Because bamboo is a thin, grass-like plant with hollow walls, traditional bamboo floors are constructed by laminating the material together in many layers. The difference between horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring is how the strips are laminated together. The fibers are laid horizontally for horizontal bamboo flooring, as you might have guessed, and vertically for vertical bamboo flooring.
Horizontal bamboo flooring is more common, and it’s probably what you picture when you think of bamboo flooring. During the manufacturing process, bamboo strips are laid flat to display the bamboo’s natural “knuckles,” or growth rings. Horizontal bamboo flooring tends to look more natural, and it easily becomes the focal point of the room. It’s ideal for homes with an earthy feel.
With vertical bamboo flooring, the bamboo strips are turned on their sides (picture a bunch of 2×4 boards placed with the thin side up and pushed together). The knuckles are not visible but there are many more seams than with horizontal bamboo flooring. Vertical bamboo flooring has a more consistent pattern and coloring, and it is better suited to homes with modern decor.
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Aside from looks, horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring are relatively similar. They have similar Janka hardness ratings, so they’re equally durable. They’re similarly priced, too. The difference really comes down to aesthetics: Some people prefer one look and some people prefer the other.
As a side note, both horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring fall under the category of traditional bamboo flooring. The other option is strand-woven bamboo flooring, in which the bamboo fibers are woven together in an adhesive base, rather than simply stacked. Strand-woven bamboo flooring is stronger and more durable than traditional bamboo flooring, but it is also more expensive.