Bamboo Flooring Vs Hardwood Flooring

Modern bamboo flooring products are able to challenge traditional hardwood flooring in terms of wear resistance, ease of maintenance and appearance. Bamboo is also cheaper than many hardwood flooring products, but the processes used in its manufacture could undermine some of its advantages.

Hardness and Durability

Samples of bamboo flooring
Couch on a hardwood floor

To a large degree, the durability of a flooring material is determined by the material's hardness, a characteristic typically measured on what is called the Janka Hardness Scale. The hardness of hardwood flooring products varies depending on the species of wood used in the flooring. Oak has a Janka hardness rating of about 1,300, while hickory has a Janka rating of about 1,800.

Traditional bamboo flooring typically has a Janka rating between 1,200 and 1,400, so its hardness is comparable to that of common hardwood flooring materials. But strand bamboo flooring, an engineered bamboo product, may be much harder, with a Janka rating around 3,000. This extreme hardness makes strand bamboo more suitable for high-traffic areas where traditional bamboo flooring might be at risk of damage. This flooring is also a good choice for dog owners, since softer flooring materials are susceptible to scratches from dogs' claws.

Cost Comparison

Laying a hardwood floor

The cost of hardwood flooring also varies considerably depending on the wood species used in the flooring, as well as the manufacturing and finishing processes used. As of publication time, the cost for a hardwood floor, including installation, can range from $6 per square foot for a basic product to $20 per square foot for luxury-level materials.

The cost for a bamboo floor, at $4 to $8 per square foot, is typically in line with that of lower-end wood flooring products.

Manufacturing Issues

Installing a bamboo floor

Unlike solid hardwood flooring products, in which each board is made from a single piece of wood, bamboo flooring is made from multiple layers of bamboo held together with glues or resins. This manufacturing process introduces the possibility that the flooring could delaminate over time, and the materials used in the manufacture of some bamboo flooring products may emit potentially hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde.

Engineered Wood

A little girl lying on a hardwood floor

Engineered wood flooring products, which are made from a thin veneer of hardwood over layers of lower-grade wood species, have the advantage of being more resistant to problems caused by moisture than solid hardwood or bamboo flooring. Both solid hardwood and bamboo may expand and deform when they get wet, but engineered wood products are more stable when they're exposed to moisture.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Bamboo forest

Because bamboo grows very quickly, bamboo flooring has been promoted as an easily renewable product that has a lesser environmental impact than hardwood flooring, which is made from slower-growing trees. But the negative environmental impact of commercial bamboo plantations and manufacturing facilities, as well as the energy cost of transporting bamboo, which is primarily grown in Asia, make bamboo a less obviously superior product in environmental terms.

About the Author

Evan Gillespie grew up working in his family's hardware and home-improvement business and is an experienced gardener. He has been writing on home, garden and design topics since 1996. His work has appeared in the South Bend Tribune, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Arts Everywhere magazine and many other publications.