When bamboo flooring came to the North American market, there was little variety and consumers were naturally wary about the properties of this new flooring option. Over the last several years as bamboo flooring has become more popular, demand has driven innovations and bamboo has become widely accepted as a viable alternative to traditional hardwood flooring.
Given the appearance of many bamboo floors, your impression might be that bamboo is a tree. In fact, bamboo is actually a species of grass that grows more rapidly than any other plant on the planet. This is one of the many reasons that bamboo has emerged as not only an attractive flooring option but also an environmentally responsible one. Other reasons to select bamboo floors include:
- Bamboo is very light and flexible but also very strong. Pound for pound, bamboo is stronger than many types of steel.
- Bamboo for floors can be harvested in one to three years with no additional planting or cultivation required. Virtually all parts of the plant are used for different applications so there is very little waste.
- Traditional hardwoods such as oak and hard maple take at least 60 years to reach harvestable size.
- Bamboo requires little or no fertilizer or pesticides to produce and absorbs a greater percentage of carbon dioxide than many types of trees.
- When properly dried and milled, bamboo is stronger than wood, brick, and concrete.
How Bamboo Flooring is Made
The first step involves cutting the culm, or hollow stem of the plant, into long strips which are then boiled to remove the starch. Then the strips are dried and laminated into planks which can be milled into a variety of standard flooring sizes and shapes. Depending on the manufacturer, the bamboo is then treated with preservatives either before, during, or after lamination or sometimes at each stage. Then, if a darker finish is desired, the bamboo is pressure steamed to carbonize the material which results in an even, uniform appearance.
Initially, all bamboo floors were laminated using a urea-formaldehyde adhesive but the off-gases that the product emitted created indoor air pollution and an unpleasant smell which lasted for months. These days, bamboo flooring is laminated with far less toxic glues that achieve the same strength and finish without the less desirable aspects of the previously used substances.
Bamboo Floor Applications
With the popularity of bamboo floors taking off, you can find this renewable material available in virtually the same array of styles and finishes as traditional hardwood floors. From tongue-in-groove planks to parquet blocks to veneers and everything in between, environmentally-savvy consumers that want beautiful and affordable floors from a renewable and sustainable source will easily find an option that suits their budget and sense of style. What's more, bamboo flooring is far less susceptible to warping or cupping from atmospheric humidity and is laminated in three layers which make installation fast and easy with no additional sanding or finishing necessary.
Initially, some consumers were cautious about purchasing bamboo floors due to a perceived softness of the material. In a wood floor hardness scale developed by the National Hardwood Flooring Association, bamboo compares very favorably for resistance to stains, wear, and everyday use. If you're looking for new flooring options that are affordable, easy to install, environmentally responsible, and available in a wide range of styles and finishes, take a look at bamboo floors. To finish the look of a room, consider bamboo ceilings, bamboo furniture, or bamboo walls as well.