Comparison of Cork or Bamboo Floors to Other Hardwood Densities

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When planning to install wood flooring, consider the relative density, or "hardness," of various types of wood. Hardwoods are classified as such based on their density, a value largely determined based on the ratio of water-conducting cells, or tracheids, to wood fiber cells. While many factors dictate one's choice of flooring, higher density or hardness offers greater resistance to chipping or striking forces, such as dropping heavy items on the floor.

Cork Flooring Density

  • Cork comes from the bark of the cork tree, a species native to the Mediterranean region. The wood appeals to many conservation-minded consumers as a tree may grow new cork bark after being stripped. Usually cork floors contain a thin top layer of cork veneer, giving the floor's finish a cork wood pattern. Usually this cork veneer layer is made of small cork granules bound together with polyurethane. This top layer is set upon a thicker layer of another composite material. Because pure boards of cork are not used in cork flooring, density can vary wildly. When selecting a cork flooring, look for the highest density your budget will allow. Aim for a density of at least 30 pounds per square foot. If the manufacturer does not readily indicate the density, request to see the product's technical specifications.

Bamboo Flooring Density

  • The density of bamboo flooring varies according to how it is constructed. Bamboo flooring may either be solid, composed of boards of bamboo wood, or engineered, with strips of bamboo layered on top of a different wood backing. Therefore, the density of the flooring itself, will vary depending upon the material used for backing. Seasoned, dry bamboo has a density of 19 to 25 pounds per square meter. In terms of the Janka Hardness scale, a reference used when referring to wood densities, natural bamboo has a reading of 1380. The Janka hardness scale reflects how much force would be necessary to embed a .444-inch steel ball halfway into the wood. For a sense of scale, eastern white pine has a hardness of 380 and Brazilian walnut has a hardness of 3684.

Other Woods' Densities

  • A floor's density partially depends upon its construction method; for example, composite flooring will have different hardness than solid flooring using the same wood. To compare different solid floorings, though, you can refer to either a pounds per square meter reading or a Janka Hardness reading for various common hardwoods. A popular choice for hardwood flooring, oak has a density of 37 to 56 pounds per square meter and a Janka hardness ranging from 1290 to 1360. White oak and Tasmanian oak are denser than red oak. Maple has a density of 39 to 47 pounds per square meter or a Janka rating of 1450, with some variation according to species. Birch has a density of 42 pounds per square meter and a Janka rating of 1470, though paper birch is considerably lower.

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  • Photo Credit floor image by Einar Bog from Fotolia.com
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