Bamboo flooring is heralded as an attractive eco-friendly alternative to more conventional materials, including tiles. But what is it about this resource that makes it so appealing? And importantly, how does it measure up to the performance and feel of better-known materials such as tiling?
For many, all questions fade away after one look at a bamboo floor: it’s undeniably beautiful. The rich colours made possible through carbonization or strand weaving create a variety of bamboo plank options that are both unique and inviting. For a look more traditionally associated with the naturally knobby plant, look for solid bamboo flooring, which can be made to retain this characteristic appearance. In whichever style, there’s no denying the warmth bamboo brings to a room, particularly in comparison to tile.
Interior designs have incorporated bamboo flooring into almost every style of living and work space. From sleek, modern simplicity to rich warm and rustic; any space can be transformed through the versatility and distinction of bamboo. Its characteristic charm makes a bamboo floor a welcome addition to any room. This broad range of styling is simply not possible with tiling.
Speaking of warmth, bamboo flooring is even compatible with under-floor heating systems. Its great feel underfoot is even more enjoyable when bamboo is incorporated as part of a heated floor system. Bamboo is naturally moisture-resistant, outpacing hardwood in this arena. Maintaining its appeal requires no special cleaners, only an occasional sweeping or vacuuming. When one does manage to chip or scratch the flooring, repairing bamboo is a breeze in comparison to tile. Requiring supplies as simple as a permanent marker, scratches disappear from bamboo in minutes.
With time, natural flooring gains hues and charm that reflect its use. This melding of tones can continue to enhance the appearance of rooms fitted with bamboo flooring, as attested to by some vintage Asian homes. For those who choose to refresh the appearance, bamboo is also amenable to simply sanding and refinishing. The replacement and regrouting required for tile floors can simply not compare to the beauty of aging and simplicity of sanding that characterize bamboo.
Mature bamboo boasts some of the highest tensile and compressive strengths of any known building material, including steel. This has driven its use as a building material, including scaffolding and support columns, for thousands of years in Asia. The Janka Hardness Scale ranks bamboo at three times that of even the strongest hardwoods, making it the most durable option for wood-type floors.
Solid bamboo, available in a wide range of styles, is matched in strength only by strand-woven bamboo flooring. Options are available for vertical, horizontal and high-density weaving, all of which retain their greatest strength profiles in natural hues. High-quality bamboo flooring will last 30 to 50 years and has a resilience that outstrips tile. The cracks that result from a single flower vase hitting a tile floor are a testament to that!
The ecological appeal of bamboo is due to its rapid growth. Encompassing a variety of breeds, bamboo is the largest grass in the world. It reaches harvest-able height and characteristic hardness in as little as three years. The Moso species, which is most often used for the production of flooring, grows at a rate of more than one meter per day!
Whereas many flooring option are from non-renewable resources, responsibly managed bamboo plants have minimum eco-impact. Only the poles (i.e. culms) are required for harvesting as bamboo regenerates from its extensive root system. This can reduce the environmental impact of bamboo production, with less need to plant and till. It also keeps the vast amount of carbon dioxide these plants sequester locked away in the soil, acting as an agent to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Even when heated, processed and imported, bamboo flooring production is at least carbon-neutral. Look for manufacturers who use environmentally friendly solvents and glues in order to enhance this benefit even further. The quarrying and intense amount of energy input required in tile manufacture makes its ecological impact much greater than that of bamboo.
Bamboo flooring has been included in the FloorScore rating system developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute. Products carrying this label meet an extensive list of healthy building standards, including the Green Guide for Health Care. Being a renewable resource, bamboo can be awarded points in the Green Building Council’s LEED program. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) also provides certification of bamboo products that have met standards of both social and environmental responsibility.