Hardwood floors are natural and durable, but expensive. Bamboo floors are cheaper and growing in popularity. While hardwood flooring can last up to 75 - 100 years, bamboo floors have a lifespan of 10 - 25 years. Both types of flooring are prone to warping from humidity in the environment.

Comparison chart

Bamboo Floor versus Hardwood Floor comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBamboo FloorHardwood Floor
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Durability 10-25 years, depending on the nature of bamboo and added material. 30-50 years if maintaiend well and resurfaced as needed. Depends on a number of factors, such as whether the floor is finished, type of wood used, what room it is in, and how well it is maintained. Cannot be installed in basements. Properly finished and well-maintained hardwood floors can last for decades.
Material Material Mostly Chinese bamboo processed with adhesives. Wood; timber from harvested trees, mostly angiosperms
Cost $2 - $5 per square foot. Generally, the harder the hardwood, the more expensive it is, but also the more durable it is. Including labor expenses for installation, most hardwood floors cost between $8 and $15 per square foot.
Source Natural, but with chemical adhesives Natural
Installation Nail-down or interlocking Used to be very difficult to install; mistakes could be frustrating and expensive. Today, most wood flooring is pre-cut into easy-to-install tongue and groove planks.
Moisture resistance Fairly water resistant, but more prone to warping from environmental humidity. Prone to moisture penetration, discoloration, or warping. Engineered hardwood slightly more water resistant alternative.
Restoration Can be easily restored Can be easily restored to like-new condition.
Prone to damage Yes Prone to scratching and to moisture damage
Introduction A bamboo floor is a type of flooring manufactured from the bamboo plant. The majority of today's bamboo flooring products originate in China and other portions of Asia. Moso bamboo is the species most commonly used for flooring. Wood flooring is any product manufactured from timber that is designed for use as structural or aesthetic flooring. Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber.
Water proof No No
Resale value Good Excellent

Composition

Bamboo flooring can be made from many different species of bamboo with differing properties, but Moso bamboo is the most popular high-quality option. Harvested at its peak density at 5-6 years of age, it is harder than even maple and oak hardwoods. Engineered bamboo (also called stranded bamboo) flooring material is more durable than natural bamboo, but is highly processed from its natural state, being stripped, boiled, cut, bonded and pressed. Lighter-colored bamboo is harder than darker bamboo, as the carbonization process used to darken the wood makes it softer.

Hardwood flooring is made of natural hardwood from the lumber harvested in forest areas. The price depends on the tree. For example, the most expensive hardwood comes from mahogany, wenge, and teak. The softest hardwood used in flooring is pine, and it’s fairly inexpensive. Another option for areas prone to moisture, such as a concrete subfloor, is engineered hardwood. This consists of a hardwood layer on top of plywood or fiberboard, which allows for some expansion and contraction.

Advantages

Good quality bamboo flooring can compete with expensive hardwood flooring in terms of durability and appearance. Modern processing techniques allow for all sorts of colors and textures. In terms of comparing hardness between bamboo and hardwood flooring, bamboo is the cheaper option. Because it is a grass, bamboo performs slightly better than wood in terms of repelling moisture and mold growth.

Hardwood flooring can last for generations if well maintained. Depending on the wood and treatment, the flooring can be extremely damage resistant and can be repaired or refinished. Hardwood flooring is also sought after by home buyers and can increase the resale value of the home it furnishes.

Disadvantages

Any of the cheaper bamboo options are likely to be soft and easily damaged, so the higher end products seem to be the only durable choices. The harder bamboo flooring products are heavily treated with formaldehyde and other toxic bonding agents. Homeowners have reported a tendency for bamboo to begin to loose some of its color in areas that receive constant sunlight. Bamboo floors can warp over time in humid environments.

Hardwood flooring is comparatively more expensive than bamboo. As a natural material, hardwood is prone to staining, warping, and discoloration from sun and water exposure, as well as substantial changes in temperature and humidity levels. This renders hardwood ill-suited to installation in bathrooms and some kitchens.

Installation

While either hardwood or bamboo flooring can be installed as a do-it-yourself project, both are best performed by professional contractors unless undertaken by an experienced DIYer. Hardwood and bamboo flooring often require steps including placing, nailing, stapling, cutting the baseboard, and filling holes with wood putty. This video shows professional bamboo flooring installation:

Replacement and Maintenance

Wet mops should be avoided when cleaning bamboo floors. Dust mops and stiff brooms are enough for general cleaning, and a well wrung-out mop can be used if necessary. Cleaning agents that are safe for use on hardwood floors and also be used on bamboo. Worn or scratched bamboo floors can be sanded down and refinished, rather than needing a full replacement.

Hardwood floor maintenance is relatively easy and includes keeping grit off of the surface by sweeping and wiping with a damp cloth. Most worn and damaged hardwood flooring can be repaired or refinished rather than replaced, but where damage is severe enough to require replacement, the damaged boards can be pulled up and replaced with matching material.

Environmental Considerations

The recent surge in the use of bamboo flooring partially be attributed to its being marketed as a green product. It is certainly highly renewable in the sense that it only takes 3-5 years for bamboo plants to mature, as opposed to 70 or 80 years for some hardwoods, and the bamboo plants that are trimmed can regrow. But the environmental considerations are not that simple. As most bamboo is imported from China, there is some regulation on the environmental impacts of bamboo growth and processing.

Hardwood is extremely environment friendly since it's a natural resource. It's recyclable and renewable and is best purchased from environmentally responsible manufacturers to avoid over-harvesting.

References

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