What you should know before
buying Bamboo Flooring.
by Amanda Robinson
Whether for eco reasons or just the sheer beauty, the rise in popularity of
bamboo flooring is irrefutable. Despite the popularity, sometimes the partial
and inadequate information provided by sales people can deter home owners
from choosing bamboo. This article will highlight answers to questions
regarding bamboo, in turn, dispelling some widely circulated myths.

Albeit, bamboo is a fantastic choice for any type of home, I do believe
bamboo floors are most synonymous with modern homes. Why? Because
most people living in or renovating modern homes are savvy, trendsetters
who like and want to be ahead of the times. So naturally, being eco falls into
that mindset. If you have only begun to skim the tip of the proverbial eco
iceberg, this article will only propel you further. If you are not interested in
bamboo for eco reasons; nevertheless, the extraordinary compliment to
modern architectural design will be enough to win you over.
Soon you will be spouting, “Why do wood when I can do bamboo?”
So let’s begin with the eco reasons of why bamboo is the smart choice.
Because it is the fastest growing plant (it is actually a grass) bamboo is
sustainable and renewable. Bamboo is able to reach maturity in about
four years and can then grow two feet overnight. Once cut it will
regenerate in the same way as your garden lawn, making it more renewable
than trees. When a tree is cut the roots and stump are left for dead and do
not regenerate. Bamboo is also mildew resistant and does not have to be
treated with pesticides, making it naturally organic.
Now let’s debunk some bamboo myths.

1. Bamboo comes in one color.
False. Bamboo is most commonly known for it’s
beautiful, flawless blond color. This is the natural color of bamboo, which is
achieved after using boiling water or steam to flatten the stalks. So what if you
want a deeper brown, honey or even caramel color? A high-pressure steam
process called carbonization dyes the bamboo to create a range of color from
honey to a light coffee. You can also stain bamboo, but make sure to use a
water based stain on your organic floors.
2. Bamboo is not as durable as wood. False. The Janka Hardness Scale, the
standard of measuring the strength of wood flooring, measures maple at 1450,
natural bamboo at 1380, oak 1360, Rosewood 1780 and Pecan 1820. So it’s
harder than maple, but only a tad lighter than oak, which is the most common
wood flooring. Keep in mind carbonized bamboo measure at 1180, since the
process can weaken the flooring, somewhat. Strength also varies slightly
between types of bamboo planks…let’s discuss.
Engineered or Solid Bamboo – A few factors
to consider are strength, toxins, and price.
Although they may look similar, solid
bamboo flooring consists of only bamboo
strips pressed together to create the
floorboards. The price may be less
expensive but solid bamboo requires a lot
of adhesive. The most commonly used
adhesive is urea formaldehyde, a chemical
that is toxic and has been banned in the
UK for VOC (Volatile Organic Compound). If
you decide to go with solid bamboo, look
for low or formaldehyde free glue.
layered with other types of wood underneath. It is thought to be stronger than
solid bamboo because of the blending of woods. This may be the better choice
even if it is a bit higher in price since less adhesive is used in this process and the
blending makes it more durable.

3. Bamboo is more expensive than wood flooring. True and false. It doesn’t
matter if your flooring is wood or bamboo. Going too cheap on anything will
only have you tearing it up and replacing sooner than later. Bamboo flooring
ranges from $3-6 sq/ft give or take, not varying much from the most common
wood flooring, oak. The main consideration of price would be choosing from
solid or engineered bamboo.

4. Bamboo is not good for dry or humid climates? False. There are a couple things
to consider here, but neither should sway you from installing bamboo in your
home. If you live in an area of high humidity, before installation leave the
bamboo flooring in the room so it can acclimate to the temperature in the
room. For dryer climates, like the desert, bamboo performs, just as well, if not
better than oak, pine or hickory and will have the same longevity.

What’s not so eco about bamboo flooring?
Most bamboo is grown and exported from India, Indonesia, Japan and Costa
Rica and produced in China and Vietnam. So there is no way of getting around
shipping cost. In China, where fair labor practices are mostly non-existent, there
are also no set government standards for bamboo flooring production. Look for
important guidelines when buying bamboo, like water-based finishes,
manufactured with low or formaldehyde-free processing, country of origin and
plantation harvesting.

For more info check with the Forest Stewardship Council, which maintains a
database of businesses that manufacture formaldehyde-free, fair trade
bamboo flooring.
Now you are informed, have extra resources to investigate on your own and
may even feel more eco. So your next obvious decision is which room to re-floor
first. Remember don’t be swayed by a salesman if he makes you feel bamboo
isn’t a good choice…you have the facts. Bamboo is one of the best eco
choices for beauty, finish, durability, the environment and your pocketbook.
Any visitor who enters your home will be impressed. Enjoy!

Other Eco Alternatives to Bamboo Flooring: Reclaimed wood, Cork, Coconut
Palm, Linoleum, Concrete, Recycled Glass

Amanada Robinson

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