Vinyl Vs Bamboo Flooring | A Side By Side Comparison

Beyond the materials themselves, there are significant differences between bamboo flooring and luxury vinyl flooring. Vinyl lacks the sustainability and naturalistic traits of bamboo. It does, however, beat bamboo in terms of ease of installation and maintenance.

This is not to say that bamboo is a tough install. The development of click-lock technology for engineered bamboo floors has considerably eased the installation process. Vinyl flooring — often referred to as luxury vinyl plank (LVP) or vinyl SPC flooring — utilizes similar technology. It is so simple that DIY-homebuilders can tackle it without professional help. Furthermore, these floors are similar in their affordability and water-resistant properties.

These points are only a surface level look into LVP versus bamboo flooring. There is so much more to explore: both in comparison and the decision process. If you are stuck in your deliberations between bamboo and vinyl flooring for your new project, then read on!

A painting of Benjamin Franklin reading papers

When choosing the right kind of flooring for your home, there’s a lot to get your head around. Bamboo? Laminate? Vinyl? There are so many options, and it can be more than a little confusing. When faced with such a choice, the traditional way of deciding is to make a pros and cons list. In other words, please list all the pros and cons of each choice and add it all up. Even Benjamin Franklin recommended the method!

However, according to the Harvard Business Review, that’s not always such a great way of making the optimum decision. It’s mainly down to what they call “cognitive bias.” A much better way is to quantify your list by scoring each feature on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most positive, and choosing the option with the highest score. Well, that is exactly what we have done for you here.

Key Differences Between LVP And Bamboo

Many of our customers ask us about the differences between bamboo and LVP flooring. So we have listed all the most important features you should consider when choosing your floor, and we have assigned an objective score to each of them. Here is the table we came up with. We think the conclusion is fairly obvious, but we will leave you to do the math. After all, we wouldn’t want to be accused of cognitive bias. Following the table, we will go through each feature in some detail.  Also, keep in mind that there can be significant differences in quality between flooring brands, so we recommend reading bamboo flooring reviews before making a purchase.


Hardness / Resistance To Denting

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo — especially the strand woven bamboo — is tough. In fact, it’s one of the hardest floors available in the market, hands down.

Man crawling under barbed wire in the Spartan Race

We’d say that bamboo floors are as tough as a competitor in a Spartan race!

Engineers measure the hardness and density of wood and other materials using the Janka Hardness Scale, which measures the force needed to drive a small steel ball into the material. On this test, strand woven bamboo consistently achieves ratings over 4,000, making it around 2-3 times harder than most traditional hardwoods. 

Hardness is important for several reasons. The harder the flooring, the less susceptible it is to being dented by heavy furniture and heels. Another huge benefit to bamboo is that it rarely, if ever, needs to be refinished in a residential setting. This greatly lowers its long-term maintenance cost, and it increases the resale value of the home. Bamboo’s hardness rating of over 4,000 means that it is one of the most durable floors you can install, which is why we give it a score of 10 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

Luxury plank flooring is also a durable choice. Made from multiple thin vinyl layers and finished with a scratch-resistant coating, LVP is long-lasting, even in heavy traffic areas. However, it isn’t as hard as bamboo, so it’s more likely to be damaged by heels and heavy furniture. Vinyl flooring can be punctured with heavy, sharp objects, and the only repair is to replace the entire plank. We rate its hardness as 7 out of 10.
Ambient flooring samples

Eco-Friendless / Damage To The Environment

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is the most eco-friendly flooring you can find. Bamboo is really grass, even though the flooring looks like hardwood. It grows rapidly, sometimes several feet a day, and it matures in just five years. When we harvest bamboo, we do so without affecting the ecosystem in any way. We leave the roots in place so they can immediately start producing a new bamboo plant. We don’t disturb the soil or damage the wildlife, and we don’t even need any pesticides or fertilizers. This is why we score its eco-friendliness 10 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

The reason it is called vinyl flooring is that it is made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC. The US manufactures 14 billion pounds of vinyl flooring a year, which, frankly, is an environmental hazard. The manufacturing process of vinyl produces carcinogenic dioxins, which accumulate in the environment and pose a huge risk to the health of anyone who comes into contact with them. Other toxins produced include phthalates and ethylene dichloride, which both pose serious health risks.

Recent developments in LVP production, however, have changed perspectives on the sustainability aspect. Older models of luxury vinyl were less durable and would need replacement after as few as five years. The addition of stone polymer composite (SPC) core has lengthened the life expectancy of these floors. While the materials are still not the most eco-friendly, the longevity of these floors has reduced their environmental impact. For that reason, we have scored LVP a 5 out of 10.

Off-Gassing, Indoor Air Quality & Formaldehyde Emissions

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gasses emitted by certain substances and can damage health, resulting in both short-term and chronic long-term problems. They are particularly harmful in homes if their concentration gets up to ten times higher than outdoors. It is advisable to minimize VOCs’ level in your home by making better choices of the materials you introduce and increasing ventilation levels.

Bamboo Flooring

You will be happy to know that bamboo produces tiny amounts of VOCs. Although trace amounts of UF adhesive are used in engineered bamboo flooring, it still only produces a tiny amount of VOC compared with other flooring materials. It’s so low; we give bamboo an air quality rating of 9 out of 10. The only floors for you and your family that are safer than bamboo (and it isn’t by much) are traditional hardwoods and linoleum.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

During the manufacturing of LPV, quantities of materials such as dioxins, phthalates, and ethylene chloride (along with many others) are created. In some brands where toxins are not carefully controlled during manufacturing, these toxins may remain in the LPV after manufacture and can seriously affect your home’s air quality. The good news is that there are safe LVP brands with Floorscore Certification (an indoor air quality standard), but many brands do not.  If you choose a high-quality brand that provides indoor air quality certification, you get an indoor air quality rating of 8 out of 10. Be sure to target brands with CARB Phase 2 certification because their products have proven to be safe.

Comfort For Walking / Warm Underfoot

Bamboo Flooring

There’s nothing like having a warm floor on a cold winter day, especially when you wake up barefoot for your morning cup of joe. Since bamboo is an excellent thermal insulator, it always feels warm to the touch. Without getting too technical, the thermal resistance of a material is resistant to heat flow: the higher the thermal resistance, the warmer and cozier the material will feel underfoot. Thermal resistance is measured in BTUs per hour using a complex unit h·ft2·°F/Btu, but we’ll call it R. The R-value for bamboo flooring is 0.72, while that of vinyl flooring is 0.2, making bamboo over three times as cozy. This is why we award it a warm and cozy underfoot rating of 9 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

As previously noted, the R-value for vinyl is 0.2, which is way below bamboo. Compared to other flooring materials, carpet ranges from 0.7 (about the same as bamboo) up to 1.6, while linoleum has an R-value of 0.26. LVP is a little better than plain vinyl flooring, so we award it a warm and cozy underfoot rating of 5 out of 10.

Water Resistance

Bamboo Flooring

While bamboo flooring is generally more waterproof than hardwoods, that doesn’t mean it is entirely waterproof. If you spill water (or any other liquid) on the floor and wipe it up reasonably quickly with an absorbent cloth, there should be no staining or damage. But if you leave a pool of liquid on the floor for more than 20 hours, you might expect to see some staining and swelling. While you can install bamboo in areas with high humidity levels, it isn’t advisable to install it in areas like bathrooms, where it may be in frequent contact with water. Overall, we award it a water-resistance score of 8 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

LVP is more water-resistant than bamboo, and some LVP flooring is sold as waterproof. In fact, if you spill water on LVP floors, you can leave it to evaporate, and there won’t be any damage. There is an important caveat, however. If you install LVP on concrete, moisture can react with the concrete to create a highly alkaline solution, which is likely to degrade the LVP. So we decided to award it a water-resistance rating of 9 out of 10.

Pricing & Availability

Both bamboo and LVP flooring have similar price points, and both are widely available online and in local stores. You can get high-quality bamboo and LVP shipped to your home for between $3 to $7 per square foot. This is significantly less than hardwood, which can be several times more expensive. And while they’re both budget-friendly, you won’t be a trading cost for quality if you choose the right brand. Bamboo is as good, if not better, than hardwoods in every way, and LVP can also be an excellent choice. They both deserve a price rating of 9 out of 10.

Organic, Natural Materials VS Synthetic Plastic

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is a 100% natural material with many eco-friendly qualifications. It is sustainable, doesn’t damage the environment, and soaks up copious quantities of carbon dioxide during its rapid growth cycle. You can’t get more renewable or natural, therefore our score of 10 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

As it says on the package, luxury vinyl planks are vinyl: a human-made plastic derived from crude oil. Vinyl flooring also includes many additives such as phthalates, which are non-biodegradable. It will remain in the environment forever, and it creates several harmful toxins during its manufacturing. Score: 1 out of 10.

Natural Variation In The Grain – Look And Feel

Bamboo Flooring

One of the more attractive features of bamboo is its highly unique and marbled grain pattern. No two planks will ever be identical, and they will differ subtly in their color, tone, and grain pattern. This natural variation can be used effectively when installing a bamboo floor. 

HELPFUL TIP: Work from all your boxes of planks simultaneously to obtain a uniformly-varying, natural variation finish across your entire floor. We award bamboo a natural variation rating of 10 out of 10.

Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP)

Although printed and made of plastic, “wood-look” veneers have come a long way. There’s no denying that even the untrained eye sees that “something isn’t real” about synthetic floor surfaces. Since LVP is entirely human-made, there is no natural variation. Using high definition printing, it can still look great and can be made to have the appearance of wood. But in the end, there will be repeated patterns and planks that look too similar, in addition to just looking, well, a bit fake.

dining room with warm brown floors

Ease Of Installation

That almost covers the main differences between bamboo and LVP floors. However, there is an additional feature of both of them: their ease of installation. A reasonably skilled DIY enthusiast can easily install both, but LVP is often a little easier since it can be laid over surfaces that are not perfectly flat. Hardwoods, bamboo, and tile all require level sub-floors. However, you do need to be careful that you don’t install LVP floors directly over concrete. As we have already mentioned, any dampness can react with the concrete to produce alkali, degrade the vinyl. Altogether for ease of installation, we will score bamboo 8 out of 10 and award LVP full marks – 10 out of 10.

Cleaning And Maintenance Of Bamboo VS LVP

Cleaning LVP and bamboo are similar, both can be maintained with a lightly damp mop, and both are highly resistant to moisture.  However, Rigid Core Luxury Vinyl Plank LVP has a small leg up because it can be steam mopped and wet mopped, which you should mostly avoid with bamboo and hardwood flooring.  For this reason, we give LVP a 10 and Bamboo an 8.

Final Score

We said we would leave the math to you, but we can’t help ourselves, so here you go! 

Bamboo Flooring: 91 points 

Luxury Vinyl Plank: 70 points

This is the conclusion we’ve come to based on the metrics provided. At the end of the day, it is your decision as far as what floors to choose for your project. We at Ambient have a vested interest in bamboo products, but there are benefits to all sorts of floors. Although we did the math for you, it’s up to you to decide whether it adds up.

The great news is that both of these products are especially affordable. It makes it easier for prospective buyers to consider their own preferences rather than a restrictive price barrier. Is eco-friendliness or a natural look important to you? Is your new floor going to experience high traffic — in which case toughness is a priority? These are the questions to consider.

Let us know what you think is best for your own situation! The decision is in your hands — er, under your feet.

Ambient flooring samples