Bamboo and Cork Flooring Buying Guide

buying-guideCork and bamboo flooring get attention because they are green flooring choices made from sustainable plants. However, they can also produce very attractive flooring options too. These 2 renewable flooring products are making quite a splash, and many consumers are surprised to find that both materials are quite tough and durable when used in residential settings.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family and the species used in flooring is cultivated mostly in southern China groves, but it can be found throughout Asia. Plants grow to maturity in just 3-7 years. Compare that with hardwoods that take 25-100 years to reach the age when they can be harvested for wood! In addition, the root of the bamboo plant is left in the ground to begin growing again the next season.

Cork is the bark of the cork tree. Cutting away the excess bark does not harm the tree at all, and it starts renewing its bark immediately. Cork is moisture-resistant, durable and creates good sound insulation. You’ll notice a softer feel below your feet than you get with most hard flooring, and it is hypo-allergenic.

This buying guide to Bamboo and Cork flooring offers a detailed look at both of these flooring products and what you’ll find when you shop for them. Be sure to browse our other guides about installation, pricing and maintenance to learn more about both cork and bamboo flooring before you decide to buy.

Wear and Durability

Bamboo is actually harder than both red oak and maple as well as other domestic hardwoods. It can be nailed or floated for installation.

Bamboo flooring will look very good for 20-30 years. It hides scratches and small dents very well. Currently, much of the bamboo flooring sold cannot be refinished, so it will need to be replaced. However, some home floor pros believe that high-quality vertical grain bamboo flooring can be refinished. This flooring is relatively new, so it’s is still unclear how well different products will handle the refinishing process. Ask your bamboo flooring dealer if the products you are considering can be refinished.

Cork is durable but won’t last quite as long as bamboo. You should expect 20-25 years from cork. It also hides scratches well. It’s softness and resiliency makes it less susceptible to permanent dents. Cork flooring can be refinished once or twice during its lifetime, but it’s best to leave the job to an experienced floor contractor.

Flooring Materials, Lengths and Patterns

Each year, more options are being produced for these 2 flooring products. Bamboo has more options because it is currently one of the most popular newer types of flooring.

Bamboo flooring is made from strips of bamboo. In most cases, Eco-friendly glues are used, but you should check with the dealer or manufacturer before buying if this is a concern for you. The thin strips of bamboo are glued together in wide boards and then cut to plank size. A box of flooring will usually contain planks of random size from 12” to 60”.

Depending on the way the bamboo strips are oriented, it is said to be either flat grain or vertical grain. Flat grain is sometimes called horizontal grin and it shows more of the interior of the wood, including growth spurts often called knuckles. These give the wood character. For a cleaner look, you might prefer vertical grain bamboo flooring.

Natural bamboo is popular, but it can be stained in many different shades and tones too. Pressure treatment can cause carbonization in the wood, often called caramelized or spiced bamboo. This produces a darker tone prior to staining. For more on the different types of bamboo flooring click here.

Cork flooring is available in tiles or longer strips. You’ll find natural cork color as well as cork that has been pigmented with color. The color spectrum is quite broad, so you’ll find one to fit your design plans.

Leading Brands and Current Trends

Leading bamboo flooring brands include Teragren, Cali Bamboo, US Floors, Wellmade, Hawa and Yanchi. For the best cork flooring products take a look at US Floors, Globus Cork, Capri, WE Cork and Lisbon Cork. Head over to our blog for our bamboo flooring reviews and cork flooring reviews for the best brands and options.

In terms of trends, bamboo and cork flooring are the trend! With the emphasis on building materials that are friendly to the environment, sustainable products such as cork and bamboo flooring will continue to get a lot of attention from homeowners, builders and designers.

Cork and Bamboo Flooring FAQs

Q: What are the benefits of bamboo flooring?
A: It is ecofriendly, water-resistant, durable, natural and quite affordable. Many consumers also find bamboo to be very attractive for homes with a contemporary or eclectic style.

Q: What are the benefits of cork flooring?
A: It is ecofriendly, resilient, attractive and it can be installed over most surfaces. Standing for a long period of time on a cork floor is easier on the back and feet. Cork is non-allergenic, so it’s a good choice for those with allergies, COPD, asthma or other breathing issues. Cork is also flame-retardant. Basement cork flooring is worth considering because it’s warm and offers decent insulation.

Q: Is installation of cork or bamboo flooring an DIY project?
A: If you’ve got solid skills, then yes, you can install these floorings yourself. See the guide entitled Installation of Bamboo and Cork Flooring for more details.

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