Cork Flooring or Bamboo Flooring, what's the better choice?
Cork and Bamboo flooring are two of the titans leading the way for eco-friendly flooring solutions. They share many similarities and boast some of the same great selling points, but which flooring is better when compared side by side? Here we will break down the key considerations for choosing new flooring and list some of the main attributes and draw backs of both options.
Which flooring has better sustainability credentials?
Out of all the hard floor coverings options available today, cork and bamboo flooring boast some of the greenest, most eco-friendly credentials. Both use minimal chemical processes during the manufacturing and installation stages and are both made from equally renewable raw materials.
Cork flooring is sourced from the bark of Mediterranean Cork Oak trees, meaning that no trees are cut down in the process. The process of removing the bark causes no damage to the trees and the bark itself regenerates every few years, meaning that the bark can be periodically harvested with little to no climate impact.
Bamboo, which is technically a grass, is famous for its ability to grow rapidly and reach full maturity within just a few years. This makes it an extremely renewable resource for creating floor coverings with minimal impact on the environment.
Which flooring type is easier to install?
Both flooring options can be laid as a floating floor, meaning that they are not fixed directly to the substrate beneath them. Fitting floated floors is often much easier to install than fully stuck floors (Such as luxury vinyl tiles) as the planks can be fixed together using a click, or glued tongue and groove system. Our cork planks even come with an in-built cork underlay meaning that preparatory work required over sufficiently smooth substrates is minimal. Our cork floor coverings have a specially formulated click system ensuring a solid cohesive bond between planks, without the use of adhesives or tension straps.
Unlike our cork boards, bamboo planks are connected using a tongue and groove system which doesn’t click together, meaning that an adhesive (Usually wood PVA) is used to bond the planks in place. Tension straps are advised for larger areas of planks to ensure the floor stays in position whilst the adhesive cures sufficiently. Bamboo planks can also be laid in a herringbone laying pattern which usually means more cuts, angles, and an all-round trickier installation. For larger areas of bamboo herringbone, we recommend speaking with your fitter about the possibility of fully sticking the flooring to the existing substrate. This will provide a more solid foundation and structure for your floor but may require a little more prep work.
Which flooring has better waterproofing qualities?
Whilst both floor types are naturally resistant to water and high moisture, cork certainly boasts the superior waterproofing qualities. Cork has been used for centuries to seal bottled beverages such a wine for this very reason, and this is because of its high suberin content. Suberin is a hydrophobic material that is found in abundance in the outermost layer of the cork bark, and it is this that repels water with such efficiency. For this reason, cork can be used across most areas of the home however beware of rooms with high humidity such as bathrooms or shower rooms.
Like hardwoods, bamboo is not waterproof and therefore should not be left with any amount of standing surface water for prolonged periods of time. Where possible, spillages should be mopped up to avoid swelling, or discolouration of the planks. In some cases, where standing water is left for long enough unchecked, permanent damage can be caused. For this reason, bamboo isn’t recommended for bathrooms.
What is more hardwearing?
Both flooring options offer a durable and robust choice for most areas of the home, but bamboo is the hardier of the two.
There are three notable types of bamboo flooring on the market today, determined by the process in which they are manufactured. These are strand woven (Our bamboo range), natural, and engineered bamboo flooring. The Janka Hardness scale is used to determine the hardness of woods, and of the three types of bamboo flooring, strand woven bamboo is by far the toughest. Strand woven bamboo has ratings of up to 4000, compared to around 1500+ for natural bamboo. White oak, for comparison has a rating of 1360 on the Janka Hardness scale. This makes our bamboo flooring some of the toughest and most durable flooring products on the market.
Cork flooring is still a very durable flooring choice but is naturally softer than bamboo. It does however possess a natural elasticity which helps it to keep its shape and appeal for longer. Larger items of furniture should have felt pads fitted to their feet and care should be taken to reduce the effects of hard objects on the floor such as stilettos or overgrown pet claws to help retain the appearance of cork flooring for longer.
Will the floor coverings retain their appearance in high UV areas?
Like any natural product, both cork and bamboo floor coverings can fade in colour and shade with intensive exposure to direct sunlight or UV. Colours that are move heavily stained and darker tones will show the effects of this more than lighter and washed-out colours. For both flooring options, it is possible to limit the effects of UV exposure in areas with a lot of direct sunlight by periodically moving furniture, covering part of the floor with a rug, shutting curtains/ blinds at peak sunlight hours, or installing a UV protective screen over your windows.
Which flooring option is cheaper?
Whilst the price of both flooring options varies depending
on the style of and finish of the floor, our bamboo flooring is generally cheaper
than the cork materials. However, once the additional preparatory/ installation
materials for bamboo flooring have been factored in (Underlay and or adhesives)
this usually closes the gap between the two slightly.
Which flooring choice is the better insulator?
Cork flooring is a great thermal insulator due to its structural make up. Thousands or small air pockets within the cork help to provide insulation that can even rival some carpets! Bamboo flooring however, shares many of the same traits as engineered wood flooring including its relatively low thermic properties. Most bamboo floors are installed as a floating floor over a suitable underlay, such as our Silver Woodlay. This underlay does have insulating properties though, such as the Silver Woodlay that has a tog rating of 0.9tog.
How to maintain your Cork or Bamboo flooring?
Both floors require minimal maintenance to keep them looking at their best for years to come and the general upkeep routines are similar for both. Regularly remove loose dirt and grit using a soft brush or vacuum cleaner. When using a vacuum cleaner, remember to use the “bare floor” setting and disengage the beater bar to avoid damaging the floor. If a more thorough clean is required, you can use a damp cloth or mop ensuring you make efforts to dry any excess moisture left on the floor. You can gently wash both floors using a gentle non abrasive cleaner but do not use detergents or abrasive cleaners with high levels of ammonia as these may damage the floor finish.
Bamboo flooring can be sanded down and re-lacquered if required if the floor is particularly worn, however this is usually best done by a professional floor finisher. Similarly cork floor coverings can be re-sealed/ polished to keep them looking at their very best.
What do both flooring options feel like underfoot?
Due to the slightly softer, more elastic properties of cork flooring it has a fantastic feel underfoot, this makes it a hugely popular choice for areas of the home where the sensation of comfort is key. Areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. Bamboo feels very much like other natural hard floor coverings such as engineered wood, or good quality laminates (Like our Ocean range) in that it is subtly textured and feels very natural underfoot.
What has a better choice of finish?
Our bestselling range of NaturTrend cork flooring comes in a single plank size (910mm x 300mm) and 12 different colourways that represent natural cork, however we have access to much many more ranges including wood effect finishes that are not currently on our website. For anything that is not shown on our website, please get in touch and we will be happy to send out samples to better complement your project.
Our flagship bamboo range comes in two plank sizes (1850mm x 125mm or 1850mm x 135mm) and four colourways. There is also a herringbone option (450mm x 90mm) that is available in two colours which match two of those from the plank range. Again, please get in touch if there is something specific that you are looking for as we have access to more ranges and colours.
What is the chemical composition of Cork and Bamboo flooring?
The cork boards that we supply are about as chemical free as is possible. The formaldehyde emissions and PCP content are below detectable levels, and they are guaranteed to be free from ortho-phthalates. They possess an in-built cork underlay and a high quality click system meaning there is no further need for any additional adhesives or underlayment’s.
Our strand woven bamboo flooring has a similarly low chemical composition, but there are some trace amounts of formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process. The bamboo fibres are exposed to extremely high levels of pressure to compress the strands into a rigid board and a small amount of formaldehyde is used in the agent that binds it all together and helps to keep its shape. We must stress, the amounts used are minimal! To give you a better perspective; to meet the highest A+ rating for the French VOC scale (the common European standard), flooring must contain less than 1000mg VOC per cubic metre. Our bamboo flooring contains less than 20mg.
Another consideration is the potential use of an underlay as part of the installation of a bamboo floor covering. We would normally recommend the silver woodlay underlay which has a polyurethane foam core that is largely constructed using wastage from other industries like car manufacture, thus saving them from landfill. While this underlay does meet all the highest specification for VOCs etc, there are several chemicals involved in the manufacture of the original foams. If you would prefer something with less chemical content, we can supply various alternatives such as a polyethylene which is oil based but zero VOC.
If the bamboo flooring is going to be installed as a ‘fully stuck’ floor covering rather than floated over an underlayment, then this will forgo the need for an underlay, but will require the use of adhesives to bond the flooring to the existing substrate. In this scenario we recommend discussing the options of your glue down installation with your fitter, but low VOC adhesives are readily available.
It is important to note that both types of flooring offer a great choice for use around your house, and without exception, both materials offer an eco-friendly, practical, and stylish solution for almost all scenarios. They are both competitive in almost every aspect and each boast their own unique selling points that set them apart from the rest of the eco-flooring field. Notably the hardiness of the bamboo flooring and the moisture resistance of the cork flooring. Ultimately which flooring type is better for you will depend entirely on the specifics of your project and the key priorities that are at the heart of your decision making.
If you find yourself leaning more towards one option over the other but feel something is missing, or the designs aren’t quite what you are looking for, then please do get in touch as we have access to many more options.
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, please get in touch and we will do our best to find the answer for you!