Bamboo floors are as stylish as their hardwood counterparts, but are friendlier to your budget. Bamboo flooring is recyclable and biodegradable, and has a very low impact on the environment.
While bamboo is technically a grass and not a wood, planks manufactured using strand-woven bamboo are comparable to the hardest species of wood in the world, making bamboo flooring a very durable option. Bamboo is also a highly renewable resource, as it can be harvested annually, with only the four to six years old stems being cut, and the process involves the pruning, rather than felling, of plants.
Bamboo flooring can be laminated, strand-woven, or engineered, and each option has different characteristics that suit different purposes.
Laminated (solid) bamboo flooring
Laminated bamboo flooring provides the most natural look of the different options, and has the richest features and patterns. Laminated bamboo flooring can be refinished to look like new when damaged, with the number of times this can be done being dependent on the thickness of the boards. While harder than most hardwood flooring materials, laminated bamboo is less durable and resilient than strand-woven or engineered options.
Laminated bamboo floor planks are produced by slicing the bamboo stalks into very thin pieces. The skin is removed, and the stalks are boiled in boric acid to kill any micro-organisms. The individual pieces are coated with an adhesive and bonded together horizontally or vertically, using heat and pressure. Horizontal binding results in a floor with fewer features and a more consistent look, while vertical bonding produces a more mottled appearance.
Strand-woven (or High Density) bamboo flooring
Strand-woven bamboo is manufactured by slicing the stalks into strips and removing the skin. The strips are also boiled in boric acid, and then placed into a shredder, to produce a thick pulp. An adhesive substance is mixed with the pulp, and the material is placed into a mould. Heat and pressure are used to produce a solid bar that is then cut into individual planks and tiles. Strand-woven bamboo flooring is very resilient and durable, and can be used in areas that experience frequent use. Like laminated bamboo, strand-woven bamboo can be refinished to look like new when it becomes discoloured, scratched, or marred. Some manufacturers also refer to this as High Density bamboo.
Engineered bamboo flooring
Engineered bamboo flooring looks like solid bamboo. Bamboo, however, makes up only a portion of the flooring, as the bamboo is cut into thinner solid sheets and bonded to a backing material, usually a sustainable softwood timber. Engineered bamboo flooring is exceptionally strong, durable, and may be more stable than solid bamboo flooring. It is easy to maintain, and the top wear layer is real, natural bamboo. Engineered bamboo flooring can also be refinished, but perhaps not as often as solid bamboo flooring, depending on the thickness of the wear layer.
Veneer bamboo flooring
Veneer bamboo flooring has a thin layer of real bamboo veneer laminated onto a different substrate (backing material), normally high density fibreboard. A tough wear layer is applied on top to protect the bamboo veneer (similar to laminate flooring). Veneer bamboo flooring has the appearance or real (solid) bamboo, and may be more cost-effective. It is reasonably durable, easy to maintain and may be more stable than solid bamboo flooring. Veneer bamboo flooring can, however, not be refinished, and will eventually have to be replaced if it becomes worn out.
Bamboo flooring is usually supplied pre-finished and ready to be installed as a floating floor, i.e. not fixed to the floor beneath, or by fixing the boards to the subfloor with adhesive or nails. Bamboo flooring is not recommended for use in areas that have high humidity, such as bathrooms.
As most problems with bamboo flooring arise from poor installation, rather than any product defaults, it is recommended that a suitably qualified and experienced installer be used to install it.
Bamboo flooring should be swept or vacuumed regularly, to remove debris that could cause damage to the floor when stepped on. It can be cleaned using a damp mop, or using a non-wax, non-alkaline, hardwood or bamboo floor cleaner.