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Coir Flooring

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 3 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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Coir is actually the fibre from the husk of the coconut and it is probably the oldest form of natural plant covering for floors, with its use dating back for centuries. It is incredibly strong and durable and is thus a great alternative to sisal and other softer forms of natural flooring, for areas that receive high wear and tear.

How is Coir Produced?

The husk is taken from coconut palms that grow along the inner waterways and lakes of India, in particular Kerala. This is first soaked in fresh water for several months and then beaten to soften the cellulose fibres. Because these fibres are short and hard, they are spun by hand rather than by a machine. This hard ‘yarn’ is then called “kayar” and it is used to make doormats, ropes, sacks and floor coverings. Coir has a unique texture which produces a warm look that can’t be achieved with modern synthetic materials.

Coir as Flooring

Coir makes ideal flooring, especially in areas that receive high traffic as it is very resistant to wear and tear. It is a great alternative to carpet and also to other natural plant coverings that are too fine to withstand heavy wear. Coir can be used as carpets but also as rugs and mats, which are very strong and tightly woven.

Coir carpet can be installed throughout the entire house, just like traditional carpet, but it is not advisable to install it in bathrooms and kitchens as it is vulnerable to excessive moisture. Like all natural flooring, it is best not to attempt DIY but to find a professional floor layer who is experienced in laying this type of flooring. Coir can be installed directly to the floor but an adhesive underlay is highly recommended as it will help the coir carpet last loner; it’ll be easier to remove when the time comes to replace it; if it is good quality, it will help to hide any unevenness in your floor and it will also provide both heat and sound insulation, thereby reducing energy bills and noise pollution. Essentially – combines with the use of high quality underlay and with due care, coir wears the same as high quality carpets.

Advantages of Using Coir Flooring

Using coir as flooring has several advantages:

  • Because coir is a “natural” product with an expected rustic look, it is very minimally processed – unlike synthetic floor coverings which often have many chemicals added to create particular colours and effects. Unfortunately, these chemicals also create the perfect conditions for rapid wear whereas coir, in its natural state, retains its inherent strength and durability.
  • Coir has advantages over traditional carpet and many other natural floor coverings in that it is not susceptible to mildew and damp. Thus, coir can become water-logged with no perceptible bad effects, although prolonged periods of soaking will result in damp water marks and can also result in mould.
  • Coir does fade slightly when exposed to strong sunlight – similar to timber – but the mellower golden hues are often more attractive and more liked than the original.
  • Coir is very good at absorbing the transmission of sound, thereby providing great noise insulation.
  • Coir is resistant to insects, in particular, carpet moth damage, as the natural oils inherent in the fibres repel insects.
  • Coir is very easy maintenance, although regular vacuuming is recommended.
  • Like many other type of natural fibre flooring, including timber, coir has hydroscopic properties, ie. it absorbs moisture from the air and therefore helps to balance the atmosphere of a room, taking in and releasing moisture depending on the conditions.
  • Because coir does not harbour bacteria, it seems to be particularly good for asthmatic or allergic conditions.
  • Coir provides a slip-resistent, non-skid surface which helps to prevent accidents.
  • Most of all, for those seeking an environmentally-responsible choice for their flooring, coir is 100% biodegradable. Its natural fibres are processed in an ecologically-sound manner and are free of pollutants. It is also a completely sustainable resource.

Disadvantages of Coir Flooring

  • Coir is very similar to timber, so it will expand and contract with higher and lower humidity, respectively. This must be accounted for when laying coir flooring and also in considering the structure and dimensions of a room, as well as its usage.
  • Although coir is generally very durable, if it is continually exposed to strong sunlight, in conditions of heat and low humidity, then its fibres can become brittle and thus weakened.
  • Coir cannot be used outdoors.
  • Although it is a good alternative to traditional carpet in many respects, coir may not be comfortable to sit on for long periods.
  • Lastly, coir is still not widely-known and thus finding a coir flooring supplier may be difficult.

If you want an ecologically-friendly solution for busy spaces – whether it is homes with pets and children or a more commercial setting - then coir is a great option. Its unique properties mean that it is more than able to withstand the demands of modern life while its sustainable growing cycle means that with care, coir flooing can be made from the same coconut tree for years and years to come.

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