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Bamboo or Cork? Which is the Better Green Flooring Option?

If you future remodeling plans include new flooring you may well be considering one of the flooring material options that are considered to be especially eco friendly or green flooring. At the moment the most popular of those are bamboo and cork. But is one a better green flooring choice than the other?

The simple fact is though that there is no easy answer to that question. Both green flooring options have their pros and cons that should be considered , in the same way as you might were you choosing between say, hardwood flooring and carpet or granite and laminate countertops. In the end the choice will come down to budget, room traffic and personal preference. However, let’s break down some of the differences, and the pros and cons of these two very popular flooring materials:

Eco Friendliness

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On the face of it, it may seem that bamboo wins this one as it is a grass, not wood and a bamboo crop replenishes very quickly. Cork however is also more sustainable than many people think. It does come from the cork tree, but only the bark is utilized. Skilled workers with years of expertise carefully scrape the bark away, leaving the tree unharmed and able to grow a new ‘skin’ very quickly. Each tree can be ‘harvested every 5-7 years and that cycle can continue for well over a century.

Appearance

 

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The color variations of bamboo flooring range from the familiar pale yellow to much deeper honey and brown shades, thanks to a special system of boiling rather than artificial dyes though. Bamboo can also be woven before it is cut into flooring planks which offers a rather different textural effect as well.

Cork flooring is also available in a number of gorgeous shades and its final appearance can also be changed by the type of finishing varnish used.

Performance

Bamboo and cork do offer rather different benefits in terms of their overall performance as a flooring material. Bamboo is an extremely hard flooring product, as hard as almost any hardwoods and just as durable. Cork flooring is softer, as it retains its natural “give” and sponginess but it is still very long wearing.

For some it is that extra give that leads them to favour cork over bamboo. For example, if it were to be installed in a kitchen the additional support that cork provides brings welcome relief for cooks and homeowners prone to back aches or leg pain and its sound absorption properties are very impressive. That is why it has been used in libraries and hospitals for decades, long before it was ever thought of as green flooring.

On the other hand for homes filled with active kids and boisterous pets bamboo flooring may be the better choice as it tends not to dent. It may also be the better choice for use in rooms that get a lot of direct natural sunlight as cork will sometimes fade in the light of intense sun.

Angelica Pinto is an artist, interior design lover and Realtor serving the Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph, Ontario communities.

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