The Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring

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Bamboo is a fast-growing grass which is typically ready to harvest every 5 or 6 years, when it reaches optimal hardness, as opposed to hardwoods which take 60+ years to mature.  It regenerates itself and new shoots will start to grow once the harvested bamboo is removed.  Different manufacturers utilize varying methods to process the bamboo into flooring products.  It is important to inquire about how environmentally-sound these practices are when making your purchase.

PROS:

  • Rapidly renewable, natural resource.
  • Typically grown without the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
  • Can be harder than most hardwoods, depending on the species and its age when harvested.
  • Beautiful, durable and long-lasting.
  • Available in several styles (floating, nail-down or glue-down), grain patterns (vertical, or horizontal — where the nodes are more visible) and colors (natural, stained, or carbonized/caramelized — where the bamboo is steamed and the sugars within caramelize to deepen its color.  No added stain is needed).

CONS:

  • It is harvested in Asia and therefore, like most products, needs to be shipped to the U.S., although shipping via cargo ship has less of an environmental impact than other transportation methods.
  • Inferior bamboo floors can warp, cup, de-laminate, dent, etc., if immature bamboo is used, or if cheap/bad glues, poor milling, inferior finishes, or poor presses are used. It is also important for the bamboo to be grown in the right soil, climate and altitude.

What to look for:

  • Moso bamboo that is grown in ideal conditions and has not been harvested earlier than 5 years.
  • Kiln-dried bamboo to ensure low moisture content.
  • No added formaldehyde (NAF, or NAUF-no added urea formaldehyde) in adhesives used to make or install the flooring, or flooring that emits a very low level of VOCs.
  • Non-toxic, water-based and solvent-free finishes.

Where to Buy it (the following manufacturers are based in the U.S.):

  • Teragren pays its bamboo farmers a fair wage and utilizes environmentally-preferable shipping methods (both internationally and domestically).  After its bamboo stalks are split during harvesting, they are boiled in a solution of water, hydrogen peroxide and natural borate to eliminate pests and mildew.  Teragren’s bamboo flooring is the only one that qualifies for FloorScore certification from Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) for creating a product that does not compromise indoor air quality.  A lifetime structural warranty also comes with it.  (Signature Naturals vertical grain Caramelized flooring pictured above)
  • Plyboo by Smith and Fong offers urea formaldehyde-free bamboo flooring which is also the only FSC-certified bamboo flooring on the market.  Pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation are not used in its bamboo forests to further lessen environmental impacts.
  • Bamboo Hardwoods offers bamboo flooring with many environmental attributes as well.
  • Nadurra Wood Corp. (Ontario) is a supplier of FSC-certified, formaldehyde-free bamboo flooring, plywood and kitchen cabinetry.


Tag(s): Green Furnishings

Comments

21 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring”

  1. Supplier on September 12th, 2009 6:24 pm

    It is a shame to hear that bamboo flooring is not as eco as I thought.

  2. Thomas on December 19th, 2009 8:31 pm

    Hybrid cars still have lots and lots of plastic. I guess when you weigh all options we in our advanced society cannot cease to live at a level we have become accustom to. Bamboo flooring seems to be one of the most eco considering old growth forests are not being cut down to manufacture them.

  3. Diane on February 26th, 2010 8:00 pm

    Is bamboo flooring suitable for basements? Love the look of bamboo and I am looking at installing it in the basement…hoping that this is a good choice!!??

  4. Joyce Benson on March 5th, 2010 9:47 am

    Yes, bamboo works well in basements. A floating, engineered bamboo floor may be best. It’s a good idea to have a moisture content test prior to laying the flooring. Another important precaution is to place a moisture barrier over the concrete. Usually the recommendation is 6 mil polyurethane sheeting, but please check with the flooring manufacturer.

  5. pam carver on March 11th, 2010 8:15 pm

    how does bamboo hold up to dogs?

  6. Susan on July 21st, 2010 12:33 pm

    Can bamboo be used for kitchen floors. If so, is there a grade level or strength that is needed. Is there a place in the Vancouver B.C. area that carries the quality bamboo that you suggest.

  7. Michael on September 3rd, 2010 9:49 am

    A supplier you missed that offers the most eco-responsible bamboo floors in Canada is NADURRA Wood Corp. http://www.nadurrawood.com They offer FSC-certified & formaldehyde-free bamboo flooring taht is tested in independant Canadian labs for formaldehyde content.

  8. Pamela Finn on October 12th, 2010 12:22 pm

    I am considering laying Bamboo flooring in my cottage. Is bamboo 5/8 thick suitable in an area without a cement foundation, and not heated continuously during the winter months?

  9. Michael on October 16th, 2010 11:23 am

    Bamboo like any wood will expand and contract with relative humidity changes. It will most likely gap in the winter months. Inferior bamboo may crack in the low temperatures. I might stick to hardwood native to the cottage’s region.
    Michael @ NADURRA Wood Corp.::The Eco Wood Source

  10. Sandra Sigfusson on November 7th, 2010 8:21 pm

    I have had bamboo floors in my foyer and hall for the last 10 years. Beautiful looking product, but it dented and scrached far easier than I could have imagined. It does not hold up well in high traffic areas, and is a definite no for those who have large dogs. Also, dirt that accumulates between the boards (T&G) over the years has made the boards appear to be bordered in black, and is impossible to clean out. I would recommend this product for bedroom spaces only, and in hindsight I would have chosen the darker stained product.

  11. Joyce Benson on November 20th, 2010 10:25 pm

    Sandra,
    Did you purchase kiln-dried “Moso” bamboo?

  12. bambooflooring on December 7th, 2010 3:49 am

    There are a wide array of choices to consider for bamboo flooring. There’s solid bamboo flooring with horizontal and vertical grain, strand woven bamboo parquet, engineered bamboo with a plywood base, colored bamboo flooring and wooden grainy bamboo flooring. http://www.bamboo-floorings.com here you can find most types of bamboo flooring, including FSC-certified bamboo flooring.

  13. Sustainable Materials: Cork vs. Bamboo | Ethical Ocean Blog on July 11th, 2011 10:36 am

    […] Bamboo is strikingly similar in physicality to traditional wood flooring, hence the consumer appeal. It is heavy, dense and quite strong. Sensitive to temperature though, a dehumidifier/humidifier is a good call to save your bamboo floors from warping. Where cork tends to remain balanced through shifts in temperature, and the flooring is lighter and softer but doesn’t attract damage more than the other. […]

  14. Steve on July 20th, 2011 1:55 pm

    If anyone is considering installing Bamboo flooring please do NOT install:

    GOODFELLOW STRAND BAMBOO
    sold by Home Depot and Rona it literally is about as durable as a Bamboo skewer.
    The installer laid the floor and my 20 LB dog sat down and got up and she splintered and cracked the surface through the stain and the terrible finish (her nails are short)
    When the Goodfellow rep came out to my home to inspect the flooring he was smug and rude telling me it is performing as it should. When I asked him about 2 other Goodfellow products he said they were GARBAGE.
    Seriously – this is a terrible product and the company has the worst customer service in Calgary – AVOID!

  15. Jay on October 7th, 2011 12:16 am

    We are in the process of building a home in the Kootneys and have a slab concrete foundation with in floor heating. The recommendation made was to use an engineered wood in the living and dining and tile in the kitchen, etc. areas but I really like the solid, strand bamboo flooring by Strategis which is sold at Home Depot. Do you know if it can be used on the heated floor?

  16. Ed Rempel on December 6th, 2011 11:49 pm

    Jay, I have installed engineered bamboo, 4 5/8″ glued over in-floor heated concrete. Gas fired boiler with glycol lines every 6″. Homeowner has had no ill effects in 2 yrs. Just a note, remember to float floor prior to install to within 1/8″. Also, have the contractor make use of clamps and low stick tape. Concrete and bamboo must be moisture tested within the recommended content, (important) especially on newer concrete. Climatize bamboo in packages a minimum of 48 hrs. Do your research with suppliers and brand name products. Jay, not sure about Strategis, have never used this brand.
    good luck. Ed

  17. Samantha on January 19th, 2012 4:39 pm

    I want to put the bamboo flooring in a bedroom above the garage. Which kind and which thickness should I use? Thanks!

  18. Clarisse on September 6th, 2012 9:27 pm

    I have Strategis Solid Bamboo Flooring (in Antique Wheat Bamboo) in the upstairs of our garden home. I love it. Cleans up beautifully with just warm water to a low lustre.
    Problem: Contractors in laying the product smudged glue on a few boards in master bedroom. Cannot remove these smudges. Any suggestions? Have tried varsol without any luck. Would appreciate any suggestion. What about Contact cement remover? Afraid to venture without consults. Home Depot do not seem to know anything about the care of this wood. Thanks

  19. Holly on September 16th, 2012 12:50 pm

    We are considering purchasing a re-possessed home that has been sitting for 1 and 1/2 years with no heat or airconditioning over the hot summers and cold winters here in southern Alberta. The floors still need completing and the builder left a subtantial amount of “ECO” brand bamboo flooring in the house. I am wondering if this is a good brand and if the severe cold -37 C or heat up to +37C would affect the quality of the bamboo and if it can be used or not??

  20. Joyce Benson on September 20th, 2012 8:39 am

    I think you should check with the manufacturer to be sure.

  21. Joy on November 12th, 2012 12:01 am

    I am moving into a condo that faces west and will get some sunlight. Although I love the look of bamboo, I have been reading that it changes colour when exposed to sunlight. How can I judge the quality of the bamboo on this basis? Would I be better to avoid it altogether?

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