How We Re-Used Cork Tiles in Our Bathroom: A Case Study

Reusing carpet, tiles and other flooring materials is a great way of keeping them out of the landfill and using people’s cast-offs doesn’t seem as seedy now that the whole of the United Kingdom is obsessed with saving money.

Reusing Makes Sense for Tenants

Where it can really pay though is for tenants. Many landlords won’t pay to replace or redecorate houses if they don’t consider that there’s anything wrong with them, but the tenants often think otherwise, particularly as they are the one’s using the house on a day to day basis. But it doesn’t make sense for tenants to pour money into their home.

This was the case with Janet and John Arkwright who live in a 16th century cottage in an Oxfordshire market town. As tenants they didn’t mind the freedom that the landlords had given them to redecorate any way they wanted to but had begun to realise that this meant paying for it too.

“To be fair, the landlords will put things right when they eventually break,” said Janet “but it’s really hard to make them see that something needs to be replaced before it’s completely destroyed.”

Bathroom Floor Woe

The floor of the bathroom in question had collapsed into the garage below three weeks before the Arkwrights were due to move in back in 2008. Water had been pouring down the side of the bath from the rubber hose shower attachment for so long that the damp rafters had finally given up.

“The landlords put a new bathroom in, with a proper shower, which we were really grateful for,” said Janet, “as we’d already decided that, that would be the first thing we would be trying to get them to do anyway. The house has been used by sharers for twenty years and the bathrooms and kitchen were particularly bad”

Flooring in Need of Replacement

But once the bathroom had been installed, decoration was left up to the Arkwrights, and that included the floor. “The vinyl was a nice mottled puce and insipid yellow abstract pattern,” said Janet “which looked dirty even after being scrubbed. The cigarette burns set it off nicely, and with the new bathroom suite in place it didn’t actually fit any more.”

John added: “I tried to convince them that water would start coming in again through the uncovered strip in front of the bath but they weren’t having it. Luckily I found some self-adhesive cork tiles on freecycle and nabbed them quickly.”

Downside of Freecycle

As the cork tiles were left over from someone else’s bathroom decoration project there was only enough to cover two-thirds of the Arkwrights’ bathroom floor, so more tiles would have to be bought. Hardboard was needed to cover the floor before the tiles were and again, that was bought rather than waiting for something to turn up on freecycle.

“This is the main problem with relying on free stuff,” said John “you have to take what you can get and then make it work as best you can. It could have been years before any more cork tiles came up on freecycle. But in the end we saved over half the cost over buying it all new.

Innovative Tile Laying

“I wasn’t surprised to find that I couldn’t find the exact same tiles so I bought a pack of darker tiles from a local, DIY shop and played pretty patterns until I had something I was happy with,” he continued, “As tenants, it’s important for us not to put too much money into the house, but I don’t mind putting my time in as we get the benefit of living in a nicer home.”

The disgusting old vinyl from the bathroom floor didn’t end up in the landfill though. “No, I trimmed that and tacked it to the top of the workbench in the garage!” laughed John. “Now I’ve got a tough wipe-free surface to work on.”

(Names have been changed.)