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Cork provides durable flooring

Dear Jim: I am trying to use as many natural and efficient products as possible. Is cork flooring a truly natural product, is it bad for the environment and will its insulation lower my utility bills? — Andy R.

Dear Andy: When most people think of cork, they think of wine bottle corks or cork boards to post notes. Actually, cork has been used for a century or longer for commercial flooring where durability and an attractive appearance are important. With the greater interest in “green” living, cork is becoming more popular for flooring in homes.

Cork tile flooring is a natural product and using it does not harm the environment. When hardwood flooring is made, the tree must be cut down. Cork comes from the cork oak tree. Every decade or so, the bark with a layer of usable cork is peeled from the cork oak tree. The tree heals and some cork oak trees have life spans of up to 150 years. The cork oak forests are also home to many species of birds.

Cork, even more so than wood, comprises of millions of tiny air pockets. The insulation value of cork is about R-2.8 per inch thickness. This is only slightly less than rock wool or fiberglass batt insulation.

Since the cork tiles are only about one-quarter inch thick, the actual insulation value it adds to the floor is not great. The most significant energy saving advantage is that it feels warm on bare feet. This may allow you to set the furnace thermostat a little lower during winter and still be comfortable.

Another advantage of cork flooring is its natural resiliency. It feels hard to the touch and the resiliency is not obvious, but it is extremely comfortable to stand on for long periods of time. If you have worked all day on your feet and then have to stand in the kitchen to prepare dinner, it will be a welcomed change. Cork also absorbs sound for a quieter room.

Most residential cork flooring uses one-foot-square tiles with natural earthtone colors. These can range from almost white, such as a wine bottle cork color, to deep brown or almost black. The color of the cork is determined by how long it is baked, not by adding colorants.

If you prefer a more colorful cork floor, reds, yellows, greens, etc. are also available. These are usually made by bonding a thin colorful cork veneer to a base tile of natural cork color. These are as durable and resilient as solid (called massive) cork floor tiles.

The tiles are available prefinished or unfinished. Prefinished ones typically have a urethane or ultraviolet-cured acrylic matte or glossy finish. Wax is also an attractive, natural finish. When unfinished tiles are laid, urethane is commonly used to finish the completed floor.

Dear Jim: I have old sun-blocking permanent window film on my windows and I want to remove it. What is the easiest way to remove the film? — Tom F.

Dear Tom: It can be difficult to get off. First, use a single edge razor blade or window scraper (wear work gloves) to scrape the film starting at the top edge. Spray the exposed glass with a solution of half ammonia and half water. Peel it off diagonally from top to bottom.

If this doesn’t work well, saturate the film with the ammonia solution. Tape plastic over the window film so it stays wet for eight hours. After the film adhesive has softened, try the first procedure again.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit

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