When choosing wood flooring for your home, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the wealth of options. From Cherry and Pine to Jatoba, there are well over a dozen species to choose from. While bamboo isn’t a wood, it has become a popular choice for consumers in recent years. That’s partly due to its sustainable nature, but it’s not the only reason to compare hardwood vs. bamboo.
Not barefoot-friendly and stays cool
Solid and cool with no cushioning
Slipping can be a problem, but cleanup won’t be
Traction issues, but easy to clean
One species with three variants
Over a dozen species to choose from
Incredibly strong, 20-40 year lifespan
Varies by species, but can be as strong as bamboo, can last over 100 years
Easy to maintain
A little more work overall
The Green Factor
Fast-growing and easy to replace
Look for certified products if sustainability is a concern
Safety & Unique Concerns
Slippery when wet, potential off-gassing with some styles
Strong and sustainable
Varying widths and thicknesses, can be refinished numerous times
More installation methods
DIY-friendly to a degree
Not ideal for wet areas
Not ideal for wet areas
$4.00 to $7.50 per sq. ft.
$3.50 to $9.00 per sq. ft.
Do you like to walk around barefoot in your home? If so, hardwood isn’t always the best choice so you may want to get used to wearing slippers. Rugs can help ease the burden on your feet, but unless you are choosing a softer wood, hardwood lives up to its namesake as it’s resilient and stable beneath your feet. It’s also solid, not compressed or glued together like other forms of flooring.
Bamboo is actually a grass, not wood. It’s stronger than most domestic species of hardwood however which means it’s also not exactly comfortable underfoot. This is an area that really comes down to your preference, and the rooms you plan to install bamboo or hardwood flooring in. Unless it’s a room where you’ll constantly be on your feet, the comfort factor may not come into play at all.
Cats tend to spend a lot of their time climbing or perched on various things throughout your home. That means flooring generally isn’t a major concern with felines, but it’s a different story for dogs. Dogs or other pets with nails can scratch hardwood or bamboo, so nail trims are a must – especially if your pet weighs over 50 pounds.
Neither style of flooring provides much traction due to those claws and furry paw pads, but there are several advantages to hardwood and bamboo for your pets. Both are easy to clean if there is an accident although you’ll want to address spills from water bowls and urine quickly. Pet hair is also easy to clean with either style, so this area is a tie between hardwood vs. bamboo.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it’s something you need to pay close attention to when choosing bamboo or hardwood flooring. Each of these materials has a distinct style that can completely alter the look of a room and change its vibe.
Bamboo flooring is sold in three styles with vertical, horizontal, and strand woven bamboo, but the main thing to focus on is the color and grain. Bamboo flooring retains its natural look unless it’s carbonized which darkens its golden hue. Horizontal and vertical styles are the most popular, but the former is what you’ll want if you prefer traditional looking planks.
Things aren’t nearly as clear with hardwood. With domestics, you can choose common options like Oak and Hickory or Cherry if you want something unique. Ash, Maple, and Walnut are also options, and each wood has a different grain pattern and style. There are also exotic species to consider as well including Brazilian Walnut, Santos Mahogany, Ebony and Cumaru, just to name a few. Overall, you have more options with hardwood, and it’s not even close…
This is where things can get tricky if durability is one of the main factors in choosing new flooring for your home. Both hardwood flooring and bamboo are quite durable. With wood, it comes down to the species you choose, but with bamboo, it’s all about how it’s manufactured.
Bamboo is incredibly strong, and some forms can top out at above 5,000 on the Janka scale. Flooring with the highest hardness rating will be of the strand-woven variety as vertical and horizontal bamboo flooring are softer. They are still harder than many species of domestic hardwood, and our table will give you a good idea of what to expect from various species of wood.
Strand Woven Bamboo
2,600 – 5,000
Vertical & Horizontal Bamboo
Flooring that has a high number on the Janka scale is never a bad thing, and hardness is a great way to get an idea of how durable your floors will be with daily use. It’s not the only factor that determines strength however as the type of finish and other factors play a role with longevity as well.
Cleaning and upkeep is a great way to help make a tough decision easier, especially if you want low-maintenance flooring for your home. Unfortunately, hardwood and bamboo share a lot of similarities in this area as both are extremely easy to clean.
Most consumers will only require a broom or dust mop to keep their floors clean on a regular basis. You will need to break out a specialized mop on occasion, but hair, dust, and dirt are all easy to remove. Vacuums aren’t required for bamboo or hardwood floors although they do have excellent models designed specifically for hard surfaces.
Due to the way they are manufactured, you will need to reseal, stain, wax, or sand hardwood floors. How often and the process depends on the flooring, but it’s generally something most homeowners don’t tackle themselves. The same goes for bamboo flooring although they typically just need to be resealed or lightly sanded.
The Green Factor
If you’re a consumer that’s looking to go green, this is where the materials start to separate themselves. There are a few traits wood and bamboo have in common, but bamboo is the clear winner from a green standpoint.
For hardwood flooring to be manufactured, trees need to be cut down unless you opt for reclaimed flooring or use repurposed boards. This is where responsible forestry practices are important as it ensures the trees that are removed are replaced and areas aren’t overharvested. You can find plenty of companies selling FSC-certified products, but when you decide to go exotic, you are typically dealing with wood from the Rainforest and other protected areas.
Ensuring proper forestry techniques are in place is vital, but it takes decades for new trees to reach maturity. That isn’t a problem with bamboo considering it’s one of the fastest-growing things on the planet. It should still come from companies that harvest it responsibly as well, but it’s far more renewable than wood.
Safety & Unique Concerns
When dealing with flooring, the top safety concern for most consumers is slippage. While bamboo may be durable and have a textured look, the surface is generally smooth. Unless you are buying unfinished planks or bamboo that has been intentionally weathered, there is a chance you’ll slip if the floor becomes slick.
Considering hardwood flooring is made in a similar fashion, you can slip on it just as easily as well. Due to a wider selection of material overall, there are more textured options at your disposal. We’re giving hardwood the edge for that reason, but also because VOCs typically aren’t a problem with traditional hardwood flooring.
Strand woven bamboo flooring uses resin to bind fibers together, which helps give it strength. You can experience off-gassing from poor quality flooring that uses urea-formaldehyde and other nasty adhesives. Any type of flooring that has a binding agent can potentially cause problems down the line although products that are FloorScore certified are considered safe to use indoors.
Quality control can also be a bit lax with bamboo as it isn’t as widely available, but you can find hardwood flooring in a variety of grades. While not a unique concern, both bamboo, and hardwood won’t do well with moisture. They are organic, which means they can rot and boards can warp if water slips through the cracks. Spills should be wiped up quickly, as with any type of wood-based flooring.
Regardless of how similar two styles of flooring can be, there are always a few unique properties that make them special. With wood, you’ll have more sizes to choose from, so you’re not stuck with standard widths. Porch boards and ultra-wide planks are also an option along with a half-dozen milling techniques.
Hardwood floors are also thicker than bamboo flooring, which brings another advantage to the forefront. They can be sanded or refinished at least a half-dozen times if it’s thick enough, whereas bamboo can only be lightly sanded once or twice. That makes a huge difference in the lifespan of your floors while giving you the ability to freshen them up as needed.
We’ve already told you about the biggest benefit of bamboo flooring – its strength. Well, it is incredibly strong, but it’s also “slightly” more resistant to moisture than hardwood. That may buy you an extra minute or two if your floors get wet, but it’s a minimal advantage at best.
Installing hardwood flooring is something we touched on in our ultimate guide, and it’s something homeowners can install by themselves. Harder woods will be more difficult to work with, and it can be hard on your back, but it is definitely doable. Whether or not it’s a good idea or not depends on your patience level and your skill with a saw.
Bamboo flooring can be easier to work with than hardwood, but you’ll still need a good saw and a few other tools. There are a few more installation options with bamboo as well, and as it’s usually thinner, it’s lighter and easier to deal with in general. Overall, we feel both styles can be managed by homeowners as long as you’re willing to put in the time and aren’t afraid of power tools.
It’s rare to find flooring that you can install anywhere, and while hardwood is resilient, it’s only suitable for some rooms in your home. It’s one of the few drawbacks to this classic building material as moisture can ruin your flooring quicker than you think.
You don’t want to install hardwood in basements or any below-grade rooms that are prone to flooding or moisture. Bathrooms aren’t ideal, but we’ve seen plenty of homes with wooden floors in the bathroom, laundry rooms, and kitchens. In other words, it’s up to you where you install hardwood flooring; just keep those repair costs in mind in case disaster strikes.
Bamboo is also not a type of flooring we recommend for damp rooms, bathrooms, or kitchens but is commonly found throughout homes. Even if a manufacturer claims it can hold up against water, don’t believe the hype and stick to installing bamboo in dry areas.
Hardwood flooring cost is fairly straightforward as it boils down to the species and grade of wood at the end of the day. The brand affects the price as well, but the grade is critical if you want high-quality flooring instead of knotty seconds.
Hardwood flooring can range from $3.50 per square foot to over $9.00, and we’ve seen some planks that exceed $15 per sq. ft. as well. You can pay almost double the price for exotics compared to domestic species, and the type of finished used can also bump the price up. Hardwood flooring can increase the value of your home, however, especially if you choose the right style.
By comparison, you can expect to pay between $4.00 to $7.50 for bamboo flooring. Again, it all depends on the brand and quality, so you’ll pay more for something that’s thick and certified. You won’t get as much bang for your buck in regards to resale value with bamboo, but it could make a difference to the right buyer.
With either style, always keep your tastes in mind compared to potential buyers if you plan to sell your home. Not everyone may appreciate cherry flooring the way you do, and bamboo is definitely an acquired taste.
While the best material for your home comes down to your needs and style, bamboo is better suited for modern or contemporary homes while hardwood is traditional and widely regarded as a classic. If you still can’t decide which material is right for your home and need more clarity to make a flooring decision, check out the hardwood section of our site and our bamboo guide which covers the basics of his exotic flooring.