Cork and bamboo are both intriguing flooring options that offer an alternative to traditional hardwood. If you’re considering new flooring for your home, these are both eco-friendly options that can help you maintain a home that’s a little lighter on the earth. Learn more about the pros and cons of bamboo and cork floors so you can decide which of these beautiful flooring options is the best choice for your next home improvement project.
Similarities of Cork and Bamboo
You’ll find that cork and bamboo are often discussed together because both are eco-friendly flooring options. These products give the home a beautiful appearance while making a minimal impact on the environment. Environmentally conscious consumers enjoy these picks because they’re far more sustainable than hardwood flooring.
It takes 30 to 100 years for trees to reach the proper maturity for traditional wood flooring. Timber is harvested at maturity and replanted, at which point the lengthy cycle must begin again. In contrast, bamboo reaches maturity in just five to seven years. This grass is cut at the ground level and regrows from the roots another five to seven years after each harvest.
Cork flooring is made from wood bark, so it can be harvested without killing the tree. Cork trees reach maturity at 25 years. Once the bark is peeled away, it can regenerate on the live tree in nine to 12 years. A single cork tree will typically live 150 to 200 years, though these trees can live up to 800 years.
Cork Flooring Pros
Cork is a soft flooring option that provides ample cushioning underfoot. It compresses under the weight of your body, so you’ll enjoy natural give with every step. This same feature makes cork a good insulator, both acoustically and thermally. Despite its softness, cork is still a very durable product. It’s resistant to cracks and bounces back easily from most dents.
Cork is excellent at protecting your family from potential hazards. The anti-bacterial flooring is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. It’s resistant to fire as well, and will not ignite until it reaches extremely high temperatures.
You can get cork in planks or tiles to suit your decorating style. It’s available in many hues as well. The color of the cork permeates its entire thickness, so the shade doesn’t change, even as the cork sustains long-term wear. Cork flooring will typically last for around 40 years.
Cork floor installation is quick and easy. Most tiles have self-adhesive backing so you can place them in a peel-and-stick manner. Another option is a thin-set mortar adhesive.
Cork Flooring Cons
Though cork flooring doesn’t dent easily, it can sustain scratches. Cork isn’t usually the best option for a home with pets, where sharp claws will make regular contact with the material. Pointy objects like small floor legs and high heels can puncture the floor, causing major damage.
It’s difficult to repair cork when damage does occur. The best option is to replace the entire tile, so you may need to keep some extra tiles on hand. Cork flooring must be sealed to protect it from moisture damage. You should be careful about using water on this material and damp-mop only as needed. Dust mopping is a better choice.
Some spills will stain cork flooring, and sunlight can bleach some of the color out of this product. Proper sealing will protect the flooring from minor water damage, but the material will discolor and warp if flooded. If cork flooring is regularly exposed to humidity, it may curl and expand, which can cause entire tiles to pop out of place. Cork does best in a low-humidity environment.
Bamboo Flooring Pros
Bamboo flooring is popular for its ability to mimic many other hardwood flooring styles. It’s available in a wide range of colors. You can find varying shades of bamboo in its natural state. The product can also be stained to provide a broader range of options to suit nearly any aesthetic preferences.
For durability, bamboo is a solid choice. It’s as hard as red oak and relatively moisture-resistant. Compared to solid hardwood, bamboo flooring contracts and expands less. Cleaning it is quick and easy with a damp mop. You can expect to get 20 to 25 years out of bamboo floors with the regular wear and tear of a family. Bamboo floors that get less wear can last 50 years or more.
There are several different ways to install bamboo flooring. You can float it over other floors or install it using nails or glue. It’s important for bamboo to acclimate to the environment before installation. Professional installation is the best option.
When you’re purchasing bamboo, it’s important to make sure the product comes from a reliable supplier. If the bamboo is harvested too early, it won’t have the optimum hardness. The best bamboo for strength and hardness is Moso bamboo that’s been allowed to mature for at least five years before harvesting.
Bamboo Flooring Cons
Bamboo’s hardness is usually considered a strength, but this feature also makes the flooring noisier than a softer pick like cork. If you’re looking to minimize sound in your home, you might want a different option. If bamboo flooring is exposed to direct sunlight, it can begin to lose some of its color. Bamboo also stains easily, so it’s important to seal it properly.
Make sure you’re knowledgeable about the installation process that will be used for your bamboo floors if you’re going this route. Bamboo flooring is often installed with a formaldehyde glue. This adhesive off-gases hazardous chemicals that are linked to respiratory problems. Look for bamboo products that come with a lengthy warranty to help minimize some of the potential problems that you can encounter with bamboo.
Both cork and bamboo have great strengths that can make them strong contenders for your flooring project. If you want something soft and insulating for a pet-free home, cork is the best option. For a durable yet sustainable flooring option, bamboo may be the right pick. Factor in all your needs to decide which type of flooring is right for you.