Bamboo Flooring Pros and Cons
Bamboo flooring is becoming an increasingly popular option for new homes and renovations. Before you’re able to decide whether or not to install bamboo flooring, it is important to know and understand the advantages and disadvantages of using this material for your project.
Advantages of Bamboo
There are many advantages to bamboo including its: environmental friendliness, durability, suitability, cost, variety of styles, warmth, and ease of maintenance. For many, these pros make the choice to use bamboo an easy one.
Bamboo is an excellent choice for those who are interested in building a “green” home or place of business. It is one of the most environmentally friendly options for flooring on the market. It is made from a type of grass, so it grows quickly in comparison to wood. It continues to grow without needing to be replanted, so it is highly renewable. For those who are worried about moisture and insects, the bamboo used for flooring is treated against them, and does not use harsh chemicals or pesticides in the process.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) uses the Green Building Rating System developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) as a set of standards regarding the environmentally friendliness of a particular building. The organization certifies buildings as “green” and looks at bamboo flooring as one of the best flooring options for this status.
Bamboo flooring is made from the Moso species of bamboo, meaning it is completely different than what pandas and other animals eat. This protects food sources for wildlife.
The Janka Hardness Scale, used to determine the hardness and strength of particular species of wood, rates solid bamboo flooring as a 1762 and engineered bamboo flooring ranks at a 1690, making both choices harder than both Red and White Oaks, Caribbean and North American Walnut, and Brazilian and North American Maple, among others. The Janka Hardness Scale rating is determined by how much force it takes to drive a .444-inch steel ball into a plank of wood .222 inches in diameter. The higher the rating on the scale, the harder and thus more durable the flooring is expected to be.
Bamboo flooring is a highly durable flooring choice for any location subjected to extensive usage and can stand up very well to the abrasion caused by children and pets. It is tough enough to resist the impact of falling objects in the kitchen, as well as in high traffic areas such as the living rooms and hallways.
Bamboo has a greater compressive strength than concrete and about the same strength-to-weight ratio as steel when subject to tension, yet it kinder to the body. When compared to standing on hardwood or concrete, the legs, feet, and knees do not experience as much strain and stress while standing on bamboo.
When considering the durability of the flooring combined with the looks, and eco-friendly factor, bamboo flooring is one of the most cost effective options for a home because it is less likely to need repair in the long run.
No matter what taste there is to consider, bamboo flooring has an option guaranteed to please. The natural grain provides a unique look, and there are three main options for color: natural bamboo—light blonde color, carbonized bamboo—darker in color because the sugars in the plant caramelize due to longer boiling times, and stained bamboo—colored with a variety of stains available in light, medium, and dark shades.
For those who want the strength and durability of bamboo with the look of another type of floor, direct print bamboo is an option. Before this flooring is sealed, the pattern of another type of flooring, such as oak or cherry, is printed on. Regardless, there is a bamboo flooring choice to suit any décor.
Bamboo flooring adds an extra touch to the home, providing a comfortable feeling because of the natural look and feel of the material. The naturally attractive material may even evoke a sense of serenity.
Another selling point for bamboo flooring is how easy it is to take care of. Special cleaning agents are not needed and in fact should be avoided. Simply sweeping the floor is usually enough to clean it though sometimes, a damp mop can be used. The mop should not be too wet, as this could damage the flooring.
Disadvantages of Bamboo
While the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages of bamboo, it’s important to acknowledge both the pros and cons. The only notable disadvantages of bamboo floors are that they are quite sensitive to extreme climates or wet areas of the home, and they can be more susceptible to scratches than other types of flooring.
Sensitive to Extreme Climates
Because Bamboo is a natural product, it will react to moisture and changes in its environment more than a laminate, vinyl, or tile floor. If installed in an incredibly humid or exceptionally dry climate, bamboo floors will react to their surroundings. Excess moisture and humidity in the air can cause floor planks to plump or bloat. Conversely, if installed in an incredibly dry environment, the planks can shrink. In the most extreme scenario of either environment, bamboo floors will crack or split if installed in these extreme environments. Similarly, it’s best to avoid installing bamboo flooring in areas of the home that mimic these extreme climates, like bathrooms and basements that typically see high levels of moisture, as well as furnace rooms, sun rooms, or spas that see high levels of heat and temperature fluctuations.
Not Impervious to Scratches
Just like any natural wood product, it’s nearly impossible to keep its surface scratch free if it comes up against wear regularly. In much the same way that solid and engineered floors can scratch when they come in contact with high heels, pet claws, furniture legs, or grit and debris tracked in on wiped sneakers, scratches and nicks can accrue on bamboo floors. Adding area rugs or floor runners to high traffic areas like hallways, or protective footing on the feet of tables and chairs can help prevent these types of marks, but if you have a very active household with busy pets and family members, bamboo may not be the best choice.
Where to Install Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring can be installed in almost any room, above or below the ground, over wood, OSB (Oriented Strand Board), and existing vinyl flooring. Focus on areas such as the living rooms, bedrooms, and hallways. Other low traffic, low moisture rooms are suitable as well, like powder rooms or home offices.
Where Bamboo Should Not Be Installed
Bamboo flooring is not suitable in areas prone to excessive wetness such as bathrooms or laundry rooms. Avoid outdoor areas or areas altogether. Remember, extended exposure to moisture can cause a bamboo flooring to warp, bend, or swell.