Bamboo: A Better Alternative to Hardwood or Laminate
Bamboo is one of the most recent and exciting items to enter the flooring industry. Though initially passed off by some flooring professionals as a trendy product, bamboo has emerged as an actual flooring option that is attractive, durable flexible, affordable, and extremely green. Due to these qualities, the popularity of bamboo has grown tremendously over the last few years. After understanding the process of making bamboo as well as the variety of styles available, durability, and the impact on the environment it is possible to decide for yourself if bamboo will be your latest flooring choice.
What exactly is bamboo?
Bamboo is grass that is found in almost all parts of the earth. Bamboo flooring is most commonly grown in China, Vietnam, Indonesia. Bamboo can grow to three feet each day in these regions and is harvested every five or six years. This harvesting does not kill the bamboo and in fact the bamboo will continue to grow new stalks without the need to
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The result is a wood that has a Janka hardness rating of up to 25% greater than red oak and equivalent to North American maple. Bamboo is a grass, and therefore is more resistant to moisture than hardwoods. This means that it is less prone to expansion than other hardwoods. Ultimately bamboo flooring is strong, durable, and can be sanded and restored like other hardwood floors, yet it is unrivaled in its positive environmental impact.
After the stalks are cut into pieces, they can be cut to the lengths required. Then, push them against knives to make splits. These splits are then flattened before being put through a four sided mill. In order to get the carbonized hue, some of these splits can be steamed. Bamboo is made up of natural sugars inside it that when steamed will transform the bamboo into an intense brown color. To get rid of the most moisture, the bamboo is then kiln dried. After drying the splits are then glued to one another and then hot pressed into planks. The planks then go into a planer that also cuts the grooves and tongue. From here they are polished, sanded, and then boxed.
Horizontal, Vertical and Strand Woven
Bamboo flooring is available in vertical grain, horizontal grain and strand woven. Each style has its own unique look and performance. Horizontal grain is created by placing the splits horizontally, stacked three-high, then joining them. The final product has an appearance like bamboo stalks, where one can see the knuckles of the bamboo. Vertical grain is created by placing the splits vertically and the glueing process is then applied to them. This gives a distinctive look of long, narrow strips, with the knuckles largely hidden. Bamboo woven in strands is created by mixing various scraps of bamboo, gluing them together and compressing it. It is possible to see knuckles as the result. The horizontal grain usually around 2-5% more supple than the vertical grain. This is a tiny variation that should not be taken into account when selecting a flooring style. The strands that are woven be an Janka rating of up to 4000 due to the compression process that occurs in the process of manufacturing. Bamboo strand-woven is the hardest wood.
Natural Stained, Carbonized, Stained and Handscraped
Bamboo flooring was limited in its style and color when it first entered the flooring market. This has changed dramatically recently. Bamboo was sold traditionally in natural or carbonized form. Bamboo is extremely thin and it has a blonde-colored look to it. Carbonized bamboo is much darker and has a rich brown color to it. Carbonization makes bamboo five percent more supple than the natural one. One of the best benefits of carbonized bamboo is that usually there is a little difference in the color between boards as well as within the board itself. This gives the distinctive nature of bamboo flooring. Some companies have begun to offer bamboo stained with a range of different colors. This has really opened up the door for customers who appreciate the green benefits of bamboo but desire more options in color. One of the most popular trends of the moment is hand-scraped flooring. Although it is mostly used on hardwood floors, a handful of manufacturers now have started doing this using bamboo. This can give a distressed appearance and can be found in a variety of shades as well.
Solid, Engineered Longstrips and Installation Methods
One of the best characteristics of bamboo is its flexibility in its installation techniques. Bamboo can essentially be installed in nearly all locations and is manufactured in many varieties. The majority of bamboo that is sold currently is a solid bamboo board. It’s typically three to six feet wide and about 5/8th of an inch in thickness. Solid bamboo can be glued onto concrete slabs, but not solid 3/4-inch hardwood. This is because bamboo is a grass and much more resistant to humidity than hardwoods. Bamboo flooring can be glued or nailed to a plywood subfloor. It is not recommended to do a floating installation with bamboo flooring that is less than four inches wide. Certain manufacturers also produce a solid longstrip product that is typically about six feet long and 6 1/2 inches wide. It is able to be fixed, nailed or floated. Bamboo engineered with a longstrip is a different popular option. The majority of engineered bamboo is glued together in the same way as a laminate floor and is made to be floated. It is also possible to glue to concrete if needed. The boards are approximately 7 1/2 inches in size, 6 feet long and 1/8 inch thick. The engineered bamboo floorings typically have a square edge which gives the appearance of a sand finish off the flooring. Solid bamboo floors are all fitted with an edge that is micro-beveled.
All of these options in styles and colors have increased the appeal of bamboo. Bamboo flooring can be found in some of the trendiest hotels and restaurants, as well as comfortable, casual home spaces. Bamboo flooring is not ideal for all. Bamboo is not as hard like a stone, as some flooring sales representatives believe. However, it is more durable over other hardwoods. Bamboo has a very low amount of grain, so scratching and dents are more apparent. Most of us realize, all wood flooring made from natural materials are susceptible to scratching and dents. Expectations of a floor’s performance should be set accordingly; floors are an integral part of our lives, and reflect the use and maintenance. Bamboo is a great choice for flooring when you take into account its strength, durability, ease of installation, and affordability as well as the variety of color.