If you like the look of hardwood but want something more unique and sustainable, you might consider bamboo or cork flooring. These materials have a similar price and offer a sustainable way to cover your floors. However, there are several differences between the materials. Compare their characteristics so that you end up with the perfect flooring for your space.

Sustainability of Cork vs Bamboo Flooring

Cork and bamboo are considered to be eco-friendly flooring options. Both come from resources that are more renewable than hardwood.

How Environmentally Friendly is Bamboo?

Although bamboo can grow to 100 feet tall, it’s not a tree. Bamboo is a grass that regenerates through the root system. When a stalk is cut, the plant puts out new shoots. That means that bamboo grows more abundantly the more it is harvested.

Unlike hardwood trees, bamboo doesn’t need to be replanted after it is cut down. Plus, bamboo reaches maturity in about five years. Its fast growth cycle allows for responsible farming. Because bamboo requires no fertilizer and less maintenance than other crops, it’s quite sustainable.

However, there are some concerns about the way that bamboo is farmed. If land is cleared to plant a single crop, it damages the natural ecosystem. Look for FSC-certified bamboo products. These have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that the farming procedures preserve the biodiversity of the environment and allow for long-term sustainability.

How Environmentally Friendly is Cork?

While cork flooring comes from trees, it doesn’t require the entire plant to be harvested. When a cork oak tree reaches maturity, which takes about nine years, the bark begins to separate from the live tree fibers. At this point, workers carefully remove the bark without cutting down the tree. The bark grows back and can be harvested again every ten years or so if it’s done properly.

Cork trees can live for centuries if they’re cared for properly. In Portugal, where the majority of cork is harvested, cork trees are protected. The bark must be removed by skilled workers without harming the tree.

Is Cork or Bamboo Flooring More Durable?

Cork and bamboo flooring are both relatively durable. When properly maintained, cork flooring lasts about 25 to 40 years. High-quality bamboo flooring lasts 20 to 50 years.

How Durable Is Bamboo Flooring?

Even though bamboo flooring is harder than most hardwoods, it doesn’t usually last quite as long. Its longevity depends on the product’s type and quality.

There are three basic types of bamboo flooring:

  • Vertical – Bamboo stalks are arranged vertically before being fused into planks, creating a narrow grain pattern and a modern look.
  • Horizontal – Stalks are arranged horizontally, offering a wider grain pattern and a more traditional finish than vertical bamboo flooring.
  • Strand-woven – Instead of being butted together, bamboo stalks are separated into fibers. Those fibers are compressed with a resin to form a solid block.

Strand-woven bamboo is up to three times more durable than vertical or horizontal bamboo flooring. It’s often the best option for high-traffic areas and spaces with pets or kids.

However, you can also choose engineered bamboo. Instead of bonding bamboo into a solid plank, engineered flooring fuses a thin bamboo veneer with a sublayer and a wear layer. In some ways, engineered bamboo is more durable than solid bamboo. That’s because the wear layer provides extra protection against moisture and stains. However, you can’t sand and refinish engineered bamboo if the surface becomes marred.

Even though it’s harder than many hardwoods, bamboo doesn’t have the same resilience. Hardwoods contain natural oils and other compounds that naturally resist abrasion and cracking. But bamboo is less sensitive to moisture than hardwood, which makes it an ideal choice for humid environments.

How Durable Is Cork Flooring?

Although cork flooring is soft, it’s more durable than you might think. Because it’s so pliable, it resists cracking and scratching. In fact, it’s a naturally self-healing product. Small dents and gouges spring back into shape when the source of damage is removed.

However, cork is generally more delicate than bamboo. If large chunks of flooring are chipped away, they will need to be repaired or replaced.

Still, with an adequate finish and proper maintenance, cork flooring can last longer than bamboo. Cork contains a natural wax that makes it resistant to water and pests. However, some cork planks are made with a layer of high-density fiberboard at the base. If water seeps into the cracks, it can cause this layer to swell or buckle. Choosing high-quality tiles or waterproof click-together planks and installing them properly can prevent this from happening.

Installing Cork vs Bamboo Flooring

If you have some skill with power tools and home improvement projects, you can likely install bamboo or cork flooring yourself. It’s essential that you prepare your subfloor properly, however. It must be level, clean and dry. Take measures to protect the subfloor from moisture to extend the life of the bamboo or cork floor.

Most types of bamboo flooring are pre-finished. You won’t need to add any sealant, and you can walk on it immediately after installation. Click-and-lock cork planks may be pre-finished with a polyurethane sealant. However, glue-down cork tiles require one of the following sealing agents:

  • Acrylic urethane
  • Polyurethane
  • Wax

The sealant must be reapplied every several years, depending on the type. Without sealant, a cork floor will readily absorb moisture and deteriorate quickly.

Cork vs Bamboo Flooring Maintenance

Cork and bamboo flooring don’t require too much special maintenance. Take care of them by sweeping off grit regularly. Particles of dirt are abrasive and wear down the surface. Although both materials are water resistant, they last longer if the humidity and moisture levels in the environment are controlled. Clean up spills as soon as they happen to prevent moisture from seeping into the flooring.

You can deep clean both materials every month or so. Use a product that is designed for cleaning each type of flooring, and avoid dousing the surface in water. A damp mop works well for removing residue and freshening the floors.

You probably don’t need to reseal bamboo flooring during its lifetime. However, cork requires resealing every few years to help it last as long as possible

What Are the Benefits of Cork vs Bamboo Flooring?

If you’re still trying to decide between cork and bamboo, evaluate the benefits of each type of flooring for your needs.
Some of the benefits of cork flooring include:

  • Insulation from extreme temperatures
  • Provides a cozy, comfortable surface
  • Unique appearance that can be stained to your preferences
  • Excellent noise absorption
  • Non slip

Some of the benefits of bamboo flooring include:

  • Versatile for homes with fluctuating temperatures
  • Easy to keep clean
  • Durable and scratch resistant
  • Ideal for transitional pieces

Both surfaces resist mold and mildew growth, making them excellent choices for people with allergies. They also offer a distinctive look that can transform your space.