Bamboo is a large grass that grows abundantly in Asia, where it has long been used for flooring. Bamboo floors are relatively new to the United States, but they are growing in popularity because they are durable, eco-friendly and economical.
Bamboo plants have hard, hollow stems that make them ideal for flooring. The stems are processed in a factory and then laminated into solid boards that are assembled using a tongue-and-groove construction.
Bamboo flooring is stain resistant, and it is available in a variety of colors and textures. However, bamboo flooring is moisture sensitive. It is not ideal for high-moisture areas such as basements and bathrooms, and most manufacturers recommend letting the bamboo acclimate for several days before installation so the flooring can adjust to your home’s temperature and humidity level.
Bamboo Flooring Costs
Bamboo flooring typically costs $5 to $7 per square foot, although high-end bamboo can reach up to $20 per square foot. Installation adds about another $3 to $5 per square foot, while removal and haul away of your old flooring adds another $2 per square foot.
Pros of Bamboo
- Eco-friendly – Bamboo grows abundantly and is plentiful, making it a very sustainable product. The plant is ready to be harvested after just three to five years, compared to eight to 10 years with cork, which is also considered an eco-friendly flooring option.
- Less expensive – Bamboo is typically less expensive than cork, although the products aren’t far apart in price.
- Resembles traditional wood – Bamboo is a great alternative to traditional wood flooring because the look is similar. Bamboo is a great choice for homeowners who like the look of wood floors but prefer a more sustainable product.
- Can be sanded – Bamboo can be sanded down and refinished to repair scratches and scuffs; cork cannot.
Cons of Bamboo
- Noisier – Bamboo floors have a much harder surface, so there will be sound and echoing as you move from one room to another. This can be a nuisance in high-traffic homes, particularly those with kids or pets.
- Quality variations – Not all bamboo flooring products are created alike. Low-quality bamboo flooring may scratch and dent easily, while high-quality bamboo remains durable. With bamboo, it’s especially important to understand exactly what you’re purchasing.
- Questionable manufacturing/labor practices – There’s some controversy over the materials that are used in the manufacturing process, particularly formaldehyde. Also, fair-trade advocates have criticized the lack of fair labor guidelines in factories where bamboo flooring is produced. Be sure to ask your flooring distributor about the product’s manufacturing guidelines.
When you think of cork, you probably imagine wine bottles or cork boards. But cork is also an increasingly popular residential flooring material, appreciated for its durability, versatility and sustainability.
Cork comes from the bark of a cork oak tree. The bark is harvested every nine years and then allowed to dry before being sent to the factory to make wine corks. The cork that is left from that process is ground up and compressed using an adhesive to make cork floors.
Like bamboo, cork flooring is a eco-friendly material that is available in a variety of colors and designs. However, it is also moisture sensitive. Cork is not ideal for basements or bathrooms, and it should be allowed to acclimate to your home’s humidity levels for several days prior to installation.
Cork Flooring Costs
Cork flooring is usually priced from $5 to $8 per square foot, although high-end cork can be priced as high as $20 per square foot. Installation adds another $3 to $4 per square foot, while removal and haul away of your old flooring, if necessary, adds $2 per square foot.
Pros of Cork
- Quieter – There’s a reason cork has long been popular in churches and libraries: It’s extremely quiet. The soft surface absorbs sound and noise, and it is also very comfortable under your feet.
- Durable – Just like a wine cork, cork flooring will bounce back to its original shape after its squeezed. Cork flooring is also fire resistant and insect resistant.
- Great insulator – Cork is a natural insulator against heat and cold.
Cons of Cork
- Difficult to repair – Cork flooring is not indestructible; it can be damaged by high heels, heavy furniture or pets. And it’s difficult to repair if damaged. You can’t sand it down and refinish it, as you would with bamboo.
- More expensive – Cork flooring tends to be slightly more expensive than bamboo because it is not as plentiful.
- Unique look – Cork flooring is a unique look that some people love and some people do not. The look and feel is very different from hardwood, so it might not be a good option for those with very traditional taste.