There was once a time when the only natural materials you could use for flooring in your home were wood and stone. Now don’t get me wrong here – I love natural hardwood floors, and there is nothing better in my opinion than a beautifully tiled granite floor. But there is a new kid on the block which is taking the world by storm with many positive reviews, bamboo flooring.
In this article we conduct a thorough bamboo flooring review – taking you through the pros and cons of this new and exciting type of flooring.
Pros – The Benefits Of Bamboo Flooring
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Is Very Durable
Bamboo is a super durable flooring material – it rates incredibly high on the janka hardness scale which is used to score the hardness and durability of materials. Without going into the boring technical details I will just compare it to traditional hardwood flooring below.
The durability of your bamboo flooring will depend on the age of the bamboo when it was cultivated. The longer the bamboo has been allowed to grow – the stronger it will be.
There are two types of bamboo flooring – the first is natural or engineered bamboo flooring. This is basically bamboo that has been cut down, dried out, and machined into planks or tiles ready for use as flooring. Engineered bamboo flooring rates higher on the janka hardness scale than most hardwoods – and as such, it can withstand the effects of daily usage in the home with ease.
The second type is strand woven bamboo flooring. This type of bamboo is super strong. It is basically bamboo that has been moistened and torn apart into long fibrous strands. These strands are then treated and glued back together with an industrial strength adhesive. The result is a dramatic increase in strength to the (already super durable!) material. To put it in perspective – there is only one type of wood that rates higher on the janka scale than bamboo when It has been strand woven. It is quite literally nearly bullet proof.
Bamboo flooring is resistant to moisture and mould. As it is grown in the humid jungles of Asia – it has developed a natural resistance to the environment there. However when the plant (which is technically a grass) is cut down and treated it does loose a little bit of this resistance. What this basically amounts to is that it will be able to withstand any amount of moisture that a hardwood floor can. Like a hardwood floor just simply keep it dry and it will last you for years and years.
In fact bamboo flooring is so durable that many manufacturers will offer a lifetime warranty on their products. Which you will struggle to find with hardwood floors. Not all will give a lifetime warranty however – and some warranties will last between 25 and 40 years. Which is still a huge amount of time when compared to hardwood.
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Is Good For The Environment
One of the main things that attracts people to bamboo flooring is the fact that it is very environmentally friendly. Bamboo takes only around 6 years to grow fully, and can actually be harvested in 4 years if the grower wishes. Compare this to the average growing time of a hardwood tree like oak for example – which takes 30+ years to reach maturity. This basically means bamboo is much more sustainable and can be harvested without much of a long term impact on the environment.
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Is Quite Cheap
The cost of bamboo flooring is another reason that so many people are attracted to it. You will find that it is cheaper than many hardwoods in is traditional form, and its price is comparable to hardwoods in its strand woven form.
You can expect to pay in the region of $3-$6 per square foot of engineered bamboo flooring. And strand woven bamboo flooring can cost you anywhere between $4-$8 per square foot.
These prices are without installation – which should be taken into account. However getting a bamboo floor installed will not cost you any more than getting a hardwood floor installed by any reputable builder. Bamboo flooring is installed nearly always as a floating floor. This means it is not actually attached to the floor or walls in any way. A soft layer of insulating foam is placed underneath to help keep in warmth and to stop the floor from slipping. The bamboo is then layered on top of this insulating layer and is measured perfectly wall to wall to ensure a snug fit.
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Is Easy To Maintain
The maintenance of bamboo flooring is very easy, and is not any different to the maintenance required with hardwood flooring. Just keep it clean and dry and it should offer you years of usage without hassle.
Just like with hardwood flooring, it requires occasionally re staining. The frequency of which you will need to do this varies, and is dependent upon the species you have and the quality of the UV protective stains and coatings that have been applied.
Generally the more layers of protective coating the better. 3 layers is the minimum that you should accept – 6 or 8 layers is what you should aim for. Be sure to ask your supplier how many layers of stain have been applied and ask them how often it will need to be reapplied. In either case – you will not have to re stain your bamboo floor any more than you would a hardwood one.
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Comes In Many Colors
The wide range of styles and colors available are a great selling point for this material. You can leave it in a natural state and enjoy its natural beauty or you can go through every shade down to black. This is particularly good if you want the deep dark effect of carbonized flooring without the weaknesses that are associated with it.
Strand woven bamboo flooring looks very uniform and creates a contemporary and modem feel to any room. But due to the strand weaving process it does mean there are no more natural markings. There will be little to no variation in the floor tiles or planks – and this can be used to quite a stunning effect. You can compare it to chipboard in a way (although this is far more beautiful, it is the same kind of reforming process).
On the other hand you can opt for engineered bamboo which creates a very natural look to any room. This will look less modern than stand woven flooring yet will still be very fresh. However as engineered bamboo flooring is a much more natural product than strand woven bamboo – you will have variations in color and grain making the overall effect much less uniform. This is not always a bad thing and many people enjoy this effect.
Pro – Bamboo Flooring Is Pet Friendly
Because of its high levels of durability it can be easily used in any home with pets. A concern for many dog and cat owners who are looking at getting new flooring is how much their pet’s claws will damage it. This is not an issue with bamboo flooring due to its super high density. And while you may have the occasional scratch or scuff over the lifetime of your flooring – it will certainly not be a regular occurrence.
Cons – The Disadvantages Of Bamboo Flooring
Con – Carbonized Bamboo Flooring Is Weak
Carbonized bamboo is a type of bamboo that has been heat treated to make it darker in color. This is undoubtedly a very attractive look that many people aspire to have in their homes. However the actual process of carbonizing the bamboo severely weakens it. It is much less durable than engineered bamboo and is actually quite low on the janka scale. To put this in perspective some softwoods have a higher hardness rating. Which means carbonized bamboo flooring should only be used in areas that will not get a high amount of footfall or usage, and certainly not with pets.
Con – Bamboo Flooring Can Be Bad For The Environment
While bamboo flooring is environmentally friendly in the sense that it is able to grow fast – it does actually have some rather hidden and less attractive consequences for the environment. One of the main issues is deforestation. The increase in demand for bamboo has made growing it an attractive prospect for land owners in Asia. Which has resulted in some deforestation to allow planting of bamboo. While this deforestation is nowhere near on the scale of say the deforestation in the amazon for hardwoods – it is certainly something that should be considered if you are looking to be as green as possible.
Nearly all of it is grown in Asia where it is naturally found. The prefect growing conditions mean that a huge amount of flooring can be produced each year. However the issue with this is that it needs to be transported to the USA and Europe on big cargo ships – which very environmentally unfriendly. In today’s global economy it is hard to find something that has not been on a cargo ship – but it is also something that should be considered.
The chemicals that are used to make strand woven bamboo flooring are also something that not many people are aware about. Some less reputable Chinese bamboo manufactures can actually use formaldehyde in the flooring to strengthen it and make it long lasting. While this certainly has the desired effect formaldehyde is an extremely toxic chemical that presents a health danger to those working with it. There is not any risk for the consumer as it is benign when the treatment process has been completed – but it is very bad for the environment.
Con – The Quality Of Bamboo Flooring Varies Massively
A big issue with bamboo flooring is that there is no standardized grading system for the material. Bamboo is marketed and graded in different grades ranging from A grade to D grade. However this literally means nothing.
Manufacturers and suppliers can (and do) rate their own bamboo with whatever grade they like. So a grade A plank of bamboo flooring from one manufacturer could be the same quality as a grade C plank from another manufacturer. For this reason you should only ever look at the grades of bamboo to compare them with other types of flooring from the same manufacturer.
This also means that you can unexpectedly buy poor quality bamboo flooring. As previously mentioned this stuff grows fast and shoots up at an incredible rate. However when it is young it is soft – and many unethical businessmen in china will simply cut down the bamboo too early to get a quicker rotation of crops on their land.
If you do get low quality material, you are going to be in for a world of trouble. It can go mouldy and crack easy, if it is strand woven the strands can come apart and your floor can be totally destroyed.
To navigate this minefield when shopping around it is important to read online reviews and testimonials to ensure your supplier is reputable. If possible get a recommendation from someone you know in person.
Con – Bamboo Flooring Could Go Out Of Fashion
At present bamboo flooring is very fashionable and is rising in popularity year upon year. While we don’t think it is very likely – it is possible that this is just another fad. And due to the fact this flooring is going to last you 30+ years – it is an investment that may outlive its desirability.
This is an advantage that hardwood flooring has over bamboo. It is a simple fact that hardwood flooring is timeless, and in fact it almost improves with age. This may very well not be the case with bamboo.
Con – Bamboo Flooring Can Look Too Modern
Bamboo flooring can look great in any modern home – however its uses can be quite limited in homes that have more of a traditional or vintage style to them. We have not seen many cases where it has been used with a traditional style of décor to a good effect.
While I am sure it is technically possible to pull it off – a hardwood floor would cost you around the same price and would be a much safer option to ensure you maintain the traditional feel to your home.
So there you have it, our review of bamboo flooring. We have weighed up the pros and cons and will leave the ultimate decision for you to decide.
Our personal opinion is that when used with the right style of décor this type of flooring can be an amazing alternative to hardwood. It has all the required properties to be a viable material for a long lasting floor and is certainly the right price.
What do you think about bamboo flooring? We would love to hear some of our reader’s reviews. Please leave a comment in the section below!