Bamboo flooring is taking the home building and renovation sector by storm. Almost everyone seems to be talking about it – and installing it. There are many reasons for this sudden popularity, as we will see in this guide. I created this review for all the people who are looking to install bamboo and want to know everything about it, starting with selecting the right design and brand and ending with cleaning and maintenance. We will talk about the benefits of this type of flooring as well as its downsides. About the best ways to install it, popular brands to consider, and so on. In a nutshell, a detailed overview of bamboo flooring.
Let’s start off with the advantages.
The Pros of Bamboo
Bamboo flooring is made from a plant that can be replenished easily. Bamboo grows faster than any other plant on earth which provides for a sustainable flooring option. It takes less than ten years for a bamboo plant to reach harvesting stage. Compare this with hardwood which takes not less than 30 years to mature, and you will begin to see why bamboo is a “greener” floor. The roots of cut or existing bamboo plants can even sprout new shoots. It takes around three years for the regrown shoots to mature and be ready for harvesting.
When buying your bamboo, it’s essential to ensure that it was harvested responsibly. Ask for certifications from the relevant bodies as proof. Wrong timing for the harvesting can result in poor quality. Wet season harvesting causes cracks on the bamboo, while harvesting during the dry season increases the possibility of mold. The best timing is just at the start of a dry season.
Sanding will restore your damaged bamboo floor to give it a new look. However, take care when doing it as too much sanding can be detrimental. It would risk removing the top layer of the floor. For safe sanding, it’s advisable to hire a professional who will know how to do it correctly. For slight damages such as scratches that are not too deep, use wax filler. It helps by concealing the imperfections to make the floor look better. It’s only a temporary solution, though. Unlike sanding which results in a new surface that stays so for long, the use of wax to fix damage will need to be repeated within a span of a few months.
Easy to Care For
Bamboo flooring is one of the easiest to maintain. Sweeping or vacuuming the floor daily ensures it’s free from dust and other loose dirt. A weekly cleanup using warm water and a wood floor cleaner will keep it in excellent condition. To protect the floor during your cleaning activities, only use soft-bristled brooms. The vacuum you use on it should be one designed for hardwood. Alternatively, you can set the vacuum to “bare floor” vacuuming. Also, avoid using too much water when cleaning bamboo flooring by only damp-mopping it. Remove liquid spills immediately by blotting them up with a sponge before wiping the spot with a piece of dry cloth.
Termites are known to eat almost anything, but they won’t eat your bamboo flooring. The reason is the borates used to treat the floor. The chemicals are capable of killing the protozoa that termites use to digest cellulose. Should the termites happen to eat your floor, they would die immediately since their digestion wouldn’t function anymore. But then, the creatures have a way of detecting the presence of borates in wood, and will not dare touch your floor.
Some homeowners will talk of the unique bamboo striations as what they like most in the floor. Others will say the golden look is irresistibly attractive. Apart from that, there are various tones and colors. Some find the carbonized bamboo visually attractive, while others prefer the light-toned bamboo. Both add beauty to your home in a distinct way that no other floor would. The various patterns also make this floor to blend nicely with your home to create a classy ambience.
Bamboo doesn’t provide an environment that promotes the presence of allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or even mold. If you’re looking for a green floor that will not cause you allergies, bamboo would make an excellent choice. Be careful with the type of bamboo flooring you buy, though. While the floor is known to repel most types of allergens, some brands may have chemicals that could be allergens themselves. Some manufacturers use formaldehyde and VOCs in their manufacturing processes. These chemicals can cause allergies of the respiratory system. Always check the packaging to see that the flooring you buy does not contain these chemicals, or that the levels of VOCs are too low to cause any harm.
Planks of bamboo flooring can cost as low as $3 for a square foot. But that’s if quality is not a major concern. Mid-priced planks are better, at $4 to $6 each square foot. The price is still less than that of rare hardwood species, which makes bamboo a low-cost alternative to hardwood flooring. If you’re working with a strained budget, you may want to consider engineered bamboo. It costs around $2 to $4 for a square foot. It will give you a floor that’s less expensive but with the same characteristics as those of solid bamboo.
It Can Be Durable
Some types of bamboo floors can be quite strong and durable. Of notable mention is strand-woven bamboo whose strength can be more than two times that of Oak, and three times other bamboo floors. The strength comes from the adhesives used in the process of joining the strands. A bamboo floor of lighter tone is also more durable compared to the caramel type. This is because the carbonization process used to produce the darkened flooring makes it weak. The bamboo will appear visually attractive, but at the expense of durability.
Allows the Installation of Radiant Floor Heating Systems
You can use radiant heating to warm your home when you have a bamboo floor. It means more warmth for the winter season apart from the elegance the floor brings to your home. However, note that not all brands are compatible with this type of heating. It would be advisable that you confirm with the manufacturer first. Also, ensure that you acclimate your bamboo flooring before you install it. Store it indoors for at least a week to allow for this.
The Cons of Bamboo
This type of floor is not without its disadvantages. They include the following.
Cannot Withstand Humidity
Humid conditions cause bamboo planks to swell. The excess moisture easily gets into the flooring and can ruin it over time. To work around the moisture menace, ensure humidity levels don’t go beyond 50 %. Monitor the levels on a daily basis to keep control of the moisture that’s reaching the bamboo. However, ensure the humidity doesn’t go below 3%. Conditions that are too dry can make the bamboo planks to crack.
Can Get Scratched
Despite being hard and strong, bamboo does get scratched. Pet claws, heavy furniture or abrasive particles may leave unsightly damage on the floor. Because fixing a scratched floor can be tedious or even costly, it’s advisable that you use preventive measures. Opt for the strand-woven type of flooring; It’s stronger and can withstand damage better. It’s also thicker which makes refinishing safer. Look for manufactures giving a warranty that covers at least 25 years. Such a lengthy warranty shows they’re confident of the durability of their flooring products.
Some Floors Produce Toxins
Some low-cost varieties of bamboo flooring can be a health risk. They may contain toxic chemicals such as VOCs and formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause allergic conditions or cause existing ones to become worse. Expensive brands do not contain these allergy chemicals. However, you must confirm first before buying so you don’t end up with flooring that will be a danger to health. Buy products that have been tested by third-party organizations or agencies and passed as safe.
Prone to Damage By Water
Bamboo may grow well in places with plenty of water, but your bamboo floor needs to be kept away from wetness. Wet conditions can cause the floor to stain, deform or have mold growing on it. Over time, the damage may become so noticeable that it requires you to replace the floor. Because of this, bamboo flooring is not suitable for moisture-prone areas such as the bathroom, basement, or kitchen. Avoid using too much water when cleaning the floor as this will gradually cause damage and ruin the bamboo in the long run. Spills can also pose a danger and need to be wiped off before they can soak into the floor.
Lacks the Rustic Look
Unlike hardwood that appears so natural, bamboo has that artificial look. It lacks the knots and the elegant grainings found on hardwood. As a result, it doesn’t have the rustic look characteristic of hardwood. This makes it look less attractive compared to hardwood flooring.
Comparing Bamboo Alternatives
How does bamboo compare with other flooring options? Let’s see.
Bamboo vs Carpeting
Compared to carpet, bamboo is way cleaner. Spills on bamboo flooring can be wiped clean in seconds, and allergens won’t find any place to hide on this type of flooring. Dust, too, can be removed easily and completely from bamboo flooring. On the other hand, spills on carpet can cause stains that are a stress to remove. You may even need professional services to ensure total removal which adds to the expenses of maintaining the floor. Carpet is also home to dust and allergens, causing health complications for people prone to allergic reactions.
Bamboo is more durable
A quality bamboo floor will last for more than 20 years, while carpet needs to be replaced every few years. It’s unlikely that a carpet flooring will go for more than ten years. If there’s a lot of human traffic, we could be talking of five years or less.
Carpet is softer
The comfort offered by carpet is unmatched. It doesn’t pressure your feet, plus it retains warmth to remain comfortable even during cold weathers.
Bamboo vs Hardwood
The strength of bamboo surpasses that of most Brazilian hardwoods. Some bamboo can even be more than two times the hardness of Oak, reaching up to 5000 on the hardness scale. That said, not all bamboo is strong. The darkened type is way softer, sometimes 30% lower than hardwood. The carbonization process is responsible for the weakened structure.
Bamboo is more sustainable
Growing at a rate that’s fifteen times faster than that of hardwood species, bamboo offers more sustainability. It can also be re-harvested, unlike most hardwood trees. What’s more re-harvested bamboo takes a surprisingly shorter time to mature-about three years.
Bamboo lacks style
Some people find bamboo to lack the natural look compared to hardwood. There are also not many varieties to choose from in bamboo. With hardwood, the choice is overwhelming. There are different wood species available, each with distinct color or tone, grain pattern, and hardness. You also get different grades to select when using hardwood which gives you more options for quality.
Hardwood is pricier
Hardwood costs you from a low of $3 to as high as $15 a square foot. Bamboo, on the other hand, ranges from $3 to $10 for each square foot.
Bamboo vs Cork
Both bamboo and cork are green but cork is a more eco-friendly alternative. The manufacture of cork floors doesn’t involve as many chemicals as those used for bamboo. The harvesting of cork doesn’t involve cutting the plant completely, unlike in the harvesting of bamboo where a whole grove might get destroyed. This makes cork to rank higher for environmental friendliness.
Cork insulated better
Cork holds heat and muffles sound in a better way than bamboo. It’s springy, too, and doesn’t pressure the feet. However, cork flooring is more prone to surface gouges.
Bamboo withstands moisture better
While water damages both floors, bamboo can withstand dampness better than cork. If your home is susceptible to high levels of humidity and you want to choose between cork and bamboo, you may want to consider bamboo and the best option.
Maintenance and price are similar
Both floors are easy to take care of. Regular sweeping and vacuuming will keep them looking great. For as long as you clean spills before they can settle, you won’t have staining issues. Cork and bamboo floors will remain usable and in excellent condition for years if well maintained.
Bamboo vs Tile
You can install tile in virtually any part of your home or commercial place. Its ability to withstand wear is excellent and is, therefore, ideal for high foot traffic areas. If you have pets and kids in your home, tile can make a good flooring choice. There are also more colors, shapes as well as designs to choose from in tile flooring. The highest price of tile flooring is $15 for a square foot which is more than that of high-end bamboo.
Bamboo is more comfortable
Bamboo is much softer and comfortable for your pet or toddlers. It’s also warmer, unlike the ever cold tile flooring. Bamboo compares to tile in some ways. Bamboo and tile are both long-lasting and wear-resistant. Prices are relatively lower, at $3-$10 a square foot.
Bamboo vs Vinyl
You can install vinyl in water-prone areas such as the bathroom or basement and not worry about damage. You cannot do the same with bamboo which warps when exposed to high levels of humidity.
Vinyl is more comfortable
A vinyl floor feels warm and soft to step on, making it a good choice if you have children around. It can also withstand foot traffic, but not better than bamboo which is stronger by far. Also, you would need to buy thick vinyl if you want a floor that resists damages to last for long.
Bamboo increases the resale value
Having a bamboo floor in your home means more value for your home, while vinyl brings no effect. Bamboo is trendy and gives a stylish home compared to vinyl.
Bamboo Floor Buying Guide
Finding the right bamboo while paying a close attention to quality, price, safety, and eco-friendliness can overwhelm you. You would need to know what to look for. That’s exactly what we are going to discuss next, so stay put. Here are a few things to look for when buying bamboo flooring.
Different bamboo floors have different levels of hardness. This is determined on the Janka scale, a tool used to measure how hard a floor is. Strand woven bamboo is the hardest, with a rating of between 4000 to 5000 on the scale. To make strand bamboo, extremely thin fibers of shredded bamboo are mixed with resin and made into planks by pressing. It results in a material that’s stronger than most of the known hardwood species.
Using strand woven bamboo assures you of a floor that will resist the damage caused by bulky items in your home. Despite the hardness, it’s advisable to ensure that the floor’s surface comes with an adequate amount of sealer for protection. Most quality pre-finished bamboo planks will have not less than seven coats of protective finish.
Vertical bamboo flooring is as hard as Oak. Horizontal bamboo flooring too. The difference between the two is in the construction of the planks. Horizontal bamboo looks pretty much like the real plant, complete with knots and the striations. Vertical bamboo has a textured look and does not show much graining.
Carbonized bamboo is, on the other hand, much weak. The process used to darken it results in a weaker material whose tensile strength drops by 30 percent. If you find the caramel color to be overwhelmingly attractive, it would be better if you bought light-tone bamboo then stain it with the color of your choice. A mahogany stain will give you the look of carbonized bamboo, but without compromising strength.
Method of Harvesting
The quality of a bamboo floor will depend on how it was harvested. Ensure the one you buy was harvested at the age of not less than six years. Ensure, too, that it came from the lower part of the plant. Younger bamboo plants produce floors of lesser strength. Same as planks derived from the top part of the plant’s trunk.
The industry standard for moisture levels in bamboo is between 6-9 percent, and you shouldn’t accept any flooring with a level higher than this. To safeguard yourself from buying bamboo with high moisture levels, you may ask for assurance in writing before making a purchase. This is because not every manufacturer will take responsibility for the moisture content of their floors. Too much moisture can mean reduced lifespan and the inability of your floor to withstand foot traffic. Poor processing, storage, and packaging by the manufacturer can also cause the floor to crack or warp.
Safety and Eco-friendliness
Because of the chemicals used in the manufacture of some bamboo floors, it’s essential to ensure the flooring you buy is safe health wise. The process used to produce the floor should also be safe for the environment, from harvest to the board making stages. Ask to see the certifications from third-party laboratories and government agencies passing the company’s manufacturing processes as safe. They include FloorScore and FSC certificates, which should be current.
Length of Warranty
Your bamboo floor will come with a warranty, but the types of damage it covers and the time are important. For a better deal, you may want a warranty that covers 25 years for structural damage, and 10 years for surface wear. Reputable companies will have warranties that are likely to cover these time lengths, so it’s advisable to buy from them. Remember, quality bamboo floors are likely to be backed by lifetime warranties that cover various damages.
The Cost Per Foot
A square foot of bamboo retails at an average price of $3-$10. Strand woven bamboo is the highest priced, at $4-$10 a square foot, while the vertical and the horizontal floors cost much less, at $3-$5 for each square foot. Engineered bamboo is even cheaper, retailing at $4 or less. Price variations depend on factors like brand, quality, and design. Strand bamboo is the strongest which explains why it’s pricier.
The Cost of Installation
The above prices are exclusive of installation expenses. A professional installer will charge an average of $30-$45 on an hourly basis. However, rates will vary from place to place, and figures may turn out to be higher or lower than what’s indicated here. The level of installation difficulty will also affect the rates. Look around for the best prices since every contractor will have his own rate. You may also opt to install the floor yourself, which brings us to our next topic; ways to install a bamboo floor.
Glue Down Method
This method suits a DIY approach since it’s only a matter of placing the planks in the correct position. The process involves joining the planks by use of a very strong kind of adhesive and beads. Be sure to prepare the subfloor adequately and ensure its evenness. The glue used in this method dries fast, so you will need to be sure of your assembly before laying down a plank. You’d be better off laying the floor first and making adjustments to your satisfaction. That way, you will avoid cases where you change your mind about the arrangement and find it too late.
Floating or Click-Lock Method
If you’re planning to install your bamboo floor without the help of a professional, this should be the method to go for. It’s the easiest and involves locking the bamboo planks together. You do not need anything more to hold them together. For quicker installation, start by laying the planks in your preferred pattern. Then, lock them into place in an orderly way by following rows.
Nail Down Method
The nail down method uses nails to attach the bamboo to a subfloor. The planks require careful measuring to ensure uniformity, and that no gaps are left between the boards. The subfloor also needs to be set appropriately so it doesn’t result in situations where it shifts or lifts after installation. You may also need to lay a barrier to protect the bamboo from damage caused by trapped moisture. This method requires great skill and experience and is not a DIY. You need a professional to do it unless you want to end up with a substandard floor.
You’re now ready to choose your bamboo flooring, armed with the knowledge of what to look for. To narrow down things and make the selection j even easier, here are top brands to consider.
This company sells various varieties of strand bamboo. Solid and engineered bamboo products are also available. The solid bamboo varieties come in a thickness of 3 inch by 4 or 5 inches width. The floors are available on the company’s website as well as local suppliers. Ecofusion is a world-renowned bamboo floor manufacturer. Their products are seen in high-end places around the world which is an indication of quality.
This floor sells for the average price of $4 for every square foot. It comes in a whopping 36 different colors, offering you a wide range of tones to suit your taste. Installing the floor is easy; it features two installation options, the click-lock, and the traditional tongue-groove mechanism. The flooring is highly popular, having featured in trendy magazines as well as various TV shows. Designers and homeowners love it for its affordability and high level of quality. It also comes with a lifetime warranty that covers both structural and surface layer damage.
Founded in 2003, Trinity has been in operation for more than a decade. Their bamboo is sourced responsibly, and so is their manufactured flooring products. As proof, they hold certifications for the safety of their floors as well as the source of their raw materials. The company sells both engineered and solid bamboo. You can order for any floor of your choice through their website. What’s more, you can get a feel of their products before purchasing by requesting to be sent free samples.
This product comes in more than 33 colors which gives you quite a variety to choose from. It’s available as solid bamboo and the engineered type and comes pre-finished with 10 layers of protective sealer. You also get to choose between two installation systems; the click-lock and tongue-and-groove. Cali has been in the construction industry market for years and is known for producing quality products. The Cali Bamboo comes with a residential warranty that covers a whopping 50 years.
Teragren floors are made from bamboo that’s sourced responsibly and are certified by all the relevant bodies. Passed as compliant with health and safety regulations, the floor is a safe one to install in your home. These floors are available as either solid or engineered bamboo. There are more than 25 colors and designs to choose from. The average price of these floors is $5-$8 for each square foot. The product is backed by a warranty covering 25 years and 10 years for structural and finish damage respectively.
These floors are not only easy to install but also feature a high-strength collection called Super-Strong. The planks in this collection offer unrivaled stability and are suitable for areas that are expected to have high foot traffic. The super-strong variety is also water-resistant and can be installed in damp places. Teroso Woods floors are certified as environmentally-friendly and comply with international guidelines on safety. The company is one of the world’s leading manufactures of quality bamboo floors.
Smith & Fong Plyboo
This product line comes in more than 25 colors to choose from. It’s also available in four varieties, with Stiletto being the main one. The Stiletto variety comes with a click-lock installation mechanism and 6-foot planks. The company is California based and was founded in 1996. Their products are available on their website, and you can order directly from there. The floors are also distributed by independent suppliers the world over.
Bamboo flooring is quickly becoming popular with both homeowners and property developers. It’s not surprising since the benefits it offers are many. Bamboo is more affordable, easy to install, and offers excellent durability. It looks pretty much like hardwood flooring but will cost you slightly less than what you would spend on hardwood. Bamboo can also be refinished which makes it be in the same class as hardwood regarding the restoration of the surface layer. The only significant downsides of bamboo are its susceptibility to moisture damage and the presence of volatile chemicals in some floors. If you’re looking for a green, durable, and stylish floor that will not cost you a fortune, you can go on and install bamboo.