One aspect of bamboo flooring that is rarely brought up is Fair Trade. Fair Trade basically means that workers enjoy appropriate labor conditions and wages. There is currently no Fair Trade certification for the bamboo industry, which means it is impossible to know if you are making a socially responsible purchase. This problem is further augmented by the fact that bamboo flooring is manufactured almost exclusively in China, a country with a history of poor labor practices and abuses against human rights.
Not all of bamboo flooring’s problems arise from the inherent qualities of bamboo. There are several installation precautions that you need to take, and most of them are very similar to the requirements for installing real hardwood flooring.
The greatest concern is moisture. If the bamboo is not adequately acclimated, or if the environment is too damp, then your floor will be nothing but a headache. But you can go too far in the other direction as well. A dry climate can be just as hard on bamboo flooring as a wet one. Depending on your local climate, acclimation can take anywhere from a few days to a couple months.
You must be careful when securing bamboo to the subfloor. If you are using nails or staples, it can be easy to damage the bamboo thanks to its less than stellar toughness. For glue-down installations, care must be taken to keep the surface clean. If glue does get on the surface of the floor, it can be carefully removed, but this is a hassle best avoided.
One installation risk that is unique to the bamboo flooring industry is formaldehyde off-gassing. If you ever need to cut or sand bamboo flooring, you would do well to wear a mask and protect your skin. Because bamboo flooring is often impregnated with formaldehyde, the stench alone can be unbearable, not to mention the adverse health effects caused by the pungent chemical.
If you have had any experiences installing bamboo flooring, then please share them in the comments section below.
If you have your heart set on bamboo flooring, you need to be aware that not all bamboo flooring is the same. Do your homework, and you are sure to hear that phrase a lot. Often it means that some companies produce better quality flooring than others, but there are also different types of bamboo flooring that you need to be aware of.
Solid Bamboo Flooring is, as you may have guessed made up of several solid pieces of bamboo that have been glued together (most likely using formaldehyde). It is also what most likely comes to mind when you think of bamboo flooring, complete with the characteristic nodes.
Engineered Bamboo Flooring is made of a solid bamboo wear layer glued over a substrate. This type of bamboo flooring suffers from reliability issues. Because it is laminated to a cross-ply backing, the top layer of an engineered bamboo floor does not have the ability to shrink when the floor is exposed to dry air. Even though bamboo fibers are very strong, the bonding material between them is weak, making engineered bamboo floors much more susceptible to cracking.
Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring is the strongest type of bamboo flooring. However, it loses the traditional look of bamboo, coming closer in appearance to some exotic hardwoods. The bamboo is shredded then compressed with adhesives to create a solid plank. While this does create the strongest bamboo flooring, it is also impregnated with glue, which as we’ve already discussed is commonly toxic. As long as you are throwing out the traditional look of bamboo, you may be better off choosing a hardwood, which can be more eco-friendly, more durable, and healthier for you.