Build for the environment, build for sustainability, build for your future.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bamboo Flooring: Pros and Cons

Bamboo flooring has been touted as an environmental miracle material: relatively inexpensive, hard-wearing, and from a fast growing and renewable resource. But is bamboo flooring the green building material it is cracked up to be? We take a look at what bamboo flooring is, where it comes from, and the pros and cons you should consider before installing a bamboo floor.

Bamboo, unlike all other hardwood flooring, is actually a grass and not wood. Bamboo grows very quickly, maturing in just 3 years and it regenerates itself without the need for planting or pesticides.
Bamboo flooring is made by cutting the hollow reeds of the bamboo plant into strips and soaked and boiled in water to remove the starch. The strips are dried flat and laminated into solid boards and treated with a preservative. Although boric acid is a common and non-toxic preservative, there is no easy to tell what the preservative the manufacturer used in production. Manufacturers can darken the naturally light color of the bamboo by pressure steaming the material before lamination.

Almost all bamboo sold for building flooring is produced in the Hunan region of China. The bamboo forests in this area are all owned by the government and licenses are issued to contractors to remove the bamboo. Although some buyers are concerned that bamboo production may interfere with the giant panda’s habitat, pandas actual live at a higher altitude and eat a different species of bamboo.
Overall, bamboo is an attractive material for flooring because it is hard, strong, and stable, but it is important to keep in mind the benefits and drawbacks of the material before deciding to purchase and install it. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Bamboo Flooring:

—hardness and durability: bamboo is one of the harder floorer materials, actual hardness varies by manufacturer and batch but it is ranges from slightly less hard than red oak to significantly harder

—renewable: bamboo grows to maturity in only 3 years, and regenerates without planting, making it a very attractive material compared to hardwords that take decades to grow to mature and require pesticides and intensive planting efforts

—LEED certified: because of the fast growth, little need for pesticides, and regeneration times, bamboo is considered a LEED certified building material
Cons of Bamboo Flooring:

—long shipping distances to North America and Europe: when looking at how green a choice of building material, it is important to keep in mind the distance the material has travelled. If you are buying bamboo in North America or Europe, it probably came from China and it probably travelled a long way and required a lot of fuel to get to you.

—lack of standards: although bamboo is LEED certified as a building material, there is no way to certify that the bamboo flooring you purchase was grown in a sustainable way or cured and treated with non-toxic materials

—not all bamboo flooring is hard: quality and hardness of bamboo flooring varies greatly (as does the price) so it is very important to verify the hardness of the bamboo flooring you buy and install

—not all bamboo flooring can float: although some bamboo flooring can be installed to float, not all can; it is important to check this before you buy and bring the flooring home

Summary:

Bamboo has some great qualities: generally hard, regenerates itself, matures quickly, looks good; it also has some negatives: varying quality of material, almost all bamboo is shipped from China, lack of standards in bamboo certification. Overall, it is one of the best flooring choices from both an environmental and economic consideration, however it is extremely important to do your homework on the bamboo batch and manufacturer before you buy and install your new floor.

Some other flooring options to consider:
—cork
—linoleum
—concrete
—reclaimed wood

Posted by casey on 09/18 at 11:36 PM
BuildingFlooring & Floorcoverings

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