Your first instinct might be to think that bamboo and vinyl flooring are nothing alike. But if you’re a consumer who is researching water-resistant, low-maintenance, easy-to-install flooring, you’ll probably come across both materials as valid options. Depending on your objectives, one type of flooring might stand out more than the other.
Is Natural Flooring Important to You?
How drawn are you to using natural materials in construction? One of the primary differences between bamboo vs vinyl flooring is their origin. Bamboo flooring is sourced from a natural material, whereas vinyl flooring is man-made.
Therefore, bamboo has a more natural look and feel than vinyl. No two bamboo planks are alike. Each reflects the individual stalks that make it up. There’s a great deal of variation in the design and marbling of bamboo flooring.
There are many styles of vinyl planks that mimic the look of bamboo. However, they don’t have the same inherent quirks as a material that grows in nature. High-definition printers that create the design layer for vinyl floors have come a long way. However, they can’t replicate the truly random patterns of natural bamboo.
Do You Want Eco-Friendly Flooring?
Bamboo is considered to be an eco-friendly, sustainable type of flooring. As a type of grass, it grows much more quickly than hardwood trees. Once the plant reaches maturity, parts can be harvested without killing the plant. This allows for more, faster growth.
Some other reasons that bamboo flooring can be an eco-friendly product include the following:
- Bamboo absorbs carbon quickly
- Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than the same volume of trees
- Growing the plant is not especially resource-dependent
How Eco-Friendly is Bamboo Flooring Actually?
But all bamboo farms don’t operate the same. Those that are truly eco-friendly rely on sustainable farming practices. There are plenty of bamboo farms that wipe out the land for planting and use harmful chemicals to maintain their crops.
Moreover, by the time the bamboo flooring gets to you, it has been highly processed. The bamboo stalks must be cut and pressed together to form solid planks. They’re secured by adhesives, many of which contain formaldehyde or other volatile organic compounds.
How Eco-Friendly is Vinyl Flooring?
Vinyl flooring is not one of the most eco-friendly options. It’s made from polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. This is a petroleum-based product, and petroleum is a nonrenewable resource. Moreover, vinyl doesn’t decompose, and most PVC products aren’t recyclable.
Damaging toxins are created during the manufacturing process, emitting hazardous gases into the atmosphere. The final product may also leach VOCs into the air that you breathe.
How to Choose the Most Eco-Friendly Flooring
For the most eco-friendly flooring, opt for bamboo that’s made using sustainable manufacturing practices. Some manufacturers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This confirms that they product comes from a well-managed forest. Ask about the type of adhesive that bonds the bamboo together, choosing formaldehyde-free, water-based formulas.
If you must go with vinyl over bamboo flooring, follow these guidelines to get the most environmentally friendly option:
- Look for FloorScore-certified flooring, which complies with criteria for acceptable indoor air quality
- Choose a high-quality brand that will last for years; you’ll produce less waste than with lower quality products, which need to be replaced more often
- Look for recycled or recyclable vinyl planks
- Select products with a GreenGuard or GreenGuard Gold certification
How Durable Do Your Floors Need to Be?
When it comes to durability, two primary factors usually come into play. You want your floors to be hard enough to withstand scratches and scuffs. But you also need them to resist moisture.
You might be willing to get away with a certain level of distressing on your floors. For example, if you want a floor with lots of distressed, rustic character, you might want to choose a hardwood like oak, pine or maple. But if you want to keep your floors smooth and blemish-free for as long as possible, bamboo or vinyl flooring is probably on the list.
Consumers who have children and pets often research bamboo vs vinyl flooring because both of these materials are exceptionally durable. They’re also some of the most water-resistant flooring options available.
Is Comfort Your Aim?
Do you have toddlers that crawl across the floor on their hands and knees? Are you often barefoot? If you hate the feeling of a cold floor on bare toes in the morning, you might enjoy a bamboo floor. This material is an excellent insulator, and it usually feels warm on bare skin. Therefore, although bamboo doesn’t look as cozy as pine cabin flooring at first glance, it might feel cozier as you walk on it.
Luxury vinyl planks are warmer underfoot than standard vinyl flooring. However, neither of these materials match the temperature-balancing qualities of bamboo. Still, vinyl flooring is softer underfoot. It has an elastic quality, which offers some give. It might be more comfortable for pets, children and anyone else who spends a great deal of time on the floor.
How Waterproof is Bamboo vs Vinyl Flooring?
Bamboo and vinyl flooring are both more waterproof than hardwood. Therefore, they’re practical choices for laundry rooms, mud rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
One of the reasons that bamboo has such a high tolerance to moisture is its density. The fibers are packed tightly together, and porous spaces are filled with adhesive. Some brands are treated for extra spill protection.
But bamboo flooring is not completely waterproof. It’s made up of organic material, which will soak up excess moisture if it’s exposed to it for prolonged periods. Therefore, don’t allow water to pool on the floor. Avoid leaving damp clothing or towels on the surface, because the moisture can damage the finish.
Vinyl flooring is more water resistant than bamboo. Some brands even claim that they’re waterproof. If you leave a puddle of water on vinyl floors, it will disappear without marring the surface or the structure of the material. Therefore, vinyl might be preferable to bamboo in areas that are prone to flooding.
Still, you need to make sure that moisture can’t seep between the seams of vinyl tiles or planks. If it does, it can soak into the underlayment, creating hidden moisture problems. Vinyl floors that don’t have an adequate moisture barrier beneath them are prone to warping, bubbling or buckling.
How Much Maintenance Do You Want to Put In?
Bamboo and vinyl flooring are both easy to maintain. Bamboo usually has an exceptionally smooth surface. You can easily use a broom or dry mop to eliminate dust particles. A flooring style with plenty of variation will hide dirt, scratches and scuffs. Therefore, bamboo is one of the most maintenance-free materials for flooring.
Vinyl is equally as easy to take care of. You might have to do more deep cleaning on vinyl, but you can use a steam cleaner or wet mop.
One of the biggest differences when it comes to maintaining bamboo vs vinyl flooring is the materials’ resilience to damage. Vinyl is forgiving up to a point. Small dents may work themselves out over time. But deep punctures will need to be repaired. Whereas you can sand and refinish bamboo floors, you can’t do much to repair vinyl flooring other than replacing the entire plank.
No matter which type of flooring you choose, you’ll get the most longevity from a high-quality brand. Have a professional install the flooring to maximize its water resistance and durability. With the right installation and care, your bamboo or vinyl flooring should last for years.