Bamboo is quickly gaining popularity for use as both household and commercial flooring. Find out how this fast-growing, sustainable plant with style and durability that has come to rival traditional hardwood as a quality flooring material.
For some, it is odd to think that bamboo, a type of grass, would serve as a durable flooring surface. And yet, bamboo flooring is becoming known as an attractive, long lasting and environmentally friendly alternative to the more conventional choice of hardwood flooring. The bamboo plant is extremely well adapted to its environment, unaffected by poor soil quality and other outside influences. Bamboo is a very fast growing type of grass, one of the fastest growing in the world, and the vitality of bamboo plants is not harmed by harvesting. The shoots of the harvested bamboo plant remain alive and quickly re-grow new stalks, making bamboo a highly renewable resource. As such, bamboo has become a popular choice of flooring by ecologically minded consumers, perhaps the “greenest” flooring of flooring materials as well as one of the most aesthetically pleasing.
What happens after harvesting
Once the bamboo is harvested, the green outer skin of the bamboo is removed and the bamboo stalk is cut lengthwise into strips or “fillets.” The filleted strips of bamboo – still curved because they are a section of a round stalk – are milled along their outer edges to make a flat strip. (The excess trim is turned into “strand-woven” bamboo, a separate process which we discuss later.) The flat strips are kiln dried to remove the bamboo’s natural moisture, and then boiled to eliminate natural starches and sugars. Boiling the bamboo actually serves two purposes. By removing starch and sugar, the bamboo flooring is rendered unattractive to termites and other pests that can infest many wood products. This termite resistance makes bamboo an especially suitable material for certain geographical areas. In addition, bamboo flooring is less prone to expanding and contracting due to climate changes, specifically temperature and humidity, than many traditional hardwoods. The other reason for boiling the bamboo is for its aesthetic purpose.
By boiling the bamboo for a longer period, the material turns a darker color than its natural blonde appearance. The darker “brownish” color, known as “carbonized” bamboo, along with the light-blonde color of the earlier stages in the process, provide a choice of natural bamboo flooring colors that work with any decorating scheme. There are also different surface patterns in bamboo flooring that are created in the manufacturing process.
Horizontal and Vertical Styles of Bamboo Flooring
After the bamboo strips are boiled, they are again kiln dried, and glued together into one of two styles. By gluing a number of strips together with their narrow edges (the thickness of the bamboo stalk) facing up, the flooring pattern is an attractive bamboo edge grain with thin lines between the laminated strips. This style of bamboo flooring is called “vertical style.” The bamboo strips can also be glued together along their narrow edges so their wider surfaces face up. In this style, the strips would also be laminated in three layers so the thickness of the floor is the same as the vertical style. The three-layered style, with the wider flat surface of the bamboo strip showing on top, is called “horizontal style.” The unique aesthetic feature of horizontal style bamboo flooring is that the natural growth rings of the stalk, the “knuckles” as they’re also known, are visible in a randomly scattered appearance on the floor’s surface. Both these styles of bamboo flooring receive a final pressing after lamination to ensure their structural integrity before proceeding to the final steps of milling and finishing. Both horizontal-style and vertical-style bamboo flooring are available in blonde or carbonized coloring, and both are enjoyed for their particular, naturally attractive features.
Strand-Woven Bamboo Flooring
In addition to horizontal- and vertical-style bamboo flooring, one other style of bamboo flooring is also manufactured. This style is known as “strand-woven” bamboo flooring, and is produced from the excess strands trimmed at the stage of milling the curved bamboo fillets, as mentioned earlier. Not only is strand-woven bamboo another particularly attractive bamboo floor style, it also demonstrates another environmentally responsible feature of bamboo as a flooring material. Nothing is wasted in the making of this durable line of flooring. Instead of discarding the excess trim from the bamboo stalk, bamboo innovators discovered these long, thin strands of bamboo created a beautiful pattern when intertwined and manufactured into anther bamboo flooring product. Thus was born strand-woven bamboo in a process that compresses the strands with an environmentally safe resin into a new piece of “timber” which is:
- Scratch resistant
- UV resistant
- Moisture resistant
The newly constituted bamboo timber, with its own uniquely attractive strand-woven bamboo pattern, is a strong and durable material that is then sawn into attractive planks, and turned into its own unique style of bamboo flooring. Because strand-woven bamboo is already compressed at extremely high pressure at the timber-making stage, it does not receive the final pressing applied to horizontal- and vertical-style bamboo.
Final Stages in Making Bamboo Flooring
In the final manufacturing stages, all three types of bamboo flooring boards – horizontal-style, vertical style, and strand-woven – are milled and finished to complete the process of producing refined flooring products. With precision milling, the tongue-and-groove connection on each bamboo flooring board ensures the snug fit and smooth surface that you expect from a quality product. The clear coating that finishes your bamboo flooring will also enhance its natural beauty and provide an extra-level of protection for years to come. A quality product will be finished with as many as six coats of aluminum oxide, giving your already extremely hard bamboo floor even more protection against surface wear or damage.
And there you have it! A common grass turned into an exceptionally attractive and exceptionally durable flooring option. Bamboo flooring is a tough, beautiful, and environmentally friendly flooring material quickly being discovered as an excellent alternative to traditional hardwood flooring.