Posts Tagged ‘cork floors’

Of Wilco Posters and Sustainable Picture Frames…

Wilco Poster 2

One of the most enjoyable things you can do in life is stop and pay attention to how this connects to that, especially when like-mindedness is involved. 



In January 0f 2009, our very good friends Steve and Jana needed some help with cork and marmoleum floors.  We were seeking good content for our very young blog.  So I took a little trip to their home in Madison, WI and we banged out a couple of sustainable floors in a weekend, with the Flip Cam rolling of course.  The resulting blog post about DIY Cork and Marmoleum Floors is still our most popular post.  Thank you Steve and Jana!

What does this have to do with Wilco Posters?  Well, please bear with me for a few sentences and I’ll tie it together.  

In April of 2009 Mingyan Bao, who we met via Green Drinks and Redirect Guide networking events, was kind enough to guest blog about Sustainable Picture Frames for Your Art & Photographs.  This has since become the second most popular post on our blog.  Thank you Ming!

Back to Steve and Jana, and on to Wilco.  Last October, I met up with them in Chicago for a Wilco show at the UIC Pavillion.  And a fabulous show it was…30 songs total with a 10 song encore!  Here’s the set list  for you hardcore Wilco fans who may be reading this. 

Later, Steve informed me that the unique poster from the show was available for purchase at the store on Wilco’s website.  POW!  I knew we had to buy it and visit Ming’s shop in Loveland, CO to have her team work it into a sustainable picture frame.

It took us awhile to execute and blog about it, but we finally got the poster purchased and framed in a sustainable Framerica® product as you can see in the image above.  Between Ming’s magic on frame and border selection and dumb luck that the colors in the poster totally match our wall colors, we couldn’t be happier with the result.

So fast-forward to February 19, 2010 and we’re at another Wilco show in Duluth, MN with Steve and Jana and other great longtime friends.  Now it looks like we’ve got another cool poster we need to buy from that show

It is important here to point out Wilco’s many causes.  Their posters, benefit shows, downloads for donation and so on support a long list of sustainability, community and global initiatives .  Thank you Wilco!  For making incredible music and making the world a better place in other ways as well.

OK, this post wouldn’t be complete without tying in Ariana and Evan, our great friends here in Ft. Collins who we also met via the Redirect Guide.  They were the ones who took me and Lara to our first Wilco show at Red Rocks last summer.  Thank you Ariana and Evan! 

It is worth noting that they are about to remodel their place and their project includes installing new cork floors, for which I have been recruited.  Funny how this connects to that!!


Sustainable Home Remodeling – Cork Floors and Zero VOC Paint

October 10, 2009 2 comments

Railing After Sustainable Remodeling ProjectIt is amazing what new flooring and paint can do to update your home.  And if you are concerned about the health of your family and that of the planet, it is nice to know that these days you can easily source eco-friendly paint and flooring materials.

In our first post for this Sustainable Home Remodeling Series, we pondered aloud whether a sustainable remodeling project could bring a 1970 split level home from decidedly dated to hip and comfortable.  Check out the before and after pictures below and let us know what you think.  If you like what you see, we’ve got more specifics on the cork and paint at the end of this post.  You may also find our post on DIY floating floor installation to be useful.

Living Room Before:
Living Room Before Sustainable Remodeling Project

Living Room After:
Living Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Family Room Before:
Family Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Family Room After:
Family Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Materials List

Living Room:

Family Room:

  • Westhollow “Baffin” floating cork floor – $2.49/s.f. on sale when we bought it from e-tailer iFloor
  • Benjamin Moore Natura Zero VOC paint, Grasshopper and Agave Walls and Fireplace Accent – $49/gallon
  • More of the leftover Benjamin Moore Eco Spec Low VOC paint, Super White Trim and Fireplace


We don’t have a good before shot of the railing pictured at the top of the post, but we included it because it gives a good visual impression of the power of Benjamin Moore’s Affinity color deck.

The Affinity deck, available at Benjamin Moore retailers, is a work of genius in that any color you pick from the 144-color deck will work with any other color in the deck.  For color-challenged folks like me and Lara, it takes a lot of the stress out of paint color selection.  I refer to it as Grr-Animals for paint.  We used the Kasbah (plum) and Rattan (khaki) colors in Natura on the railing blocks for some color pops, and also threw in the orange color that was left over from a friend’s recent painting project.

Alright, that’s it on the updates to our 1970 home for now.  We’re working on finishing up the kitchen and bathrooms.  When we do, we’ll be posting about bamboo cabinets and vanities and the nicest concrete countertops you’ve ever seen being custom-made by the guys at Concrete Visions.

In the mean time, if you’ve got some painting to do, think about paint that will keep your family from breathing volatile organic compounds.  And if you’ve got flooring to replace, consider rapidly renewing, warm and naturally antimicrobial cork.

And if you are thinking of buying a home in the near future, this should give you hope that without a lot of investment, it’s possible to refresh an average, older home without much more than paint, and perhaps updated flooring like we have shown here. The Green Team Real Estate is especially experienced with helping clients find homes such as these that they can get into affordably and make their own. Get in touch with us if you need to find an agent for your Northern Colorado home purchase.  We are ready to help!

DIY floating floor installation: eco-friendly cork and Marmoleum®

February 7, 2009 5 comments

Installing a floating cork or Marmoleum® floor is an eco-friendly way to refresh a room (or, in our case every room in the home) with economical, durable, hypoallergenic, renewable building materials that are also uniquely beautiful.  This post highlights some of the benefits of cork and Marmoleum®, and lists top tips accumulated from my experience installing 10 rooms of cork flooring and 3 rooms of Marmoleum®.  It also includes a quick slide presentation  illustrating a range of DIY floor installations using these green building materials, and a video that follows the process step-by-step as good friends and I installed two floors at their home in Madison, Wisconsin on Super Bowl weekend (yes, we finished both floors in a weekend and still made it to a Super Bowl party).  


Floating cork and Marmoleum® planks have many special attributes that make them a great choice for a flooring upgrade.


Renewability – Cork is a renewable resource that can be harvested once every nine years from the bark of cork oak trees found in the Mediterranean region.  Marmoleum® is a natural linoleum made primarily from linseed oil extracted from the abundant flax plant, which is then mixed with pine rosins and wood flour obtained through controlled forestry.  The visible surface of a cork plank differs in construction and appearance from that of a Marmoleum® plank.  However, the remaining structure of the plank for both products consists of a renewable cork core and underlayer, between which is sandwiched a stabilizing core consisting of high density fiber (HDF).


Durability.  Cork planks are, perhaps counter-intuitively, very durable and resilient flooring materials.  Marmoleum®, with its rosin-bound surface, is even more durable than cork.  Three years ago, when we moved into our 1952-built house, we discovered that it had original cork flooring under very worn carpet that we planned to replace.  We were excited at first by the prospect of removing the carpet and restoring the original cork.  This would have been quite feasible were it not for a few permanent stains from liquid spills on the carpet that had damaged the cork in prominent areas, and the removal and replacement of carpet tack strips over time which had pulled up and broken cork tiles of a vintage that could no longer be replaced.  So, we did the next best thing…removed the carpet and placed a new floating cork floor over the original cork.  This floor now shows some scratches where our border collie rounds the corner into the kitchen at a high rate of speed to head outside, and there is a small dent where something heavy was dropped in the dining room – typical wear and tear that would also show up on wood floors under similar circumstances.  However, we have been so impressed with the overall value and durability of cork that we recently installed it throughout one of our rental properties, albeit a brand with a thicker profile and more coats of finish than that installed in our own home (Eco-Cork “Verde” by Natural Cork  in our home, Provincial Cork Collection “Labrador” by Westhollow Cork Flooring  in our rental property).


Affordability.  Prices for cork planks typically range from $3.00 to over $7.00 per square foot, depending upon manufacturer, style and source.  Marmoleum® ranges from $4.00 to $6.00 depending primarily on who you purchase it from.  These prices are comparable to mid-grade carpeting on the low end, and more premium ceramic tile or wood floors at the higher end of the range.  We sourced our Eco-Cork “Verde” style from a Natural Cork distributor in Fort Collins for $5.00 a square foot, which is very close to what our friends in Madison paid for the same brand/style of cork from a flooring store in Madison.  We sourced the Westhollow “Labrador” cork for $3.49 per square foot from  Our friends in Madison obtained their Marmoleum® for $3.99 per square foot from Green Building Supply, free shipping included.  Google is your friend in terms of finding good deals.  Ultimately, the best decision on how to purchase will come down balancing the size of your project, material pricing, freight costs, and the benefits of buying from a local outlet verses the additional cost of doing so (if any). 


Hypoallergenic, non-toxic.  Cork contains the natural compound suberin, which repels mites and other insects, and also guards again rotting, mold and mildew.  It comes pre-finished with an acrylic coating, so there is no need to worry about VOC’s that could be associated with sealing it in your home after installation.  As discussed above, much of the Marmoleum® plank cross section consists of cork, and the veneer surface is a natural linoleum, so it is similarly hypoallergenic.  Neither cork or Marmoleum® trap dust and dirt, and both are extremely easy to clean, furthering their allergy-resistant nature.  Also, there are no toxic adhesives involved with installation.


Reusability.  A great benefit of a floating, snap-fit, tongue-and-groove flooring is that it can easily be disassembled in the future, moved to another location, and re-installed.  Try doing that with a wood floor or ceramic tile!  This aspect had special appeal for us when we were investigation flooring to replace the worn carpet in our home.  We have a long term plan to do a significant renovation in the future, and rental properties to which we could transfer any of our cork and Marmoleum® that might be replaced when that plan comes to fruition.  


Style.  A quick browse through the slide presentation, or the Natural Cork or Marmoleum® websites will give you a sense for the variety of looks you can achieve with cork and Marmoleum®.  The sky is truly the limit.


Comfort.  The cellular nature of cork, which contains a significant amount of trapped air, provides unique benefits that make it a very comfortable flooring surface.  Specifically, cork insulates and feels warm and soft underfoot.  It also deadens sound, making rooms less noisy than they would be with wood or tile floors.  Marmoleum® shares these properties due to its cork content, although the surface itself is harder than a cork surface.


Low-maintenance.  Manufacturers and retailers of these floor types have a variety of recommended cleaning and maintenance procedures and products.  We have found that our cork and Marmoleum® floors are easily cared for by vacuuming with a brush attachment and damp mopping from time to time (Swiffer or similar).


You don’t have to be a skilled tradesperson to lay these floors and have them turn out great – I’m proof of that.  For the most part, following the manufacturers instructions, watching the video and others like it available on You Tube, and applying some common sense will get you through the project trauma-free.  So rather than bore you with a step-by-step laundry list, I’ll give you a few hot tips that will make your installation go more smoothly than my first few did. 


Roto-ZipTM It  If you will be working up to existing trim and doorways, a Roto-ZipTM  tool with X-Shield attachment and circular blade for wood cutting is a sweet tool to add to your collection.  You can buy a bundled version with everything you need at a wide variety of retail or e-tail outlets for $150, and it will have many other great uses for future home projects.  Even if you remove base trim (be sure to remember to number or letter pieces to make replacement easier), the Roto-ZipTM will help you get clean fits around doorways and transitions.


Get a Simple SolutionsTM Kit.  Absolutely, positively spend $15 to get the floor tapping kit from Simple SolutionsTM.  The tapping block is much better than those available for purchase from the flooring manufacturers, the plastic shims are a great deal easier to work with than typical wood shims, and the “S-Tool” makes the otherwise difficult task of connecting edge and final corner pieces a breeze.  You can find this kit at Home Depot, Sam’s Club and the like.


Common Sense Floor Prep.  Manufacturers and retailers will specify a variety of subfloor preparation measures and underlayment products.  Use your good judgment here.  One of the floors we laid in Madison, where the summer climate is quite humid, was going down on backer board over slab-on-grade concrete, so we placed 4 mil polyethylene sheeting between the backer board and the Marmoleum®.  In Fort Collins’ high desert climate, I have laid several floors in slab-on-grade environments with no moisture barrier and they are performing very well. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and use underlayment.  Also, if you can make the grades work out, and you aren’t replacing carpeting, laying directly over the old flooring is a great way to keep stuff out of the landfill.


Plan it Twice, Lay it Once.   Just like a tile job, you will need to carefully plan your starting point and determine how your resulting edges and edge cuts will turn out.  I suggest doing this using math and measurement, and then double-checking by connecting pieces from edge to edge of the room to verify your math.


Watch Your Tongue…and groove condition closely.  Any pieces of debris on the tongue or within the groove will keep the planks from fitting together tightly and leave visible cracks in your floor, so make sure joining edges are debris-free before tapping.  It is also easy as the job wears on to space out a bit and tap with the wrong side of the tapping tool, which will break down the tongue or groove and have a similar effect to debris.  When (not if) this happens to you, simply take a box cutter or similarly sharp tool, restore the tongue and groove to a clean edge, and remove any fragments from within the groove.


Have Fun!  Working with my good friends Steve and Jana on the floors in their home, and enjoying a couple of fine Mai Bock beers from Madison’s Capital Brewery along the way definitely made floor installation enjoyable.  So pick up your favorite local brew (ideally from a sustainability-minded brewery like Odell Brewing Company  or New Belgium Brewing Company here in Fort Collins) and get corkin’.