Resilient flooring materials are the outgrowth of a definite need for a suitable and economical floor over wood, concrete and other hard floor surfaces, and for a material which can be easily applied as a replacement floor over old floors of any type. Cork composition products and rubber are the principal flooring materials having resiliency as a dominant characteristic. They have been evolved through many years of development and improvement, and have to-day reached a state of perfection and quality which places them very definitely in the class of quality materials having distinctive characteristics not present in similar combinations in any other type of floor surfacing material.
1 From "Linoleum and Cork Composition Flooring Materials," Architectural Forum, October, 1928.
We are concerned in this discussion primarily with cork and cork composition floorings, which are known in the trade under the general titles of linoleum, linoleum tile, natural cork tile, and cork carpet. The evolution of cork composition flooring materials from the status of a floor cover to that of a finished flooring material has been slow, and architects have only recently awakened to the intrinsic values which such materials possess as contrasted with their use primarily as substitutes or replacement coverings. It must be acknowledged to-day that these products have earned for themselves a definite, permanent place in the building field, and that they offer to architects, builders and owners new opportunities for creating special effects in color, pattern and texture and for introducing other values of comfort, quietness, sanitation and maintenance that particularly adapt them to solving many modern flooring problems.
The various types of resilient flooring materials, of which cork in some form is the principal component, each possess special characteristics which make it important to differentiate one from the other, both in this discussion and in the use and specification of such materials. The prevalent use of trade names to distinguish the various types of products is somewhat confusing and we must go back of the distinguishing and commonly employed trade names and classify the products in another manner. There are three major classes of cork flooring products: (1) Cork composition floorings, broadly termed linoleums and linoleum tiles; (2) natural cork tiles; (3) cork carpets. Their characteristics deserve consideration.
Cork tiles are composed of particles of cork, such as the thin shavings of cork which are largely produced as a byproduct in the manufacture of cork bottle stoppers. These particles are compressed under heat in such a manner that the natural gums of the cork are liquefied and form the only binder required to produce a firm, rigid, and homogeneous product. The better grades of natural cork tile contain nothing but pure cork without any of the harder bits of cork bark or other foreign ingredients. The tile forms come in various sizes, usually in square or rectangular shapes, and in thicknesses ranging from approximately 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch.
Natural cork tiles take their color from the cork itself and from the baking process which is essential to their manufacture. They are thus available only in natural cork browns of various shades, ranging from light to dark, according to the amount of heat applied. The extreme hydraulic pressure usually employed in the manufacture of cork flooring produces a material which is quite resistent to wear and abrasion, and which is at the same time highly resilient, quiet and pleasant to walk upon.