One of the hottest trends in home renovation is bamboo flooring. Available in a wide variety of colors and styles, bamboo is a sleek, modern alternative to hardwood flooring. Retailers claim that bamboo flooring is sustainable and stronger than traditional hardwood floors, but can bamboo flooring really rival that of hardwood?
Many argue that bamboo flooring is environmentally friendly because it is a fast-growing resource. Bamboo grows to maturity within three to five years, while traditional hardwoods such as oak mature after one hundred years! However, products are not considered environmentally friendly just by evaluating their source.
Bamboo products have had a surge of popularity around the world. In an effort to meet the market’s demand for more bamboo, many forests have been cut down to make room for expanding bamboo farms.
For those interested in how eco-friendly a company or their flooring is, consumers must research the companies themselves to determine whether or not their products are actually good for the environment.
Those seeking the most eco-friendly flooring product would probably enjoy pre-finished, click-in bamboo flooring. It is considered one of the most “green” floorings (and the easiest to install) because it is typically made with water-based laminates and does not require the use of adhesives, which are almost always made with harmful chemicals.
After bamboo is harvested, the bamboo poles are cut into long strips. Then the strips are connected together using adhesives. Strand woven bamboo flooring is made by stripping bamboo, crushing the strips, and weaving the bamboo strands together. The strands are then pressurized and hardened using resin or adhesives.
Most bamboo flooring uses smaller amounts of harmful chemicals (such as formaldehyde) in their adhesives and laminates. Some manufacturers avoid using formaldehyde altogether and advertise their products as formaldehyde-free.
Unlike traditional hardwoods, bamboo flooring is not stained. It derives its color in one of two ways. Bamboo is sometimes colored using dyes. However, few of these dyes are considered eco-friendly, most comprising of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Usually, bamboo is darkened using a heating process; the longer the bamboo is heated, the darker the bamboo becomes. Unfortunately, this process comes at a price. The darker the bamboo becomes, the weaker it becomes as well.
Contrary to retailer’s claims, bamboo is not stronger than hardwood floors. Even when bamboo is not heat-treated, it is still subject to scratches, dents, and shoe marks just like any other flooring. Some bamboo farms harvest their bamboo before it reaches maturity; which compromises the strength of the flooring radically.
Is bamboo flooring for you? On average, bamboo does cost less than hardwood floors and has proven to be water-resistant. So long as the consumer researches the flooring manufacturer and picks a quality brand, bamboo flooring could last for decades.