subflooring are many. Cork is:

  • A renewable resource. Cork is the bark of the cork oak tree that is grown in Mediterranean countries, such as Portugal and Spain. All of Jelinek’s cork comes from Portugal where it is tended to, harvested and manufactured before it is sent to various countries around the world for sale.
  • Resilient. Cork is made for surfaces where there is a lot of standing, so it’s great for kitchens. It is a material that “gives” with pressure and will bounce back into shape after pressure is applied.
  • A sound dampener. It absorbs noise, so it is often used in multi-unit dwellings as a sub-floor to absorb noise.
  • Durable. If treated properly cork can last for years. Court houses in New York City were first covered with cork flooring and are only being recovered now, more than 100 years after initial installment.
  • Anti-static. Great for places with a lot of electronic devices.
  • Anti-allergenic. Will not trap dirt and allergens.

True to their “natural” philosophy, all binders and adhesives used in creating the flooring tiles are low VOC and water-based.

Rio Varnished from the "Select Line"

Harmony Brown

Mosaic Flooring as Back Splash

Jelinek offers two types of cork flooring in several different designs.

Cork Click Flooring. A “floating” floor that consists of three layers — the cork finished layer, a high density fiberboard layer and cork underlayment layer. No glues are necessary to install this floor and it can be dissassembled and moved if necessary. This flooring does not require a sub-floor because it’s included in each tile. Tiles are covered in a water-based semi-gloss polyurethane.

Cork Decor Flooring. 12×12 tiles that are glued to a sub-floor. Tiles are coated in a water-based semi-gloss polyurethane.

Comfort Flooring.  A new line of flooring that offers an even more natural look. The coating is a vegetable oil-based coating that gives the tiles a “matt” finish. These tiles are as easy to care for as the other two lines, the only difference being that once a month a special floor cleaner should be used (at other times washing with water should suffice). This finish is available in both glue down and click types of flooring tiles. (Note: this is a new flooring and may not yet be available on the website.)

Cork Mosaic Floor Tiles. This is a fun product made from “rejected” wine corks. They are not recycled corks, but rather, corks that aren’t deemed good enough to go into a wine bottle. Instead of throwing the corks away, someone had the great idea of reusing them for more flooring! This product needs a subfloor, and is applied with a glue and then grouted. As in their showroom, it can also be used as a back splash for a unique look.

I asked Alison if she had any advice regarding cork floors. She said to make sure your installer has installed cork flooring before. It’s a breathing material and it must be at room temperature before being installed. Also, as explained on the website, a 1/4″ gap must be left around the edges of the floor in order to allow the cork to expand and contract. For full installation instructions see the website. She also told me the Cork Store installs as well.

The Cork Store also has models of cork furniture — both “hard” (wood and cork based) and upholstered. I asked about the wear of cork upholstered sofas and Alison told me that they will wear at the same rate as leather — which means if properly cared for, they will last a long time.

Sofa upholstered with cork fabric

Cork inlaid desk

Other “Green Building Products.” The Cork store not on s own line of cork flooring, cork furniture and accessories, it also sells additional “green” products such as American Clay, a low VOC paint line, C2 Lovo, as well as IceStone and PaperStone counter top materials.

Jelinek cork flooring is sold worldwide. In Ontario you can get it through Alexanian’s, as well as other dealers such as Eco Building Resource and The Healthiest Home (in Ottawa). To find a dealer near you, contact the Jelinek Group directly.

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