Bamboo, which technically isn’t even a wood, is growing in popularity as a wood flooring alternative to the traditional woods. Classified as a grass, and not a wood at all, bamboo is a plant that grows with impressive rapidity into a strong raw material. Its fast growth makes it a highly eco friendly alternative to the likes of oak, which can take hundreds of years to grow, that said there are downsides to bamboo flooring. The majority of bamboo flooring options on the market today have their roots in China and other areas of Asia.
Ideally suited to flooring, bamboo behaves similarly to hard wood and in terms of strength, durability and resistance to moisture and bugs, it puts up a reasonably good fight. Although bamboo has a Janka rating similar are the likes of red and white oak, the way bamboo is treated and bamboo flooring constructed it is generally recognised as being less durable. Like wood, bamboo is sliced into thin strips to create flooring. Those strips are then boiled in an acid or lime solution to remove the starches and sugars naturally present in bamboo and then dried, laminated, stained and finished creating an attractive flooring product.
When it comes to colour, in its natural state, bamboo is very like beech, but can be darkened using a heating process called carbonizing. Although many people might seek out dark bamboo, it has to be said, that carbonizing bamboo tends to soften it, which isn’t ideal when it comes to flooring. Planks made of bamboo will typically either be made up of horizontal slices of bamboo or vertical grains that are small morsels of bamboo that are laminated side by side. Horizontally arranged slices of bamboo are laminated along their length on their widest edge. This lamination process uses a urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesive that is known to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That said, the amount of UF used in bamboo flooring is minimal in comparison with other wood products. If you are keen to have an emission free product, you have the option of seeking out a bamboo flooring which has not included UF resin in its production process.
Oak flooring on the other hand is a solid wood flooring solution that has quite literally stood the test of time. With oak flooring dating back centuries still in existence and in use to this day, there is no doubt that oak is a tough, durable and stable flooring option. So what might bamboo flooring have in its favour? Here are some of the major pluses of bamboo flooring:
Price: On average, bamboo flooring is about half the price of oak flooring. There are several reasons for this, however the speed of growth and the abundant supply are undoubtedly the most significant.
Environmental impact: Taking an average of only six years to be ready for harvest, compared to around 60 for oak, bamboo is, without a doubt an eco friendly product.
All of that said, there’s no getting away from the fact that the hardness and the stability of oak is significantly better than bamboo. When it comes to denting and scratching as well as warping and cupping, oak beats bamboo pretty much hands down. In fact, oak is so acknowledged and celebrated for its stability and strength that it’s now commonplace for companies to use the oak tree in their logo as a symbol of strength and stability.