engineered hardwood vs bamboo

Engineered Hardwood vs Bamboo

Engineered hardwood and bamboo are both what I refer to as “hardwood variants.” Basically, they are both hardwoods with slightly different performance characteristics.

But which would work out best in your home?

Depending on your tastes, I think you’ll find a clear winner. Check out how engineered hardwood and bamboo compare in 8 categories:

Cost

Buying the cheapest bamboo flooring is rarely worth it. When not properly manufactured, bamboo floors can shrink and cause unsightly gaps, or emit harmful VOCs into the environment. With this in mind, bamboo flooring worth buying will start around 4-5 dollars per square foot and may go as high as ten or twelve dollars.

This is very similar to the costs for engineered hardwood. Usually, you can purchase engineered hardwood for between $4-10/sq. foot. Like bamboo, you will pay more for quality. High quality engineered hardwood has a thicker wood layer, which means it can be refinished more times, and may also carry a veneer of a more exotic or interesting hardwood.

The winner? Tie

Durability

Every floor has a wide range of durability. Some carpets last 2 years; some last 20 years. Some hardwoods last 10 years; some last a lifetime.

This is no different for bamboo and engineered hardwood.

Bamboo flooring’s species and other factors, such as the maturity of the plant when harvested, will greatly affect its durability. For the most part, you can expect bamboo to have a lifespan of around 25 years before it starts to wear out. Certain types, like Moso or strand bamboo, are used in high-traffic commercial settings so they might last longer in your home. Bamboo’s toughness makes it very hard to scratch or dent, but it is not impossible.

Bamboo floors have only been popularized in the last two decades, so the jury is still out on whether or not they can be sanded down and refinished. Usually, that will depend on the floor you choose, since some strand bamboo floors have a thinner layer than others. Like engineered hardwood, the thickness of the layers will determine if it can be refinished or not, and how many times.

Engineered hardwood is made to be more durable than solid hardwood. Its plywood base layer gives it some resistance to scratches and dents, but the top layer is still made out of solid wood. This means it can be sanded down and refinished as it ages, giving it a like-new appearance.

That can only happen so many times until you run out of solid wood but usually a well-cared for engineered wood floor can outlast bamboo.

The winner? Engineered Hardwood

Installation

Both bamboo and engineered hardwood can be either DIY-friendly, or not.

Engineered hardwood is often sold in interlocking planks, which will snap together without the need for glue, nails, and other complex tools. Sometimes you will still see engineered hardwood that requires installation on par with solid wood, which will be better for a skilled individual accustomed to woodworking.

Bamboo flooring will usually be installed in one of three ways. It can be an interlocking floating floor, which works the same way as other engineered wood floors, glued, or nailed down. Due to its hardness rating, nailing a bamboo floor can be moderately difficult and it also makes it hard to cut.

Ultimately, if you do plan on a DIY installation project with either bamboo or engineered hardwood, your best option would be to use interlocking planks. Otherwise, unless you have the tools and expertise, you will be better off with expert installers.

The winner? Tie

Appearance

Bamboo floors stand out from hardwood floors with their distinctive horizontal and vertical striped patterns. Unless darkened by the carbonization process, bamboo has a light golden color. Bamboo’s appearance used to be limited to that caramel color but now it is often stained or carbonized to give a variety of textures, colors, and finishes.

Engineered hardwood mirrors the look and style of the hardwood that it is made out of. This gives it a traditional wood-floor look, with some species showing more knots and textures than others. They can also be stained with lighter or darker shades.

The winner? Engineered Hardwood

Moisture Resistance

Unlike solid hardwoods, both engineered hardwood and bamboo floors can be built above, at, or below grade. In other words, both are suitable even in the basement of your home.

Neither will handle standing water very well, which means they should not necessarily be used in bathrooms and other wet areas of the home. Bamboo does have a natural tendency to repel mold and mildew, and as a grass, it is slightly more water resistant than wood.

Engineered hardwood was designed to be wood’s answer to moisture problems. It will not warp as easily when exposed to high levels of humidity and moisture, but it can be stained or damaged by standing water. The plywood base offers some protection against mold damage, but not as much as bamboo.

The winner? Bamboo

Care and Cleaning

Bamboo floors are very easy to clean and maintain. They can be swept and mopped with a damp mop, although you will not want to soak them completely. Long-term maintenance is fairly simple. Some strand bamboo floors can be sanded down and refinished but other types, especially engineered bamboo, cannot be refinished so there is no extra care involved.

Engineered hardwood floors are also fairly simple to keep clean on a daily basis. They should be swept and vacuumed to keep dust and debris from building up. Long-term, they will require the same level of care as a hardwood floor, including staining, sanding, and refinishing to keep them in their best condition.

The winner? Bamboo

Environmental Considerations

Bamboo is often hailed as an eco-friendly option, and in many ways it is. Bamboo grows very quickly and can be re-harvested every four or five years. By using bamboo flooring, you prevent the cutting of trees to make wood floors, and that even holds up against engineered wood.

The downside of bamboo is that it is usually grown in Southeast Asia, and once you factor in the carbon costs of shipping it halfway around the world, it’s eco-friendliness appears to go down. It also is very hard to objectively judge the eco-friendliness of any given bamboo, as not all of them adhere or are even put to the test by professional floor ranking groups.

Engineered hardwood can be locally sourced. It uses less solid wood to create a certain square footage of flooring than if it were made entirely out of that wood material, which also improves its eco-friendliness. The base layer is made out of recycled scraps of other wood products, which keeps them out of landfills.
Both floors are pretty good eco-friendly options, but due to bamboo’s uncertainty, I give the slight edge to engineered hardwood.

The winner? Engineered Hardwood

Resale Value

Engineered wood is closely linked with sold wood when it comes to selling your home. Its wood appearance and known durability are both key selling points and many buyers will like that it gives an added level of moisture protection and scratch resistance than the solid wood floor it closely resembles.

Bamboo flooring is still considered slightly trendy and falls into the novelty category for some buyers. While that makes it appealing to buyers who want something different, it may also bring detractors. Not everyone likes the look of bamboo, especially if they are expecting it to look just like wood flooring does.

The winner? Engineered Hardwood

Captain’s parting words

Aside from appearance, engineered hardwood and bamboo floors are very similar to each other. Their prices are nearly identical, with costs going higher as the quality of the product increases. Both also appeal to an environmental impulse, although there engineered wood has a slight advantage for the carbon-conscious buyer.

Engineered hardwood may also be best if you want a floor that appeals to almost everyone when selling your home, but bamboo flooring has created a niche appeal that is growing steadily in popularity. Bamboo is also slightly easier to clean and maintain over the years, even if it is slightly less durable after a couple of decades.

Regardless of whether you choose bamboo or engineered hardwood, either type of flooring will give you a durable, distinctive floor that brings out the character of your home.

Any questions on bamboo or engineered hardwood? Let me know in the comments below.

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Karon

What about laying flooring for stairs and a second floor that was poured to be “close enough” to level. It was to be carpeted without much concern for meticulously level.