I have been installing flooring for some time, I work as a remodel carpenter, and a lot of hype has been thrown at Bamboo as a great green product. Yes, it is green, botanically it is a grass, and grows quickly. Which is the main reason people consider it green. If you think about how its made, where its made, and its long term benefits…it actually becomes less green.
- Bamboo being “grass” does not lend itself to “planks or boards” and thus has to be comprised of little pieces of bamboo glued together. The manufacture of this glue and its use, tend not to be green. The “high density” bamboo is even worse in this area, as it contains more glue. Most of the glues used in plywood as an example are based on the urea formaldehyde model and are far from green. Depending on the manufacture, some flooring may be “greener” based of the type of glue used.
- Location of production…Since bamboo does not grow in the US in commercial quantities chances are high that your product is coming from china…which has its own social implications. The amount of embodied energy to produce the product in a country, with far more relaxed environmental laws by the way, and the shipping and transportation cost will increase its overall carbon footprint.
- Long term benefits…all of the bamboo I have ever seen or installed has been pre-finished…and I have yet to see or hear about any one “refinishing” bamboo. I have seen Oak and other floors be refinished 4-5 times…with install lives of nearly 100 years and sometimes longer. What happens when the bamboo looks like crap after 10 years…do you rip it out and install more? Not a green practice in my book.
If you want wood, there are many choices available many produced locally from sustainable US based sources. The durability will depend on the species.
Cork again is not grown in the US, and most likely will be transported half way around the planet. Its durability is far less robust than bamboo and regular wood floors and is quite susceptible to moisture and can delaminate due to its “engineered” layer structure.
If you want durable, stone or tile is the best route to go. Not only that, it will contribute to increased thermal mass and NOT provide an “insulative barrier” to the source of the heat down below. Radiant systems work best when installed in the slab, 4″ concrete on grade (insulated below), or for second stories a light weight “gyp-crete” type of mix.