Is Bamboo Flooring Right for You?

Yummy Bamboo

Photo Courtesy of Irargerich

Much like cork (which we examined earlier), bamboo flooring has been lauded as a green, sustainable alternative to hardwood flooring.  Like cork floors, however, there are benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits of Bamboo:

-Renewable Resource – Unlike hardwood trees that take around 100 years to fully mature enough to use for flooring, bamboo only takes about 3 to 7 years to mature.  Bamboo is an incredibly fast growing plant, growing as much as 39 inches in one day!  And because bamboo is a grass, not a tree, it replenishes itself without the need to replant it.  In fact, because bamboo is prone to overgrowth, harvesting it is actually beneficial to the environment.

Giant Bamboo Plants

Price– Compared to hardwood, bamboo floors can be a quite a bit less expensive.

Easy to Install– Most homeowners can install bamboo flooring themselves.  No special tools are need and the flooring is pre-finished, so you don’t have to sand or stain it.

Fire Resistant

-Attractive – Available in light to dark shades, bamboo floors look great and add warmth and style to any room.

-Anti-allergenic

Drawbacks of Bamboo:

-Softer than Hardwood – Because bamboo is a grass it is not as durable as hardwood and can be easily scratched or dented.  You should never wear high heels or drag furniture across bamboo and furniture legs should sit on coasters.  Pets may mark up bamboo floors as well.  There are many brands and variations in quality of bamboo flooring available, so testing your samples by banging them with a hammer is highly recommended.   Also remember that lighter shades of bamboo flooring will be sturdier since the darker shades are achieved by heating the bamboo, weakening it as a result.

-Not Locally Sourced –The majority of bamboo comes from Asia, increasing its embodied energy.

-Fading – Can fade in areas of direct sunlight.

Questionable Labor Practices –Because most of the bamboo flooring comes from China where there are no guidelines for fair labor practices.

Lax Government Standards – Again, due to the countries of origin, the production and construction of some of the bamboo flooring available are unregulated, resulting in a flooring that may have toxic byproducts.  Also, the adhesive used to manufacture the flooring often contains formaldehyde.

So, if you are in the market for bamboo floors, you have little bit of homework to do.  Test various samples of bamboo flooring to see which ones are the most durable; look into the manufacturer to make sure their bamboo flooring is formaldehyde free and fair trade.  And don’t go for the cheapest bamboo flooring available; you get what you pay for, and what you get will most likely be a floor with little durability.

FreeStyle/Place N' Go Bamboo

If you love the look of bamboo floors but want something manufactured a little closer to home and something much more durable that uses recycled material in the manufacturing, an alternative is Place N’ Go flooring in the Bamboo finish.  Place N’ Go uses no adhesives, is water-proof and eligible for LEED points.

Resources – TLC and Green Home Source

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