In recent years, bamboo flooring has emerged as one of the most popular new flooring styles, and it's easy to see why. Bamboo floors have been widely used in the Pacific Rim for decades, and America has seen bamboo's benefits for years in furniture and home accessories, so it's natural that its usage as flooring is catching up to us now. Its wide range of style and ease of maintenance gives the pro-bamboo crowd a lot to cheer about.
Renewable resource. Unlike many of the hardwood floors available on the market today, which can take tremendous amounts of time to reforest, bamboo grows abundantly both here and abroad, and it replenishes very fast. Conservationists will certainly enjoy this aspect of the material. The leftover leaves and shoots are utilized as a food source for livestock both here in the U.S. and in Asia.
Easy upkeep. While no flooring surface is completely maintenance free, some are better than others, and bamboo has a better resiliency than softer floors like pine or vinyl. A bamboo floor, despite its rapid growth, proves to be extremely strong when cured and can handle the elements and high traffic areas. Additionally, bamboo floors need to be refinished as, if not less, frequently than other popular flooring surfaces.
Easy to install. While there are several ways to install bamboo flooring, one popular option is the beloved "floating floor," an adhesive-less installation that entails a puzzle-like process of connecting mitered sections of plank flooring. This means the average homeowner can single-handedly install a large section of flooring in a weekend. While professional flooring contractors still recommend face-nailing and sub-floor installation, this floating floor option really opens up bamboo flooring to the masses.
Cost. The cost of bamboo flooring can vary greatly, depending on grade, finish, material percentage, veneer, etc. The entire spectrum of cost is well represented, from the high grade, imported solid bamboo planks, to the veneered floating floors available today at home improvement stores. Another cost-saver is the option of self-installation. That particular cost saving can be tremendous, depending on the application.
Style points. Style counts, and when it comes to bamboo floors, style is what it’s about. From its mellow light hues and colors, to its widely varying grains, bamboo can match almost any décor. Bamboo is typically very light, almost white in finish, but can be found tinted and finished in a dark color, which is more widely used in the North East and colonial settings. Another option is the finish; while bamboo is most commonly seen in a high gloss finish, matte and semi-gloss varieties can found, further enhancing its wide options. The many varieties of bamboo allow consumers to tailor the finish and colors of their floor to their specific needs, which puts bamboo ahead of some traditional flooring options.
Adaptability. Bamboo is one of the most adaptable flooring options available today. While some materials require lots of prep work to the subfloor, bamboo can be laid over a much wider variety of surfaces. Where a laminate may be needed for a vinyl or tile material, much less expensive plywood is a more than adequate surface for bamboo to be affixed to. Bamboo is far less sensitive to temperature changes than many other materials, like stone, tile or vinyl. While many materials are relegated to fair climate installations only, bamboo can be installed virtually anywhere.
Material Handling. For some hardwood materials, like mahogany or oak, handling and cutting can prove to be a chore in itself. This isn’t the case for bamboo; general hand tools, cross cut saws, compound miter saws and dovetail saws are perfect for finishing a home project like this. There is no need to use hardwood saws - despite its strength, bamboo is relatively easy to cut, and available in shorter sections so you can maneuver it easily around your work site. Some flooring houses also offer larger sections of bamboo for a more linear look. It’s an option that's really more for those whose work space is wide open, or can be adapted.
Strength. In Japan, bamboo has historically been used for industrial scaffolding, so it's certainly more than strong enough for your family's flooring needs. Its natural make-up has proven it able to carry countless times its own weight, and that converts into a flooring surface which is virtually unbreakable. While it's rare to find a flooring surface stronger than concrete (and by no means is bamboo stronger than concrete), bamboo gives it a run for its money in weight-to-strength ratio. If you are looking for a reasonably strong, lightweight floor, bamboo might be a viable option.
Durability. People instantly think of tile or marble when they are looking for a durable flooring surface, but bamboo can certainly be considered a top contender for longest lasting. Like any floor, it will eventually gain a nice patina, and if cared for, will start to warm and meld into a variety of tones and hues that add a lot of charm to floors. If you look at some of the vintage floors in Asia, where bamboo is widely used, you can see how over time the surface becomes its own gallery of smooth mottled tones and really enhances the décor of any home.
Material Availability. Since its increase in recent popularity, bamboo has gone from a difficult to find and somewhat obscure material, to a widely available surface found at almost any home improvement center. Originally, if you were looking to install bamboo in your home, you had to search high and low, in flooring houses and lumber yards. Now it’s virtually everywhere, and being used in such high volume that your choices of manufacturer and vendor are virtually unlimited.
With these points brought to light, it’s easy to see how bamboo flooring is becoming one of the leading flooring surfaces available today. From its wide adaptability and durability to its cost effectiveness, bamboo has something to offer everyone.
By Sean O'Halloran