Cork Soundproofing: Will Cork Quieten a Room Effectively?

Man installing cork flooring

Last updated: December 30, 2020 at 16:24 pm

Cork has natural sound absorbing properties and works by breaking down sound waves and diffusing them. The honeycomb structure is super lightweight and with 35 million sound vibration absorbing cells per square centimetre, it is ideal for soundproofing.

Essentially:

When a soundwave hits cork, the air in the cork compresses like a cushion absorbing and deadening the impact, resulting in far less noise being heard.

In this article, we’ll discuss why cork is a great soundproofing material, advantages and disadvantages of using it in your home and whether or not you should use it in your next project.

Reasons Cork Is a Great Soundproofing Material

Cork is an entirely natural raw material, with distinctive insulating properties. Mainly found in subtropical regions, 80% of the world’s cork comes from countries in the Western Mediterranean. Portugal (the top producing country) accounts for just over 50% of the world’s cork supply.

These plantations are a vital source of income for thousands of family farmers, who have lived and worked in the forests for generations. According to WWF Mediterranean, Cork Oak forests also provide the greatest defence against the desertification of this area and absorb millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year helping to reduce the global warming effect.

In short:

Cork forests are some of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly harvested forests in the world.

Apart from its soundproofing qualities, cork is also highly abrasion-resistant and a natural fire retardant. The honeycomb design of air-sealed cells makes it buoyant, super lightweight, and elastic. But there is more to this natural phenomenon than meets the eye.

Furthermore, it is completely biodegradable, renewable, and recyclable making cork a more sustainable option when gauged against other soundproofing materials.

Soundproofing products need to achieve a minimum Noise Reduction Coefficient of 0.4% to be considered effective at sound absorption. Cork exceeds this standard with 0.7% meaning it absorbs 70% of noise and reflects only 30%. It is no surprise then, that, Cork is a good option when it comes to soundproofing.

Different Types of Cork for Soundproofing

Home is where we relax and escape from the outside world. But all too often, our homes are invaded by the sounds of traffic, noisy neighbours, pedestrians, and construction.

The good news is that many newly constructed homes and buildings adhere to strict soundproofing regulations but for those of us living in older properties (with paper thin walls and noisy neighbours next door), cork soundproofing might be the answer. It will require some work, but in the end, worth the effort.

  • Internal Cork Wall Panels – Soundproofing the interior walls of your space with cork panels will reduce the amount of road and city noise making its way inside. As well as blocking unwanted sound from entering your space, this barrier reduces in-room noise and decreases room-to-room sound transmission. It absorbs about 40% of the sound in the frequency range produced by the human voice and effectively eliminates echoes too.
  • Cork Flooring – Noise generated by floor traffic can drive anyone crazy, especially in high-traffic rooms. Floor specialists considered cork one of the best materials for reducing impact sound. Cork flooring is durable, impact and fire-resistant, and nonslip for a safer environment.
  • Cork Underlays – Another option for using cork is as insulation in the subfloor, under a different type of surface flooring. Surfaces that incorporate cork underlays have high sound absorption, reducing generated noise considerably and is ideal for multi-story structures.
  • Cork Ceiling Tiles – Installing a dropped ceiling using cork ceiling tiles is a great option for diffusing sound waves and buffering footfall sound transmission from upstairs neighbours.

Soundproofing your home or building is viewed as an upgrade in the real estate world. By installing cork soundproofing, your home’s value could be higher than others in your neighbourhood, especially in densely populated areas, and those located near high traffic roads and highways.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Just like every other soundproofing material on the market, cork has both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:

  • Waterproof and resistant to mould, mildew, and invasive microorganisms (Ideal for rooms like the kitchen and bathroom).
  • Unappealing to mice and termites.
  • Highly abrasion-resistant and a natural fire retardant.
  • Lightweight and high sustainability.
  • Biodegradable, renewable, and recyclable.
  • Hypoallergenic properties making it an excellent choice for those who suffer from allergies.
  • Vast selection of colours, patterns, and styles.

Disadvantages:

  • Although naturally resistant to moisture, will absorb liquid over time.
  • Sensitive to light (colours may fade in direct sunlight)
  • While cork may be more expensive per square metre it will increase the value of your home over the long run.

Conclusion: Does Cork Soundproofing Work?

It’s important to consider each room when installing cork flooring, cork ceiling tiles or cork wall panels. Consider how the room will be used, the natural lighting, the foot traffic and the furniture.

The pros of installing cork soundproofing in your home or office will usually outweigh the cons. The increased value of the property, your health and the health of the planet surpass anything negative.

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About the Author: AJ

Hi, my name's AJ! I write about living a quieter life, soundproofing tips and recommending the best quiet products here on Quiet Living.