Both bamboo and cork are popular sustainable options for wood flooring. They are both light, durable and often cost-effective. Cork is more pliable and is available in both tiles and planks, while bamboo is generally considered more decorative, though it is only available in two different shades. Both options have positive and negative points to consider.
Cork is a sustainable material harvested from the bark of the cork tree, which grows in Mediterranean areas. Bark is stripped carefully, allowing the tree to grow more bark that can again be harvested, allowing one tree to produce several cork loads throughout its life. This cork bark is then shredded and combined with a low-toxic glue that holds it together. The material is then shaped into tiles or boards that are used for flooring. While cork is soft, it is usually covered with a protective coating. The wood is valued for its fire-resistance, impermeability and variety.
Bamboo flooring is created from the bamboo plant grown in Asian countries, which is technically a grass that grows to the heights of a tree in moist conditions. Bamboo can grow very quickly and is easily replenished, making it a very sustainable option. The wood of the bamboo is broken apart, flattened, and reformed into planks, which are either left in their original blonde coloring or baked to provide a more golden hue. While bamboo is not an especially hard wood, it is durable and often has coatings like those on cork to protect it from wear. Bamboo is favored for its natural beauty and utility.
Considerations of Cork
while cork might be easily replenished, the chemicals used to bind it are not always environmentally sound, and the process of making it into planks generally takes more energy than cutting and treating normal wood options. Cork can also be difficult to install if the surface is not well-treated beforehand, developing air bubbles if not fully bonded.
Considerations of Bamboo
Bamboo suffers from similar problems. While it is sustainable as a wood product, it often takes more energy to develop the wood into usable flooring. Also, bamboo farms are rapidly increasing in popularity, to the point that they may threaten more natural wood growth along the rivers where they grow so well. Homeowners should also keep in mind that bamboo can be dented like any other wood, and does not possess any other special features beyond normal wood.
Other Sustainable Alternatives
For those looking into other eco-friendly flooring alternatives, rubber and leather are also popular alternatives. Rubber floor tiles are made from recycled tires and can come in a variety of colors and patterns, while leather flooring is made from recycled leather products and is appreciated for its warmth and beauty. For bathrooms tiles, many companies offer recycled versions made from glass or steel.
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