Should I install carpet or bamboo flooring? Big decisions like these aren’t always so easy to make. After all, it isn’t too difficult to come up with plenty of reasons to choose either of them. And of course, there are always going to be trade-offs. But don’t worry. We’re here to help you decide. Here, we consider the most critical features of both options and compare them on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most desirable. Of course, you also have to do some work. Some of the features we describe are likely to be more important to you than others. For instance, if you are particularly concerned about the environment and climate change, then considerations such as eco-friendliness will be important to you. If anyone in your household has asthma or any other allergy, then the hypoallergenic properties of flooring alternatives will be a top priority. If you are on a budget (and who isn’t?), price might be the deciding factor. So please look at our list, read the details, decide what is important to you to see whether bamboo flooring is worth the upgrade.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CARPET AND BAMBOO – A GUIDE
HARDNESS (Resistance to Denting)
As we have frequently pointed out in this blog, the hardness of bamboo floors is legendary. With a Janka Hardness rating of over 4000, strand woven bamboo is two to three times harder than most hardwoods. Thus it is highly resistant to denting, so you can put heavy furniture on bamboo flooring without causing any damage. Knowing you have a floor that is as tough as bamboo takes away that worry. Of course, you shouldn’t throw all caution to the wind. For instance, if you plan to place a grand piano on your floor, we would recommend you use felt pads. But as there is no wooden floor as hard as bamboo, we give it maximum marks of 10 out of 10.
One of the less desirable features of carpet is its susceptibility to denting, Heavy furniture or dining chairs will inevitably create dents. If you like to change your interior design occasionally, then those unsightly dents left by your sofa will stand out and compromise your style. Dents are the result of pile compression, a subject that is still being investigated by scientists. Many factors are involved, but not all carpet dents are irreversible. Often, they will recover at least partially over time. There are also many ways of improving them; some people recommend ice cubes, while others recommend using a steam iron as in our video below. But that’s a lot of effort, and the dents rarely disappear completely. We can only award carpet two out of 10, and that’s being generous.
ECO-FRIENDLESS / DAMAGE TO THE ENVIRONMENT
Bamboo Flooring Flooring
Bamboo flooring is known to be the eco-friendliest of all types of flooring. Because it’s a grass, there is no reason to dig up the roots and disturb the environment. Also, because it matures in just five years, you can return and harvest it again five years later. No pesticides or fertilizers are needed; it is an entirely natural growth process. It thoroughly deserves an eco-friendliness rating of 10 out of 10.
Carpeting generally hurts the environment, especially when you consider that in the US, people purchase over a billion square yards of it every year – more than enough to carpet New York. At the end of its life, it usually ends up in landfills where we can’t recycle it. Although more eco-friendly carpet options are available, over 90% is made of plastic that is derived from oil. Alternatives, such as pure wool, are extremely expensive. As one of the least eco-friendly flooring options, we give it a rating of just 2 out of 10.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY, OFF-GASSING, & FORMALDEHYDE EMISSIONS
Indoor air quality has a big impact on people’s health. Often, there are five to 10 times more pollutants inside homes than in the external environment. One of the major classes of pollutants is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are emitted by the materials we have in our homes. Some of these, including formaldehyde, are thought to be carcinogenic.
Bamboo floors are one of the best floors you can get for indoor air quality. The only exception is engineered bamboo where small amounts of UF adhesives are used during manufacturing. Overall, we rate bamboo indoor air quality 9 out of 10.
Carpet is a notorious emitter of VOCs. These chemicals are emitted from the carpet, adhesives, and the carpet underlay. Typical health problems associated with new carpet installations are:
- Coughing and shortness of breath
- Skin irritation
- Throat, eye, and nose problems
But even old carpets continue to produce lower levels of VOCs. These lurk in deep dust which eventually rises to become surface dust. Children who play and crawl on the floor could be at risk. The upside is that formaldehyde is no longer used in manufacturing carpet, but even at best, carpet is rated 2 out of 10. Incidentally, carpet is also bad news for people with allergies, as it tends to harbor mites, dust, and other microscopic irritants.
COMFORT FOR WALKING / WARM UNDERFOOT
Bamboo flooring is warm to the touch. Just like hardwood, it is a great thermal insulator, so it will always feel cozy, even when you first get up in the morning. Bamboo flooring just feels so nice to walk on, so we award it 9 out of 10.
Regarding comfort for walking, not all carpets are the same. To get the best from a comfortable carpet, you also need a comfortable underlay, which also significantly increases the cost. However, there is no getting away from it; carpet is even more comfortable for walking, and it’s warmer underfoot than bamboo. Hence, it scores top marks of 10 out of 10.
Bamboo flooring is more water-resistant than hardwood flooring, though it would be wrong to call it waterproof. If you mop up any spills within 20 hours, there shouldn’t be a problem. But if you leave pools of water for much longer than that, some staining and swelling are likely to result. Thus, we advise you not to install bamboo floors in bathrooms or other places where it might be in frequent contact with water. Thus we give it a water-resistance score of 8 out of 10.
If you have ever smelled a wet carpet, then you will agree with us that it smells very much like a wet dog – not very pleasant. The problem is that even after the carpet dries, the odor tends to persist. Often, water passes through the carpet and is absorbed by the underlay, Since underlay is difficult to remove, it can result in unhealthy molds and mildew. Although there are treatments available for dealing with the smell, they are often only partially effective and can even make the problem worse. In a nutshell, water and carpets don’t go well together. We give it a water resistance rating of just 2 out of 10.
PRICING & AVAILABILITY
Regarding price, there is very little difference between bamboo and carpet. There are some very expensive carpet options, but for the kind of carpeting most of us would install in our homes, the price is a little less than bamboo. But given that bamboo, at $4 to $7 a square foot, costs much less than hardwood, both carpet and bamboo are both affordable. Carpet marginally has the edge; we will score bamboo 9 out of 10 and carpet 10 out of 10.
ORGANIC, NATURAL MATERIALS VS SYNTHETIC
As we have indicated already, bamboo is a natural and sustainable material. You can’t get more natural than bamboo, so we give it 10 out of 10.
Some carpet is natural and uses natural fibers such as seagrass, sisal, coir, and wool, but 90% of carpet is anything but natural. That is, unless you include oil in your list of natural ingredients. Just about all the carpet we use is made from oil-derived plastics such as nylon, polypropylene, and polyester. Recently-introduced carpets are made from recycled plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and the jury is still out on whether PET carpet fibers are safe. They may not be. Overall, carpet has a natural material rating of 2 out of 10.
NATURAL VARIATION IN THE GRAIN – LOOK AND FEEL
Just like hardwood flooring, bamboo has an individual grain pattern where every plank is unique, each with its distinctive grain pattern, color, and tone. These features can be used with excellent effect when installing a bamboo floor over a large area. By working from several boxes of planks at the same time, you can achieve a gorgeous natural variation across the complete area. It richly deserves a natural rating of 10 out of 10.
There is nothing natural about the appearance of carpet. You can certainly get some exciting textures, colors, and patterns, but if your style is natural, then avoid carpet. We give it a natural rating of 2 out of 10.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
Bamboo flooring is easy to install; t can be nailed down, glued down and floated. Anyone with average DIY skills should be able to do a great job; but, of course, you need to make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. We recommend you read ours. Installation does require some care, so we rate it at 8 out of 10.
Carpet is even easier to install than bamboo. You will need some special tools to install wall-to-wall carpet, but once you have them, the installation process is straightforward. If you are carpeting a large area, you will need two people; carpets can be heavy to handle. But really, it isn’t too difficult; we give it an ‘ease of installation’ rating of 10 out of 10.
EASE OF MAINTENANCE
Maintaining a bamboo floor is easy. Simply vacuum it regularly to keep hairs, dirt, and dust off the surface, and soak up any spills as soon as you see them. You can clean the floor using most bamboo or hardwood floor cleaners; just avoid wet mopping or steam mopping. For ease of maintenance, we award it 8 out of 10.
Carpet needs regular vacuuming to remove dry debris. However, typically around 15% of debris is oily. This oily deposit accumulates over time and will eventually harden and become difficult to remove. In heavily trafficked areas, this can change the color and texture of the carpet. To remove this, you need to steam clean the carpet or use a hot water extraction system with a specialist cleaner regularly. Spills can stain carpets, so you should treat all spills immediately. If there is a stain, some stain removers are effective, but you need to ensure they don’t discolor the carpet. Overall, carpet scores 5 out of 10 for maintenance.
THE FINAL ANALYSIS
If you have been totaling up the scores, then you’ll know the results already. Here are our scores: Bamboo: 91 points – Carpet: 45 points
Want to learn more about bamboo flooring? If so, check out the Bamboo Flooring 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Bamboo Floors to learn all there is to know about bamboo floors