Rich Earth solid strand-woven bamboo from USFloors’ Natural Bamboo collection. Photo courtesy of USFloors.

Bamboo and cork flooring are starting to look less like traditional cork and bamboo and more like other materials. In bamboo, companies are experimenting with different stains to mimic exotic hardwoods.

In cork, manufacturers are creating products that resemble rustic hardwoods and natural stone. Manufacturers in both segments say that these types of products are poised to break cork and bamboo into the mainstream, both residentially and commercially.

Cork flooring can be used in both residential and commercial applications. Photo courtesy of APC Cork.


Manufacturers say that strand-woven bamboo flooring has begun to eclipse traditional bamboo in popularity. Strand-woven bamboo is made by compressing woven, dried bamboo fibers under extreme heat and pressure into boards that are cut into planks. The result is an extremely hard and durable product, according to manufacturers.

“Strand [bamboo] is very hard which makes it very durable, and it’s a more traditional grain,” explained Gary Keeble, Jr., marketing manager of bamboo and cork flooring manufacturer USFloors. He said the look of the product, combined with its extreme hardness, makes it a hit with consumers who might shy away from the “knuckled grain” of a traditional bamboo floor.

WE Cork’s Castle Renaissance cork tile, part of the Timeless collection. Photo courtesy of WE Cork.

He added that companies are spicing up their strand-woven options with a range of designer stains, as well as printing directly onto the face of the board. “We use a technology called Wood Grain Enhancement to actually print an exotic hardwood visual directly on the solid strand woven bamboo plank,” he said.

Krysten Park, Ambient Bamboo Floors’ marketing manager, said her company has recently launched strand-woven products designed to replicate the looks of rosewood and teak. “It gives clients the ability to have an eco-friendly floor without worrying about the environmental impact [of real exotic woods],” she noted.

She said that both residential and commercial clients are drawn toward strand-woven floors. Consumers are also looking for wider planks and longer boards of up to 6’. “Longer boards mean less lines in the flooring, as well as a little less installation time. For that reason, we’re also seeing homeowners buying more click-and-lock floors.”

Ambient Bamboo’s Strand Woven Teak is a bamboo floor offered in an exotic hardwood look. Photo courtesy of Ambient Bamboo Floors.

Allen Chen, president of cork and bamboo flooring manufacturer Wellmade Performance Flooring, said that new looks that play with the appearance of bamboo, including mahogany-stained bamboo and hand-scraped textures, are becoming popular along with strand-woven floors.

“I think engineered bamboo will grow more and more,” Chen noted. “It’s like any other hardwood flooring – more people use the engineered material and it’s more stable.”

Hung Chen, Allwood Import’s president, noted that engineered is popular for another reason as well. “For solid floors, you have to glue them down. But for engineered, you can float it.”

However, in order for bamboo flooring to be truly green, the product needs to be installed with formaldehyde-free adhesives, she noted.

Wellmade’s Natural Strand Bamboo flooring. Photo courtesy of Wellmade Performance Flooring.


Manufacturers are offering a range of designer stains to make cork planks resemble hardwood and cork tiles imitate stone. The category is also moving to beveled edges in both formats.

“People don’t necessarily want the look of stereotypical cork, but they want the attributes of cork,” said Ann Wicander, WE Cork’s president. “For example, we have a stone style that people like to put in their kitchen because they love the look of stone. However, they don’t necessarily want to stand on stone.” She noted that planks with rustic hardwood visuals are also selling well.

While warmer, darker colors are popular, Wicander sees signs that the segment will soon transition to brighter, lighter colors similar to cork used in the 1980s. “We’re going to have offerings in that color range that will segue very much into that period.” 

Allwood’s Tiger Wood strand bamboo, courtesy of Allwood Import LLC.

Paulo Nogueira, managing director of Amorim Flooring N.A. and its Wicanders brand, said that technologies like embossing are making cork’s hardwood and stone visuals more authentic. “We’re seeing real embossing in surfaces, different lengths and widths, and new processes to make visuals with looks not existing in traditional cork,” he noted.

He predicts that with retailers presenting the durability and comfort of cork to consumers, the category can only grow. “Cork has the main features that consumers want: durability (in the finishes), easy care, design and uniqueness.”

Randy Gillespie, Expanko Cork’s owner, noted that cork flooring is poised to become even bigger in the commercial segment as well. “Advancements in finishes, construction and adhesives will take cork into heavy commercial and traditional commercial flooring projects. These continued advancements will build confidence in cork flooring.” 

APCOR’s Décor(k) Tour features a 53’ long mobile showroom that will make stops in major cities in the U.S. and Canada through next year.

Décor(k) Tour showroom promotes cork to consumers

The Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) recently kicked off its Décor(k) Tour in New York City. The tour, which features a 53’ long mobile showroom of cork flooring vignettes as well as information about how cork is harvested, is designed to educate consumers about the wide variety of Portuguese cork flooring available. North American members of APCOR include APC Cork, Expanko, Qu-Cork, USFloors, WE Cork and Wicanders/Amorim in the U.S.; and Jelinek Cork, Shnier and Torlys in Canada.

The tour has already made stops in Boston, Montreal and Toronto, and will head to 12 other cities through next year, including stops at Surfaces 2011, Las Vegas; NeoCon 2011, Chicago; and Dwell on Design 2011, Los Angeles. The mobile showroom was designed by Candice Olson, host of HGTV’s “Divine Design.”

“My inspiration with the showroom was to show the versatility of cork,” Olson toldNFT.“I wanted to show its applications in traditional rooms and more contemporary rooms, like media rooms, bathrooms, dining rooms and kitchens.”

Another important part of the showroom is what Olson calls the “Corkology 101 component,” which explains how cork bark is harvested and stresses the renewability and sustainability of the material.

Olson said she hopes the showroom will educate consumers on the wide range of cork flooring products and their applications. “I don’t think there’s awareness of the incredible diversity out there, from the color range, to the format, to mesh-backed mosaic tile. I think seeing all this will blow people away.”