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Cork v. bamboo flooring - floating panels or glued tiles?

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Joined: Dec 6 2004

Hi

We are thinking about installing either a cork or bamboo floor through most of our house and would like to hear from people who have done this. We still have a working radiant heat system (knock on wood!) Here are some of the questions we are wondering about:

- which is more durable/easier to maintain? we have two young children and two dogs. I thought bamboo would be better but I recently heard that industrial grade cork wears even better and the pattern helps hide dings and scratches. Any thoughts on this?

- in regard to the cork, what are the advantages and disadvantages to installing the click together floating floor panels versus glue down tiles?

- has anyone tried installing a cork floor by themselves?

- any recommendations for inexpensive places to purchase cork or bamboo?

Thanks!

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Joined: Dec 14 2003

I don't live in an Eichler (yet, I moped for a day when my husband said that he wanted to move to Orange county, but then in a blinding flash I realized that I didn't have to buy a stucco McMansion....)

I installed a floating cork floor over a less than perfect subfloor. I installed it in the kitchen after the cabinets had been installed. As a result, I had to make a lot of weird cuts. It still only took a half a day. I've had it for about 1.5 years with no fading etc. It is quiet, warm, and the dogs like to sleep on it (caution, safety hazard). I purchased mine from http://www.amcork.com on-line. They were very helpful and pleasant.

It was quite a simple project. I used a Skilsaw and a straight edge. I've been told that if you want to seal it with a satin finish polyurethane, you should put the first 1-2 coats on with a gloss poly and save the satin for the top coat. There is also an unsealed cork available from several "green" sites that can be sealed with other types of sealers.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Fading is a known problem with cork, though I am not sure why some homeowners report immediate and significant fading, while others do not. I also know of homeowners that have done their own "cork/fading" tests only to find out, much to their dismay, that even incandescent lights will cause it to fade. (Fading due to exposure to UV light, such as through windows, is well known and most manufacturers warn against this.) I would at the very least, ask the dealer if their cork is warrented against fading. If they dodge the question, then I would get concerned.

Another reported issue is outgassing due to the polyurethane coating placed on cork, though I do not know why this would be unique to cork, versus bamboo or some other wood product, unless the pourosity of cork causes it to happen more rapidly. I know of at least one person that is having allergy and asthma problems due to outgassing of cork. Luckly, this is with a few tiles that she brought home from the store, so it is not too late to change her mind.

I love the softness and natual beauty of cork, but chose to go with ceramic tile instead, due to fears of fading. Sue Olson carries some beautiful high-end cork products, which you can see in her Menlo Park showroom. The downstairs floors are polished concrete (you can see the cork in samples though), while the upstairs floors are bamboo.

Cathye

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Joined: Nov 21 2003

A year and a half ago I installed a floating cork floor in my kitchen. I love these floors, and although we have experienced some fading, I wouldn't trade them for the world. They are soft under foot, and are hypoalergenic, and easy to keep clean. I laid the entire kitchen in 1 day, and will probably relay floating cork in the future.

Chris

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

We also have cork floors which we purchased through Sue Olson. We had them professionally installed and I am glad I didn't try it myself. Our installer did a fabulous job. Cork is a sustainable product since the bark is harvested only--not the tree. They do indeed feel great underfoot and work well with the radiant heat.
Unfortunately, as Cathye has mentioned, they fade significantly in areas near windows facing west or south. If I had it to do over again I would install low-e glass in my west facing windows first before the cork. Most people who see our floors don't really notice the fading--unless we happen to move an area rug while they are visiting.
Cork floors are not as durable as ceramic tile would be--which is virtually indestructible. Our floors show some scratches and scuffing from everyday use but that is in the polyurethane coating and can be sanded out. I wouldn't call cork a "low-maintenance" flooring.

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Joined: May 20 2004

A friend of mine put in bamboo. Although she is happy with the look and feel, she mentioned that she has lots and lots of little scratches from her dog's nails. Just from ordinary moving around.

In our house, we went with ceramic tile. Large almost 18 inch sq. with a pale beige marble like grain.

It is indestructible, as noted. Also works great with the radiant and can be done by one person or professionally.

We have 3 large dogs and 2 children, so ease of cleaning and ability to stay looking good were pre-eminent. Low maintenance as well.
good luck.
S

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Joined: Apr 26 2009

Most types of core flooring is easy to be scratched. But its foot feel is very nice.

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

do use the search function of this forum for find past discussions about this topic. quite popular in the past.

cork glued to the slab would be the better choice. when you float flooring, you create an air barrier which insulates against your raising heat from the slab.

Cork has a tradition with Eichler interior design and is quite timeless. Bamboo, on the other hand, will be looked upon in a few years as a trendy, dated flooring that won't perform as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is cork comes in tiles. If or when the day comes to fix a leak in your floor, pulling up and replacing a few tiles will be much better than cutting a huge hole in your cork flooring. Plus, by gluing them down, it will be easier to identify leaks in your system.

As for fading, I would not be too concerned. consider a 3-4 shade random mix.

If it were my choice, cork would be the way to go. Personally, I chose VCT throughout my house.

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

mikelol wrote:
Most types of core flooring is easy to be scratched. But its foot feel is very nice.

whoever installs the cork, be sure the seal it properly with polyurethane.

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Joined: Aug 30 2007

I beg to differ regarding the comment about bamboo being "trendy" and being "out of style" in a few years. Bamboo is a sustainable product as well a cork and will be around for quite some time. I think some in here are just being Eichler purists and that's their opinion. We all don't have to party like it's 1955! As far as bamboo scratching easily? It depends on the quality. If you buy that cheap stuff at $1.99 a sq. ft, you'll have problems, both cork and bamboo. I installed a floating solid plank, carmalized bamboo with an aluminum oxide coating all over the house. It's been almost two years and the wear has been great with animals and shoes, although I do request no cha cha heels. :-)

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

SacEichler wrote:
...I think some in here are just being Eichler purists and that's their opinion...

the same would apply if you were building a new house. Cork is more timeless from a design view point.

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Joined: Aug 30 2007

I believe it's just a matter of taste. JEESH!!

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

SacEichler wrote:
I believe it's just a matter of taste. JEESH!!

that's OK if you believe that, SacEichler, but don't call me out then react like a 2 year old. please, calm down. we're all grownups here and we should be able to have a logical discussion, express opinions, without being attacked. if someone's opinion differs from yours, deal with it in a friendly/positive manner than move on.

Joined: Aug 6 2006

I have bamboo floors and installed them myself and after 2 years they are holding up very well. They are vertical grain carmelized. Bamboo flooring has actually been used extensively in modern housing in Asia for quite a while. It has only caught steam in the U.S. and other countries during the past decade or so.

I also think cork is also a good material so I have nothing against both. As long as it complements the design of your interiors I think both are great products.

While VCT is a bit more truer to the midcentury esthetic, homeowners should be wary of its off-gassing since this can potentially pose a health hazard. Volatile Organic Compounds are known to exist in these products. VOC's can cause health problems such as asthma and other respiratory problems so make sure that you choose materials that have the least amount of VOC's to maintain/improve the healthy indoor air quality of your home.

On another note, has anyone seen the new ceramic tile products that look like wood? There's a few good brands out there now.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction."-E. F. Schumacher.

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Joined: Apr 26 2009

The foot feel of cork flooring is better. But bamboo flooring is more abrasion resistant.

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Joined: Dec 20 2004

I installed glue down cork and I really do like the feel. Also with kids dropping things and tripping I hoped it would cushion the fall. The heat transfer is good. They do fade but it is hard to notice and also I put up window film (30%) and 3 polyurethane coatings with UV protection for protection. The rear of my house does face south so in the winter the floor is all in the sun.

It does hide things well (kids bread crumbs blend in) and seems to be durable. Where kids do drop heavy toys (small dents) they seem to blend in with the natural texture of the flooring. We don't were our shoes in the house. According to the manufacture it should last 10 years with commercial traffic. It’s been 3 years with mine and it looks like new.

With that all said I do like bamboo and several of my neighbors have it. It does get darker when in the Sun but not as bad as Cherry so watch for that if you have a lot of area rugs. Of the bamboo I do like the "on edge" look better.

My brother installed a floating cork floor which seems to come with a much harder coating but still very nice and he likes it very much. I do too as the floating floor has a nice bounce but he does not have radiant heating. On the radiant floor I preferred to have it glued down. Cork, air, wood, plastics in general are all heat insulators but I felt the 1/4 inch cork glue down would offer the least delay in heat transfer (I passed thermodynamics in college but did not do any calculations here) without the hard feel of tile as I like to go barefoot.

I bought mine from AMCork (internet) and they can sell you all the supplies to install it. I paid a professional to do it but anyone can install it if you have the patience (I don't) and know how to level/float a floor. You can feel the bumps through the cork so your floor should be very flat and as level as you can get it.

Cheers,

-- Ralph

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Surfer-Architect wrote:
...
While VCT is a bit more truer to the midcentury esthetic, homeowners should be wary of its off-gassing since this can potentially pose a health hazard. Volatile Organic Compounds are known to exist in these products. VOC's can cause health problems such as asthma and other respiratory problems so make sure that you choose materials that have the least amount of VOC's to maintain/improve the healthy indoor air quality of your home.
...

not to change the thread topic at all, I will mention voc content and off-gassing of VCT, mentioned by surfer-architect, is primarily an issue with installation and the adhesives/finishes involved. There are low-voc adhesives and installation techniques that greatly reduce measurable voc and off-gassing. let's not forget the VOC content involved with installing and finishing bamboo and cork flooring either.

Joined: Aug 6 2006

That is true if you are glueing down with certain adhesives. Good clarification, joe-b.
In any case, if your radiant heating is still functioning, to get the most effectiveness out of it, you'd probably want to have as less an insulator as possible...these include wood flooring. My system was badly damaged beyond repair (which I tried with several different contractors)...but I'll leave that to another thread.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction."-E. F. Schumacher.

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Joined: Mar 8 2011

mikelol wrote:
The foot feel of cork flooring is better. But bamboo flooring is more abrasion resistant.

Bamboo flooring is more durable than laminate flooring. However, in terms of impact resistance, laminate flooring has a much higher impact resistance than bamboo flooring according to the Flooring Professor. Laminate flooring has more commercial applications than bamboo flooring because it is more abrasion-resistant. However, if the top, abrasion-resistant layer of laminate flooring is stripped, it cannot be repaired thus compromising the integrity of the floor.

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Joined: May 23 2011

What about warping or the glue degrading from the radiant heated floors in Eichler homes? I know some people worry about wood floors warping from the heat, can bamboo or cork warp? I would think cork wouldn't but what about bamboo? Also in regards to gluing down cork tiles, is there a certain type of adhesive glue that won't degrade and loosen from radiant floor heating? Or are all the adhesives fine with heated floors?

Regina - Need help from a San Francisco handyman

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Joined: Dec 20 2004

For cork, 5 years so far and no warping. I used the glue recommended by AMCork and followed their instructions which is on their website: http://www.amcork.com/downloads/Amcork%202008%20Parquet%20Installation%2...

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Joined: May 24 2011

I installed it in the kitchen after the cabinets had been installed. As a result, I had to make a lot of weird cuts. It still only took a half a day. I've had it for about 1.5 years with no fading etc. It is quiet, warm, and the dogs like to sleep on it (caution, safety hazard).

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