As bamboo, the largest members of the grass family, rises in popularity as a flooring option, it becomes important to understand bamboo flooring pros and cons. What has led to an increased use of bamboo flooring is its similarity in appearance with hardwood flooring and the fact that it is cheaper than most hardwood floors. Moreover, bamboo comes across as a great option for the environmentally concerned. It’s also a chic new option for homeowners planning to remodel their homes. However, understanding bamboo flooring pros and cons helps you in making an educated decision. After all, installing bamboo flooring is a long-term decision and you do not want to regret it later.
Let’s take a look at some bamboo flooring pros and cons:
Bamboo Flooring Pros
- Durability: High-quality bamboo flooring is equally, if not more, durable as the more traditional hardwood flooring, especially if you opt for the non-carbonized flooring. A fully mature bamboo floor made of high-quality Moso bamboo can be harder than that made of even maple or oak hardwood. It is perfect even for high traffic areas like your living room, hallways, etc. and can withstand the antics of pets and children without any damage. Of course, if you decide to go for the low cost floors that come for less than $5 a square foot before installation then you cannot expect the same durability.
- Eco-friendly: As people become more conscious about the green quotient of the products they use, using natural materials like cork and bamboo are becoming a rage. Bamboo flooring is more eco-friendly as the bamboo plant does not need to be cut completely and its roots stay intact. This fast growing grass reaches its full hardness and maturity anywhere between five to seven years and as such, it is a more sustainable option as compared to hardwoods which can take upwards of 30-40 years to mature fully. What’s more, bamboo crop does not require fertilizers, pesticides or additional irrigational facilities when grown in their natural environment.
- Variety: Bamboo flooring is available in a number of styles and colours that you can choose from what with the modern processing techniques. Just make sure you understand how these colours have been achieve as typically, the darker colours result from heat treatment that has the side effect of making the flooring softer.
- Style Quotient: A lot of people construct and decorate their homes to reflect their personal style and taste. Bamboo flooring is warm, contemporary, and in tune with the times as they have a very low carbon footprint.
- Less Expensive: In terms of cost, bamboo flooring is much cheaper than hardwood flooring and even cork flooring. Even the high quality bamboo flooring will cost you less as compared to hardwood flooring once you consider the installation expenses.
- Better Water Resistance: Though bamboo flooring is likely to get damaged and swell when exposed to water regularly, as compared to cork and hardwood flooring, it has a definite advantage in terms of water resistance and stains.
- Easy Maintenance: Bamboo floors do not require a lot of maintenance and all you really need is a sweep and not-too-wet mopping once in a while. You can use a vacuum cleaner once in two weeks to remove any stubborn dust in room corners and floor crevices. You don’t need to use any special cleaning agents; in fact you should avoid using them as they may end up discolouring the floor.
- Easy Refinishing: Over time, your bamboo floor is likely to get scratched, discoloured, or dented despite the layers of finishing. However, refinishing bamboo flooring is quite easy as it requires just a bit of sanding and reapplication of finishing coats. Of course, you need to take into account the plank thickness before sanding it.
- Gentler on your body: Standing on floors that are too hard can be tough on your legs. Bamboo flooring tends to be slightly softer on legs as compared to other hard flooring options and therefore, is a great option for areas like your kitchen where you tend to stand for long hours.
Bamboo Flooring Cons
- Emit VOCs: There are concerns of high levels of VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds in bamboo flooring which are toxic and harmful for indoor air quality. These VOCs are components of urea-formaldehyde adhesives that are used for the lamination process in bamboo flooring. However, you can do some research and go for products that avoid the use of such adhesives.
- Deforestation issues: Though bamboo flooring is considered a green option in the construction industry, there are questions regarding deforestation being raised by environmentalists. Many bamboo plantations are done at the cost of tress cut to make way for the bamboo plant. This also leads to soil erosion and loss of biodiversity of these regions.
- Scratching: Being a natural material, bamboo flooring may incur scratches over a period of time especially when used in high traffic areas of your home. These could be a result of pointed heels, furniture legs, pet paws, etc. If parts of your floor get scratched too much, the best option is usually to replace that board.
- Not Suitable for Humid Areas: Too much humidity can spoil your bamboo floor and make them warp, swell and crack. This makes bamboo unsuitable for humid weather, bathrooms, and outdoors and places prone to flooding.
- No Grading Authority: One of the drawbacks is a lack of any grading authority to help the consumers make a decision based on certified quality. The retailers do grade them but it’s more of an arbitrary system and you must do your homework and buy only from a quality retailer to get high quality bamboo flooring.
- Lack of Hardness: Bamboo flooring, barring the un-carbonized natural version, tends to be softer and therefore, less durable. It can be recognized by its darker shade.
Types of Bamboo Flooring Available
The three main types of bamboo flooring available in the market are:
- Solid Bamboo Flooring: This is made by gluing together solid pieces of bamboo and is also known as the vertical cut bamboo flooring. It is stronger than engineered bamboo flooring.
- Engineered Bamboo Flooring: This is engineered flooring which consists of a layer of solid bamboo glued to a substrate. It looked more flattened out and is also known as the horizontal cut bamboo flooring.
- Strand-Woven Bamboo Flooring: This is the newest version and the most durable one. It is made by shredding the bamboo and them compressing it with adhesives.
Tips for Buying and Installing Bamboo Flooring
- Stay away from low cost and low quality floors: Don’t cut corners while making your purchase decision as what you save in initial buying cost may end up being spent in frequent refinishing or even replacing. The best thing to do is going to a well-known dealer who has been importing bamboo flooring for a number of years and can give you a good product warranty.
- Check the country of origin: It is important to check the source of your bamboo floor. There are concerns regarding those sourced from China as the country does not have a quality control and regulating authority for the product. Many companies are known to harvest bamboos too quickly for the sake of profits, sometimes even as soon as three month old plants, thus compromising on quality and hardness.
- Avoid installing it yourself: Unless you have a good amount of DIY projects behind you, it is better to leave installation in the hands of experts. First, securing bamboo to the floor needs some expertise and care or the nails can damage the bamboo. Moreover, due to the presence of toxic adhesives in bamboo flooring, it is better to wear protective clothing and a mask before sanding or cutting it.
- When remodelling, install bamboo flooring at the last: If you are remodelling your house, it is better to do the installation of your bamboo floor once the movement of people and heavy equipment is done with as they may end up scratching or denting your new floor. Any painting job should also finish before you start installing the floor. Remember, manufacturer warranties do not usually cover installation damages.
Carbonized Bamboo Flooring
Carbonization is the process that gives bamboo a darker, deeper, and richer color similar to hardwood. It is a heat-intensive treatment that impacts the bamboo deeply and works on the sugar component in it to turn its natural straw shade to a deeper brown, similar to the sugar caramelizing process. The down side to the process is that it makes the bamboo, and flooring made of it around 30% softer and brittle. It also increases the capacity of treated bamboo to absorb water which makes it less stable.
All said and done, bamboo flooring can be an excellent option for anyone planning to build a green and beautiful home on a budget and at the same time, make a style statement. However, just like you would do in any other important purchasing decision, buy from a reputed dealer and understand the pros and cons of the type of flooring you are buying. Also, discuss with dealer the areas you need the flooring for and the likely traffic in that area. With a little care and maintenance, you can increase the life of your bamboo flooring to as much as 25-30 years and even more with proper resurfacing.