When you first look at it, you could easily mistake bamboo flooring for hardwood. In fact, we usually club bamboo flooring together with other varieties of solid hardwood flooring. Both materials come in planks of similar dimensions and even feel the same. But there are some apparent differences between these two varieties of wooden flooring material.
In this post, we look closely at the different aspects of these two materials to understand them better. That way, when it comes to choosing between bamboo and solid hardwood for your floors, you can make a better choice.
Bamboo vs Hardwood
Bamboo flooring does not resemble the stalks that you see growing in the wild. On being harvested, we boil bamboo and remove the sugar and starch using chemicals. Finally, a machine presses the bamboo fibers into boards and planks. The machined and finished panels resemble any other type of solid hardwood.
Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, needs no introduction. It consists of planks of wood sliced from lumber of hardwood trees.
You can choose from many species with hardwood, and each one has a unique appearance, texture, and grain pattern. When we cut hardwood in different ways, it differs in its appearance. Then, you can also get different grades of hardwood. All this gives you a wide variety to choose from when it comes to hardwood.
With bamboo, however, you do not get such a wide diversity of choice, because most of the bamboo used for flooring comes from species that are similar in appearance. Nevertheless, the processing method of bamboo produces boards and planks of varying appearance, so if you still get quite a lot from which to choose.
Hardness and Durability
Some hardwoods are not all that hard – for instance, balsa is a hardwood so soft that it is often softer than most softwoods. Hardwood distinguishes itself from softwood according to the type of seed that hardwood trees bear. It comes from trees bearing angiosperm seeds whereas softwood comes from trees that bear gymnosperm seeds. Popular woods for flooring are oak, maple, cherry, and walnut.
Bamboo in its natural state may not be that hard, but after processing it into a solid plank, it can be harder than many hardwoods. A scale of hardness measurement is the Janka scale. To highlight the hardness of bamboo, red oak has a Janka hardness value of 1,220, whereas that of bamboo is 1,300 to 1,400.
After carbonization, bamboo may become softer and measure only 1,100 Janka hardness. The darker shades of bamboo are carbonized. So, if you want to ensure bamboo flooring of maximum hardness, it is better to go for natural bamboo.
Resistance to Water
An essential factor of wooden flooring is water resistance. It is preferable for any flooring to have some degree of water resistance, and it should be easy to clean up.
Hardwood flooring doesn’t possess water-resistant properties. Your hardwood floors may become damaged if you do not wipe up spills as soon as they occur. If you neglect to mop up spills, mold can form, and the wood can rot over time. You can make a hardwood floor slightly water-resistant by using sealants or a waterproof finish.
Bamboo flooring is also not water-resistant but is slightly more resistant than hardwood. Hence, you have to be quick to wipe up spills quickly with bamboo flooring as well. Bear in mind that bamboo can repel mold and mildew, which puts it at an advantage over hardwood.
The rate of growth of bamboo is much higher than that of hardwood trees. Bamboo can reach its full maturity in just four to five years, whereas it takes 20 years or more for hardwood trees to grow fully. Another advantage is that bamboo continues to grow when cut at the base of the plant, so you don’t have to bother about replanting it after harvesting. Bamboo is fully recyclable and biodegradable.
All the above reasons put bamboo at a clear advantage as compared to hardwood. But there is a downside to bamboo as well. The process of manufacturing bamboo flooring leaves a considerable carbon footprint. Moreover, in some areas, cultivators are cutting virgin forests to make room for bamboo cultivation. And lastly, many toxic and harmful chemicals go into converting bamboo into boards for flooring.
Due to the high cost of wooden flooring, you would want your flooring to last a lifetime, if possible. Hence, considering the lifespan of any flooring emerges as a critical factor. The lifespan of wooden flooring depends on several factors like thickness, wood type, and level of maintenance.
Thick hardwood flooring of good quality can last for 100 years or more if it is adequately maintained. Bamboo flooring, on the other hand, has a maximum lifespan of 50 years but may last on an average for only 20 to 25 years.
Ease of Maintenance
You can sand and refinish both bamboo and hardwood flooring when the surface deteriorates. The number of times you can repeat this process is less with engineered hardwood, as it is covered with veneer. But you need to adopt a useful method of maintaining the flooring.
If you have bamboo flooring, you will have to clean it regularly as well. However, unlike hardwood, you cannot use wax on bamboo flooring to make the surface shine. You can shop for particular cleaning products meant to use on bamboo floors.
On average, hardwood flooring will cost you anything between $4.00 to $8.00 per square foot. Some of the more expensive varieties will cost you $10.00 or more. Bamboo flooring, on the other hand, comes at about $3.80 per square foot, and the higher and lower limits are $5.00 and $2.00 per square foot, respectively.
The price of both types of flooring will depend a lot on the grade of material, thickness, size of the job, and the level of difficulty installing it. The bottom line about the pricing of both of these types is that bamboo flooring is cheaper than hardwood flooring.
Given below is a comparison table featuring the difference between both these types of flooring at a glance:
Bamboo Flooring Vs. Hardwood Flooring Comparison
|Resistance to water||Low water resistance||Also low but more than hardwood|
|Pricing||More expensive than bamboo||Less expensive than hardwood|
|Durability||Prone to abrasion||Less prone to abrasion|
|Installation difficulty||Moderate to difficult||Easy to moderately difficult|
|Resistance to termites||Less resistance||More resistance|
|Average lifespan||Up to 100 years||20 to 25 years|
|Sustainability||Depends on the species||Highly sustainable|
|Cleaning||Easy to clean with suitable cleaners||Easy to clean with suitable cleaners|
|Possible to wax||Yes||No|
Hardwood and bamboo flooring are two viable options to use for flooring in your home. You can use either and get satisfactory results. However, if you are going to install your own floors as a DIYer, bamboo floors, especially the “floating glueless-click” installation type will be a suitable choice.
If budget is not an issue and you are looking for something that will add considerable value to your property, then you have a variety of options in hardwood flooring. The final choice is in your hands, but you can be sure of adding class to your home or office by using wood flooring, whether it is bamboo or hardwood.