Hardwood vs Bamboo Flooring
Hardwood is one of the most popular options for flooring, with its glossy shine reminiscent of those fancy realty shows you watch late at night (we know you do, admit it). But what’s this about bamboo flooring? Isn’t bamboo just a weird grass that pandas eat and hipsters talk about?
Not quite. Bamboo can be used to make almost anything. Furniture? Check. Utensils and eating dishes? Check. Cutting boards? Check. Houses even?! Check.
Bottom line: Bamboo is a versatile and increasingly popular flooring option.
But what kind of a floor does bamboo make and is it similar to hardwood? Here is a simple rundown of the following advantages, as well as disadvantages, of both bamboo and hardwood.
Bamboo is a grass, and if you know anything about grass, you know that it grows very quickly. This makes bamboo typically less expensive than a hardwood floor. Most decent hardwood floors are at least $5/square foot, usually more if you want an exotic or exceptional wood. Bamboo usually runs anywhere from $2 to $5 per square foot, so it can be a more economical option.
That being said, the prices may still be a tie depending on which bamboo flooring you choose. Plywood flooring with bamboo on the outside will be significantly cheaper than solid bamboo flooring, so it really depends.
The winner? Bamboo (usually)
There are several durability factors when it comes to flooring that you’ll want to keep in mind.
Remember that time your friend’s pipes burst while he was on vacation and he had to replace or at least refinish and have major repair done to his whole wood floor? Yeah, not fun. Mold and mildew are the bane of wood floor’s existence, the dreaded killer of your beautiful, glossy hardwood floors.
Okay, bamboo is not exactly a miracle flooring maybe, but, because it’s a grass, bamboo is better at repelling moisture and mildew.
Dings, dents, and scratches
Bamboo is more scratch-resistant than your typical hardwood floor. Now again, this might depend on the type of hardwood you’re looking at. Some of the harder woods like Brazilian walnut and hard maple will hold up just as well as bamboo under the scraping claws of your Great Dane.
A common myth exists that you can’t, and shouldn’t, ever refinish your bamboo floor. Like hardwood, if you choose good-quality bamboo, you can sand it down and refinish it if damage does occur.
And if you do have furry friends, kids, or anything capable of creating any destruction, here’s a little tip: don’t go with soft woods like pine or fir. Your floor will be in shreds before you know it.
The good thing about refinishing is it’s like a “reset” button for your floor. You don’t get that with tile or carpet.
The winner? Tie
Some hardwood floors, like cherry or mahogany, while they are beautiful, will have a shorter longevity of 20 years or less. A decent bamboo floor has a life expectancy of at least 25 years, so it’s right up there with the mid-price/mid-range hardwood floors.
Or you could go with the increasingly popular “distressed” hardwood look and ease the pain you feel when your child drops a brick off the counter onto the beautiful floor. That way you don’t even have to worry about how anything looks, just embrace it. But if you do decide to go with bamboo, it will last a while even with abuse.
The winner? Tie
You can picture pandas chewing on bamboo like celery. So isn’t bamboo more soft and cushy than a traditional hardwood because it’s grass?
Bamboo’s a hard floor. Its tensile strength (resistance to being stretched) is on par with concrete. This is a win in the strength department but a loss in the “how good it feels under my feet department.” That said, hardwood is… as you can expect… pretty hard as well.
The winner? Tie
If you suffer allergies, you don’t want something as permanent as your flooring making them flare up. Some people like hardwood over flooring like carpet because it’s easy to sweep and mop up dust and debris on hardwood.
Since bamboo is a hard floor as well, it’s just as easy to sweep up the allergens (side note: carpet may not be as bad as you think. hardwood you can easily mop up the allergens, but when they’re on the floor, they are prone to flying in the air. on the other hands, carpet traps these allergens, so you don’t breathe them in–they’re just a little more difficult to suck up when you want to get rid of them from your home.)
The winner? Tie
Ugh. Cleaning. You knew it was coming. Turns out that cleaning your bamboo floor is pretty much the same as cleaning a hardwood floor; just use a broom with soft bristles and a good mop. No special treatments needed, just a little rolling up your sleeves.
Captain’s tip! There’s no need to invest in fancy floor cleaners if your budget’s tight, some white vinegar diluted in water will do the trick.
The winner? Tie
Bamboo floors are beautiful, no doubt about that. The lovely medium-light brown is easy to decorate with and suits almost any style. That being said, if you want a lot of variety, hardwood floor is your best bet. From light, medium, to dark, there are so many different styles and tones to choose from when it comes to hardwood.
I think of bamboo as one type of hardwood flooring when it comes to appearance and a unique hardwood at that. The only problem for bamboo is there isn’t much variety. You can pick different colors but the texture and pattern will more or less be the same. This gives a slight edge to hardwood.
The winner? Hardwood.
Okay, What About Termites?
Alas, when it comes to termite infestation, your bamboo floor is sadly not invincible. Termites live on the fiber cellulose. Bamboo, being a grass, is mostly cellulose and therefore not termite-resistant.
So how does hardwood floor endure under these vicious pests? It depends on the type. Redwood and cypress are pretty termite-resistant, but they also lack the longevity of walnut or maple.
The winner? Hardwood (but make sure to get the right type)
Captain’s parting words!
Hardwood and bamboo are more alike than different. Bamboo also makes a hard floor that looks a lot like wood.
If you need more water resistance or want to be more eco-friendly, you might take a look at bamboo. Or, maybe you just want a look you don’t see everywhere else (and a cool talking point!). Not many people have bamboo floors.
That said, hardwood will give you many more options. Bamboo stalks are bamboo stalks. Trees come in many different varieties. This gives you choices for the exact look you want in your room and some of the performance properties when it comes to hardwood.
Any questions on hardwood vs bamboo? Let me know in the comments below.