We received these photos from a woman who had bamboo flooring installed in her home. The pictures speak for themselves:
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.
There’s a lot of information out there that you need to process if you’re considering bamboo flooring. With so many important factors to take into account, it can be difficult to make a truly educated decision. To help with the process, here’s a list of the pros and cons of bamboo flooring:
- A rapid regrowth rate (reaching full maturity and hardness in about 7 years) gives bamboo a point in the eco-friendly department.
- It can be cheaper than more traditional hardwood flooring.
- Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of styles and colors.
- Irresponsible forestry practices (clear-cutting natural forests to make room for bamboo, unnecessary use of fertilizers and pesticides) make it environmentally unfriendly.
- Formaldehyde-based glues and finishes make bamboo flooring unhealthy for you and the environment.
- There is no enforcement of fair trade practices or quality control in China, where bamboo originates.
- Lots of energy must be expended to ship bamboo flooring overseas from China, another hit in the eco-friendly department.
- Premature harvesting (as early as 3 months) doesn’t allow the bamboo to properly harden, producing soft, non-durable floors.
- The darker variety of colors results from a special heat treatment that further softens the bamboo.
- Bamboo flooring cannot be refinished, so a dented, scratched, or otherwise damaged floor must be replaced, which drives up the cost.
So there you have it, the pros and cons of bamboo flooring. There are far more disadvantages than advantages, but the choice is ultimately yours.
Don’t fall for the marketing hype. Bamboo flooring companies are out to make money, and in today’s world of environmental awareness bamboo’s fast growth cycle provides an opportunity they can’t resist. But to say that bamboo flooring is eco-friendly just because it is a rapidly renewable resource is a gross oversimplification.
First, the good point: bamboo is a 100% natural plant that fully matures and hardens within 7 years. However, bamboo companies add chemical fertilizers and pesticides to speed up growth, which can harm the environment, and harvest the crop as early as 3 months, long before it has had a chance to harden into a suitable flooring material.
This constant harvesting leads to a major problem: erosion. This problem is further aggravated when bamboo companies clear out large sections of natural forests to make way for bamboo plantations. Not only does this increase erosion, but it also decreases biodiversity and creates a monoculture that is not healthy for the ecosystem.
When it comes time to actually manufacture the bamboo flooring, lots of toxic chemicals are used in the process. These chemicals can be harmful not only to the environment, but also to your own health. Additionally, because the bamboo flooring industry is based almost entirely in China, the final product must be shipped across the Pacific Ocean. This consumes a lot of fuel and creates lots of carbon emissions.
Finally, because bamboo flooring is highly vulnerable to scratches and dents, and impossible to refinish, its lifespan is unimpressive. When the floor is replaced, all those toxic chemicals will end up in landfills, and you will have to buy more flooring, which means more harvested wood.
In the end, yes, bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource, but poor management and production practices and a low-quality product outweigh this advantage. If you want a truly eco-friendly floor, take a look at Staybull Flooring®. This unique brand of flooring takes recycled wood scraps and, using only 100% environmentally safe procedures, creates a one-of-a-kind product.