Bamboo Flooring Pros and Cons Vs Cork Flooring

In our cork and bamboo flooring guide you can find tips for cleaning and installing these two popular flooring materials and a price guide to help you budget your new flooring project. In this latest Home Flooring Pros blog post we take a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of bamboo flooring & cork flooring, and then examine how they measure up and compare against one another.

Let’s start by taking a look at cork and bamboo flooring pros and cons, before concluding with a look at which of the two might be the best fit for your home.

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The Main Pro of Cork and Bamboo Flooring – Sustainability

The number one benefit that cork and bamboo have over hardwood flooring, as manufactures and retailers of both products are eager to point out, is their eco-friendly credentials. Cork is produced from the bark of the cork tree and can be re-harvested every ten years without ever damaging the tree itself. Meanwhile bamboo, of course, is not actually wood at all, but a grass that grows very rapidly, with supplies replenished every 3 to 5 years. In both cases this is a fraction of the 25-100 years that it takes for a tree to be replanted and harvested.

Other Pros of Cork and Bamboo Flooring

Climatically more adaptable – Both bamboo and cork need correct acclimatization before installation and you should consult with a local professional to check that the weather conditions in your area suit either option. Nevertheless both types of flooring are more adaptable than solid hardwoods. Click here for more info on solid hardwood installation and what to look for in a reliable installer.

Easy maintenance – Like other forms of wood flooring both cork and bamboo need little in the way of cleaning. Dust mopping or hoovering (being careful to disengage the beater bar) is mostly all that is needed. And an occasional mop with a just slightly damp mop works too.

Heat and Sound Insulation – Cork’s structural make up makes it a great choice if you want your floor to give you an added layer of insulation. Cork will help prevent both heat and cooling loss, so great for both summer and winter, and is much softer than solid hardwood or bamboo making it quiet underfoot.

Anti-bacterial – Cork contains a natural ingredient called suberin, this waxy substance helps keep cork moisture resistant which in turn makes it mold and mildew resistant, giving you a cleaner healthier floor.

Are They Right For You?

Here at Home Flooring Pros we’re big fans of cork and bamboo. Stick to a high quality product, have it correctly installed and you won’t be disappointed. But we recognize that they won’t always be the best option for every home, so here are a few things to consider.

Cons of cork floors

AestheticsCork flooring is unique to say the least, it has a very specific look which will either attract you or leave you cold. Of course it is this very uniqueness that attracts many homeowners who love the informal, warm and slightly retro look of cork. No two cork planks or tiles will be exactly the same so if it’s a plain uniform floor you’re after cork is probably not for you.

Refinishing – Or rather a lack thereof. Given its softness and thin wear layer (engineered cork flooring) refinishing cork floors isn’t really viable. You could use a hand sander and re-seal a small area to make minor repairs, but you won’t have the option of completely re-sanding the floor and returning it to new.

Re-sealing – Cork glue down tiles can work great in a bathroom or kitchen. With both the glue and several polyurethane layers on top you will have a pretty impregnable water-proof floor. You will, however have to keep it this way. Unsealed cork does not stand up to moisture at all well, so be prepared to re-seal your cork flooring in wet areas after a time.

Home Flooring Price Estimates

Cons of Bamboo Floors

Quality rating – This really is the number one problem with bamboo flooring. With no official quality rating for most bamboo products it’s very difficult to judge the quality of the bamboo flooring stacked on the selves. Pricing really is your best guide, steer clear of the lowest priced floors and stick with reputable brands. Alternatively get hold of a sample and put them through some scratch tests to find the best bamboo flooring.

Refinishing – Because bamboo is a grass rather than a wood, refinishing is very problematic and is not advised. Your best option with any damaged plank is replacement.

Cork vs Bamboo Flooring – Which is Better for Your Home?

So having decided why cork and bamboo might be a better flooring product over solid hardwood and other flooring types, how do they compare to one another?

Sustainability – While both are green options it is worth mentioning that much bamboo production is still unregulated and not certified by any official body. Questions still surround production methods, including the chemicals (like formaldehyde) used in treating and gluing bamboo strands, toxic fertilizers and pesticides used to speed up production, reports of deforestation to make way for more profitable bamboo manufacture and of course the environmental costs of shipping.

This means it is very difficult to really judge the green credentials of many bamboo products sitting on DIY store shelves. So you have two choices, go with a respected brands, like Cali Bamboo or Teragren, who have products and production certified by bodies like the FSC and LEEDS or…go with cork flooring!

Return On Investment – Savvy interior designers know that when choosing a floor you should at least consider how your choice of flooring might affect the re-sale of your home. It’s impossible to know what will be in or out of fashion ten years from now, but you will still need to make that judgment call when choosing between cork and bamboo. Solid hardwood flooring is widely seen as the luxury flooring of choice (interestingly this was not always so, not so long ago carpet was the way to go) and you would have to say that bamboo is a closer cousin to solid wood than cork.

To be clear, we’re not saying that bamboo will add more value to your home than cork, simply that corks unique aesthetics might not be to every-bodies taste and that bamboo could make resale easier by appealing to a broader range of buyers.

Prices What often surprises many buyers is the high price of both cork and bamboo flooring. $4 to $8 per square foot is a pretty common/standard price for a good quality product of either type. Unless it’s on sale, you’re better off avoiding cork or bamboo flooring below this price point, there are too many stories of dissatisfied customers who tried to cut corners with low cost, low grade bamboo flooring. This $4-8 cost is on a par with hardwood flooring, so apart from the environmental considerations why not go with wood?

Well, the saving really comes with installation. Whether you are looking at a DIY project or calling in professional installers, putting down an engineered floating floor or glue-down tiles is a simpler, easier and quicker job than solid hardwood planks. Of course there’s nothing to stop you investing in engineered hardwood flooring.

Durability and Wear – Both bamboo and cork are durable but in different ways. Decent bamboo products are tough and you will no doubt have seen much comment on how it compares favorably on the Janka hardness test against other hardwoods. So scratches, dents and dings shouldn’t be any worse than many other solid hardwoods. Nevertheless bamboo isn’t indestructible and isn’t necessarily the best choice for a home full of children, animals and high heels!

Cork is durable in a different way. With its springy nature cork rebounds well from dents although you are advised to use protective coasters and pads for heavy furniture that continually sit in the same place. The mottled pattern of cork means that it hides dirt and scratches better than bamboo or other hardwoods, so is more forgiving.

Comfort – Overall we would say that cork is a warmer and more forgiving flooring option than bamboo. As attractive and desirable as hardwood floors are some homeowners find them too cold and hard underfoot. If you share this opinion then you will probably feel the same way about bamboo as well.

Conversely corks cellular structure makes it a much softer and yielding option and has a reputation for being warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, one of the reasons that glue down cork tiles are a popular choice in the bathroom.

You should now have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of cork vs bamboo flooring, for more detailed info on the suitability of either in your home start with a free estimate fro a trusted local installer. We would love to hear your experience of working with either type of flooring, just leave us a comment below.

For More Online Information about the Pros and Cons of Bamboo and Cork Floors

Fast Floors – A great place to start your online search for flooring. Top brands, styles and prices.

Builder Online – Trying to decide between hardwood and bamboo, take a look at this informative article.

University of Tennessee – Bamboo better than wood? See what the College of Agriculture Studies has to say.

  • Cork Flooring 101: W
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  • Expanko Cork Floorin
  • Cork floor samples.
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  • ecofusion
  • homelegend
  • usfloors
  • calibamboo
  • teragren
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10 thoughts on “Bamboo Flooring Pros and Cons Vs Cork Flooring

  • October 18, 2014 at 2:41 am
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    i am wondering cork vs bamboo in a 16×18 yoga room
    Durability cleaning and replacement

    Reply
    • October 18, 2014 at 4:54 am
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      My opinion? I would have to say cork, softer and more flexible, anti-bacterial and generally, when it comes to look, gentler.

      As for durability, cleaning and replacement there really isn’t much to chose between them.

      Hope that helps Marcy.

      Reply
  • January 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm
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    We live in the desert and house gets quite hot in the summer (100 degrees plus). How will a cork or bamboo floor stand up to this heat? Thanks.

    Reply
    • January 6, 2015 at 10:32 am
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      Hi Bob, sorry for the delay in replying. Always follow the manufacturers recommendations when it comes to things like this. I would be worried for solid bamboo at that temperature but maybe there is an engineered product that would work well. I would have thought engineered cork flooring would work well but again check the manufacturers warranty.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2015 at 1:38 pm
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    How would a cork floor perform in a constantly used galley kitchen in an apartment.
    I’m wondering about constant cleaning, heavy appliances on it, etc. Please advise.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • May 2, 2015 at 7:20 am
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      I think it would depend entirely on the product. Obviously soft cork tiles of the type sometimes used in bathrooms would be unsuitable, but many modern cork flooring products are much, much tougher than that. Cork wouldn’t be my obvious first choice for a kitchen, but it is pretty water resistant…so if you like it find a product with a decent reputation for durability.

      Reply
  • May 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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    We are installing new flooring in in a guest room and family room in a walk-out basement, which means, of course, that part of the floor is subgrade. We are attracted to cork’s insulating properties, especially for the guest room. The most heavily trafficked area is finished with ceramic tile so wear and tear is not an issue. Are there any concerns we should have for using cork in this environment?

    Reply
    • May 20, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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      I can’t think of any concerns from what you’ve said but I always advise a quote and a bit of free advice from a local contractor before going ahead.

      Reply
  • July 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm
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    I have two large dogs and am concerned about nail gouges. I am leaning towards cork flooring, but am not sure if the ‘soft’ factor would be a detriment with rambunctious dogs. Thank you for your advise.

    Reply
  • October 1, 2015 at 7:48 am
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    I like both bamboo and cork. My question is this: I have hydronic radiant heat under a concrete floor in the basement. My need is a floor that is best over that and also good for danceroom and gym. I want a floor that can stand the odd weight dropped on it (I notice the whiter cork will dent a lot, but is much less noticeable than any darker finish). More importantly I need a floor that wont be hard on the legs and back and knees when jumping on it and dancing. Most dance studios are hardwood and NOT on concrete. Can I use a subfloor under cork to help add softness over a hydronic radiant heated concrete floor?

    Reply

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