Bamboo Flooring is NOT Eco-Friendly

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.

Bamboo Flooring

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.

Is Bamboo Flooring Cost Effective?

First of all, if you are shopping for a cheap flooring option and are tempted by a cheap brand of bamboo flooring, be careful.  You are most likely getting a high toxic glue content and a soft floor that will show years’ worth of damage after a few months.

Even if you go for a higher quality brand of bamboo flooring, it is still vulnerable to scratches and dents, and refinishing potential is sketchy at best.  If you want to eliminate your floor’s blemishes, you will have to replace it.  You just doubled the cost of your bamboo floor.

If that doesn’t sound like your ideal situation, then you may want to reconsider your decision to install bamboo.

Types of Bamboo Flooring

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.

Carbonized Bamboo Flooring

One of bamboo flooring’s weak points is a general lack of variety.  To address this issue, flooring companies came up with a process to darken the bamboo and give consumer’s a choice when it came to the color of their bamboo floor.

A lot of people like the darker amber color of carbonized bamboo flooring, but one thing the manufacturer may not tell you is that the process makes the bamboo softer and weaker.  This means that it will become even more susceptible to damage such as dents.  Is that really something you want in a floor as scratch and dent prone as bamboo?

Premature Harvesting Leads to Weak Floors

One of the great benefits to using bamboo is that it can mature in as little as 3-5 years, reaching its peak hardness in about 7 years.  However, it can reach full size in just 3 months, and the manufacturing companies just can’t resist the opportunity to speed up production.

They harvest their bamboo crop after just a few months, skipping the last several years of the natural growth cycle, and deny their product the opportunity to properly harden.  From a performance standpoint at least, bamboo could be better, but because of premature harvesting, it fails to live up to its full potential.

This is also bad from an environmental standpoint, as the constant and rapid harvesting leads to erosion.