Bamboo Flooring Pros and Cons – Information and Tips
People are considering bamboo flooring more and more when renovating their home. There are several pros and cons when factoring this in.
Luckily for you, we’ve scoured the web taking in all the good with the bad, as well as how you can make bamboo flooring to put together the ultimate bamboo flooring pros and cons list. Enjoy!
How Is Bamboo Produced?
The website How Stuff Works offers some insight:
When trees are cut down, the stump and roots eventually die. However, when one properly harvests bamboo, the root system remains intact, allowing the bamboo to grow again to its full size. Bamboo is usually harvested when the stalks are around six years old.
If you harvest bamboo earlier, it will not produce a strong floor. Should you do this improperly, the bamboo will be too brittle.
Since it’s hollow, there’s very little waste to show for when making the flooring. Every part of the grass is used in the process, making a very sustainable flooring product.
First, you remove the exterior green layer and shoots of the bamboo stalk. Then, the stalks are cut into strips called logs, resembling the length of the final flooring products.
The bamboo then goes through a purification process, usually by boiling it to remove any insects or sugars that you can leave in the bamboo. Some bamboo is steamed under pressure to give it a darker color, which we’ll discuss later.
Next, the bamboo logs go into a sorting process of “A” and “B” grades based on quality. After separation, you dry the strips in a kiln.
Then, the strips go into assembly either horizontally or vertically and are glued together under high pressure to achieve the strength and durability that makes bamboo flooring so popular.
The final step is milling the bamboo blanks (what bamboo boards are called after they’re formed and glued). Milling creates the finish of the flooring. At this step, you shape the blanks into perfectly measured boards with smooth edges so they can be properly installed.
In this part of the process, cuts called grooves are created in the blanks for click-on flooring.
Types of Bamboo
More from How Stuff Works:
After the harvesting and stripping processes, bamboo strips are boiled to eliminate impurities. The natural color of the bamboo emerges. It’s a light — almost blond — wood color. Many consider this to be the “natural” bamboo color, and further color processing is not necessary. The boards are then glued and pressed together into bamboo planks.
To carbonize bamboo, bamboo strips are immediately pressure-steamed after stripping to give the bamboo a darker color. Carbon is added to the steam chamber, which dyes the bamboo throughout the strips, not just on the surface.
Carbonized bamboo ranges in color from a honey or caramel color to a light coffee. Carbonizing actually decreases the floor’s strength about eight to ten percent, so keep that in mind when researching bamboo flooring.
Bamboo planks can also be stained into a wide spectrum of colors after the bamboo planks have been produced. Bamboo distributors can dye the wood virtually any color of the rainbow to accompany any interior design style. Stain can be painted on or rubbed on by hand.
Bamboo can be processed into boards in a variety of styles and colors. The surfaces can also be finished or left unfinished. There is an infinite number of options to consider when choosing bamboo flooring.
Bamboo Flooring Pros:
- Top-quality bamboo flooring is as durable as traditional hardwood flooring. However, not all bamboo flooring is created equal. Look for flooring with a substantial warranty.
- Bamboo flooring that is of high quality will wear as well and last about as long as traditional hardwood floors. (Of course, as is the case in every industry, the “high quality” characteristic is key.)
- In particular, un-carbonized bamboo can as strong, hard, and durable as red oak, and certain strand-woven bamboo can be even harder.
- Bamboo wood flooring can last for more than 25 years with regular care.
- Even better, bamboo is a very resilient material; because it is a tropical grass, not a wood, it resists moisture and denting, which translates to floors with fewer stains and less gapping, cupping, and warping.
- For those who prefer modern décor, bamboo flooring has a clean, contemporary look.
- For those drawn to a clean and modern aesthetic, bamboo flooring lends itself to that style perfectly. The trendy flooring option is elegant and, although similar to hardwood, unique. The differences are subtle yet undeniable.
- Properly finished bamboo flooring cleans easily with a mop and mild soap.
- Like other hardwood flooring, bamboo may be refinished, depending on the thickness of the planks.
- Laminated bamboo flooring, with a top layer glued to multiple sub-layers, is DIY-friendly.
- One benefit of bamboo flooring is that it is available in a variety of styles and colors. (Note: It’s important to research what those various colors represent because the darker colors typically result from a heat treatment that has softened the bamboo.)
- As a fast-growing grass (full maturity and hardness are reached in five to seven years), bamboo is seen by many people as much more sustainable than traditional hardwood.
- Because the use of natural materials is currently hot in home construction, bamboo flooring is a solid choice for many ecologically conscious people. What’s more, the subtle differences between bamboo and hardwood provide homes with bamboo flooring a sense of individual personality.
Bamboo Is Easy to Install
- While the price of the flooring is comparable to other hardwood floors, you’ll save on installation costs because bamboo wood flooring requires no finish work or specialized installation.
- Most are finished and ready to install when you buy them, so installation requires no finishing, sanding, staining, drying time, or other considerations that hardwood floors often require.
Bamboo Is Easy to Maintain
- Bamboo flooring is fairly low maintenance because it can be easily cleaned with mild soap and a mop. (No special treatments necessary.) This is a huge pro to many homeowners on a time-crunch.
- Regular sweeping and mopping will keep it clean; however, you may wish to polish it with a wood floor polish every once in a while. Bamboo also does not promote dust or harbor dust mites. These qualities make it a perfect option for allergy sufferers.
Bamboo Floors Are Able to Be Refinished
- Because bamboo floors can get dents, scratches or lose its color over time, it’s comforting to know that they can be refinished as needed. Typically, bamboo flooring installation involves many layers of finishing coats to protect the bamboo itself. But, if necessary, sanding down the surface and then reapplying finishing coats will achieve the look of new bamboo flooring.
Bamboo Is Water Resistant
- In further comparison to traditional hardwood flooring, bamboo comes out slightly ahead as being more resistant to water damage, stains, and warping. This doesn’t mean bamboo is exempt from damage, however.
- Despite its exotic, unique flair, bamboo flooring can be less expensive than or completely comparable to hardwood flooring. It can be cheaper than more traditional hardwood flooring. Bamboo floors will commonly range from $5-$8 per square foot.
A Very Versatile Option
- If you want the warm look of cherry or hickory wood but love the advantages of bamboo, you’re in luck. Bamboo can be carbonized, which changes its color without staining or applying chemicals.
- Carbonization uses pressure heating to heat the sugar in the wood, resulting in darker shades. You can also find bamboo flooring in light and natural colors to fit your style and taste.
- Because bamboo resists moisture, it is one of the few hardwood flooring options that you can feel good about using in kitchens and bathrooms; although, some manufacturers will not provide a warranty for the material if you install it in those rooms.
- There are many bamboo flooring pros and cons, but we personally think the pros outweigh the cons. Let’s move on to the negative parts of bamboo flooring.
Bamboo Flooring Cons
Prone to Scratches
- Inexpensive bamboo flooring is susceptible to scratches and dings.
- Lower quality bamboo dents or scratches fairly easily, although any type of bamboo flooring is impossible to keep completely smooth if used regularly.
- Furniture, pets, and even pointy heeled shoes can damage the surface of bamboo floors over time, as can sand or the tiny particles of everyday life.
Potential for Water Damage
- Bamboo is somewhat more resistant to water damage than typical hardwood floors, but because bamboo is a natural, organic material, too much moisture will cause warping, discoloration, or even mold growth.
Sensitivity to Humidity
- Not only does bamboo grass readily absorb water, but it is also susceptible to damage from excessive humidity.
- Depending on the size of bamboo planks used, splitting can occur in very dry or very wet environments. If the bamboo flooring is installed in a humid area, the planks will plump up (expand). The opposite is true (shrinking planks) in dry regions. Either way, the bamboo will likely crack.
Potential for Softness
- If bamboo isn’t allowed to mature and harden before being harvest time (in some cases, as early as 3 months!), the flooring will look great at first but will be soft and non-durable.
- Typically, un-carbonized and strand-woven bamboo flooring is harder and more durable while darker bamboo represents a weak structure and general softness.
Less Stylistically Versatile
- Bamboo flooring is limited to a few tonal shades.
- The contemporary look of bamboo doesn’t fit with all décor.
- Although the unique and contemporary look and feel of bamboo are some of its primary appeals to a modern space’s flooring, it is this same contemporary vibe that can be a drawback when viewed in a charming home’s vintage aesthetic.
Possible Toxins Emission
- Certain bamboo flooring from China potentially contains high levels of toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde-based glues and finishes. As the bamboo must be sliced or shredded initially, it must then be adhered back together to form the planks that make up flooring.
- Sometimes, the adhesive used can release VOCs into the air over time, which makes the bamboo unhealthy for you and the environment. Certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is something to look for to avoid this.
Questionable Harvesting Practices
- While bamboo is touted as being a highly eco-friendly option, sometimes the forestry practices can be irresponsible and environmentally unfriendly (e.g., clear-cutting natural forests for bamboo, or using fertilizers and pesticides unnecessarily).
- So, although bamboo is in some ways “green,” it’s also environmentally ambiguous.
Bamboo Flooring Verdict
Bamboo Flooring is one of the unique options for flooring. While there are plenty of pros and cons, it definitely adds a touch that no other would provide, especially in the same price range. We are fans of it and we would recommend giving it a try if you think it would fit your style and purpose.