Some kinds of flooring are easy to compare while others require a bit more thought. Carpet and luxury vinyl are completely different, but things begin to get murky when you begin to compare engineered flooring.
Cork and bamboo are both popular in engineered format, and often on the same shopping list when homeowners are looking for something unique. With that in mind, we are going to put these two flooring styles against one another in several key categories from style to sustainability.
Cork and bamboo flooring are both sold in several formats, but made in entirely different ways. The strongest type of bamboo flooring is called strand-woven bamboo. Vertical and horizontal bamboo is also incredibly durable. All three types can come in solid form or as engineered flooring with only a slice of bamboo on the top.
Cork flooring is most commonly found as engineered flooring, just like bamboo. The difference comes into play with the core layers, which can be made from fiberboard or PVC. Both engineered bamboo and cork flooring are usually sold in plank format. Bamboo can be found in parquet form as well, while cork tiles are usually constructed from ground material.
While the construction of bamboo and cork flooring can be similar, comfort is an area where there is a clear winner. Bamboo flooring is known for its incredible durability. Cork is on the opposite end of the spectrum as it’s resilient but forgiving beneath your feet with outstanding impact resistance.
Cork flooring can’t measure up to memory foam in terms of comfort, but different densities can provide different levels of comfort. Cork flooring is a great insulator as well, so it will be warmer beneath your feet in the winter than hardwood or bamboo flooring.
One reason homeowners opt for engineered or solid hardwood in their homes is durability. Wooden floors will last decades, and when thick enough, can be refinished multiple times. While bamboo flooring is grass, not wood, the culm or stalk is incredibly strong.
On the Janka hardness scale, it ranks higher than domestic species like Oak and Hickory but is also stronger than Brazilian Cherry and Acacia as well. In strong woven form, it can surpass 4,000 on the scale whereas Oak is below 1,500.
By comparison, you will not find cork listed on a hardness scale alongside other popular choices. It’s not grass, but the bark from a cork oak tree is used for flooring. It’s known for being softer than traditional woods, so it will not hold a candle to bamboo in the durability department.
Pets can bring a lot of joy into your life, but they can also ruin certain types of flooring. The type of animals you own has a lot to do with that along with their feet and habits. Hard flooring surfaces are ideal for pets, but some definitely perform better than others.
Two of the main issues with pets are messes and claws. If your puppy has an accident on bamboo or cork flooring, the mess can be quickly wiped away without issue. Bamboo can be a bit more forgiving in that regard, however, given the textured surface of cork flooring.
No matter what type of flooring you have in your home, it’s a good idea to keep pet nails trimmed. They can scratch almost any surface, including bamboo or cork. This is another area where bamboo is a clear winner, however, because of its hardness while cork is easily scratched.
Style is a hard thing to compare considering every homeowner has different décor in their home. Personal taste is also important as beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. That means whether you prefer cork to bamboo is going to be a personal choice based on a variety of factors. There are a few things that separate these two styles, which may help narrow things down.
Solid or engineered bamboo flooring is actually difficult to stain because of its hardness which gives cork a slight edge in that regard. You may find more colors, although the overall selection is slimmer. Bamboo is available in more types, however, and each has a unique look with horizontal, strand-woven, and vertical bamboo flooring.
Are you looking for floors that are easy to upkeep? If so, you’ll appreciate what bamboo flooring brings to the table. They handle moisture better than traditional hardwoods, so most can be wet-mopped. Brooms, vacuums, and dusting mops will all work on bamboo flooring whether it is solid or in engineered format.
Cork flooring is also easy to clean, but more care is needed because it is softer. Vacuum cleaners with beater bars could damage the surface, so brooms and dust mops are much safer. With repairs, we feel that both types of flooring are easy to replace if installed using the click-lock method. Light repairs to the surface are easier with bamboo than cork.
Volatile organic compounds are something we’ve often discussed whether we’re covering synthetic carpet, luxury vinyl, or adhesives. VOCs are something we deal with every day as we make our way through the world, but there’s a big difference between indoor and outdoor volatile organic compounds.
VOCs from items inside your home can have an impact on your health as you are exposed to them over longer periods in an enclosed space. They are also something you need to be aware of with both bamboo and cork in any format given the adhesives and finishes used in the construction of each type of flooring.
Certifications can tell you if the floor is safe to use indoors, but how it’s installed impacts the overall levels as well. Any flooring that requires adhesive has the potential to produce more VOCs. In many cases, it’s not an issue with high-quality flooring but can still cause problems to people with respiratory issues.
The Green Factor
One of the more popular trends in the flooring industry has been the influx of eco-friendly flooring. Sustainability is important for customers, but also for manufacturers’ looking to lessen their carbon footprint.
Bamboo is a highly renewable resource that grows rapidly and is easily replaced. Cork does not grow nearly as fast but is also renewable as the tree keeps growing while bamboo is harvested over decades. Both of these flooring materials are considered green and eco-friendly when sourced and harvested responsibly.
Cost and Availability
Installing any new flooring surface can be expensive, especially if prep work is needed or old flooring has to be removed. The cost of the material itself is the biggest hurdle for most homeowners to overcome and an area where bamboo has a small advantage over cork flooring.
Bamboo flooring is easier to acquire and cheaper than cork flooring in engineered format. That’s partly due to its popularity, but also because it grows faster and is produced by more companies around the globe. The price difference can be minimal, but high-quality cork can be around $1.00 more per square foot when compared to bamboo in the same class.
At the end of the day, whether you choose cork or bamboo flooring will come down to your budget, style, and needs. Both have very distinct styles and unique advantages compared to traditional hardwood flooring. Neither is ideal for damp areas compared to vinyl, so location is important as well. If you’d like to learn more about the types of species available with engineered flooring, we have you covered.