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Published on September 13th, 2008 | by Kendra Redman

Is Cork the New Bamboo?

For many years bamboo has enjoyed the reputation of sustainable flooring front runner, but cork is now giving bamboo a run for its money.

How do they shape up in comparison?

Cork Tiles

Appearance

Bamboo is slightly limited in terms of color choice compared to cork.  Using pigments, cork can be dyed almost any color, though many prefer the look of more natural tones.

Although bamboo can be cut in a way to create more than one pattern or grain, cork naturally has six different patterns.  Cork can also be cut easily to create interesting borders or mosaics, adding to its design appeal.
Insulation

Cork, due to its thermal properties, is cool in winter and warm in summer.  Bamboo is more like hardwoods in that it is temperature neutral.

Cork offers great sound absorption compared to bamboo, which has the same sound quality as hardwoods.
Maintenance

Both are relatively easy to maintain—sweep and then dust with a very light, damp mop.
Refinish and Replace

Cork floors may be somewhat difficult to match—if you are replacing a damaged area, you may need to re-surface the whole floor.

Bamboo floors can be sanded and refinished.
Durability

Bamboo flooring is more scratch resistant than cork, though owners have reported it can dent, especially under pointed pressure.

Cork can also dent if heavy items are placed on it.  However, the flexibility of cork yields rates of 95% recovery after 50% compression.  Consensus claims that both cork and bamboo are more durable than hardwood floors.
Environmental

Cork is a 100% renewable resource, harvested from the bark of living cork oak trees.  Bamboo is a sustainable, harvested grass that regenerates at least 8x faster than hardwood.

Both boast a LEED MR (Materials and Resources) Credit of 6, the rating tier devoted to Rapidly Renewable Materials.  Both also receive a LEED IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) credit of 4, the rating tier devoted to Low-Emitting Materials.
Your Needs

So what?s best for you?  Take into account your living environment—if you have pets, bamboo might be the better option because of its durability.  If you have children, cork makes for a safer surface, as it is better at cushioning.  Cork is also a great choice for entertaining or spending long periods of time in the kitchen, as it is sound absorbent and acclimates to suit seasonal temperatures.

In sum, both are beautiful, sustainable, low-maintenance flooring materials, so there aren’t any losers here in the competition for “most eco-friendly and stylish flooring.”

For tips on caring for cork and bamboo floors, see these tips:




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