The trouble with wood flooringWood flooring can be a gorgeous addition to any home, as wood is often both more beautiful than carpeting and also more durable. A good wood floor can improve the property value of your home as well, and as wood floors are relatively easy to install, the cost of making the switch is relatively low.
However, as with any major change to your home, wood floors present unique challenges to the homeowner. One of your biggest concerns when installing a wood floor may be the environmental impact of the change, since the creation of a beautiful hardwood floor requires a good deal of logging and not all tree harvesting is done in an environmentally friendly way.
While there are many suppliers that source their wood from second-growth forests that are grown especially for their wood, it can be easy to stumble across less scrupulous suppliers that are harvesting their wood directly from shrinking rainforests or vulnerable wilderness habitats. Even with the various certifications that exist to show that wood has been sustainably harvested, it can become nearly impossible to be certain that your new floor was brought to you by a responsible and ethical company.
An Eco-friendly alternativeBamboo flooring avoids all of these issues. Because bamboo is a type of grass, not a tree, it grows incredibly fast--many times faster than any other wood source. A single bamboo plant can grow incredibly quickly, sometimes as much as 3 feet in a single day. That means that a piece of wood that would take years for a rainforest to produce can emerge from a bamboo stand in one growing season.
Because bamboo grows so quickly, it's much easier for bamboo forests to meet the ever-growing demands of the wood industry. Bamboo flooring takes much less resource to produce than traditional hardwoods, and bamboo harvesting has a much smaller environmental impact because of this. Wood taken from a bamboo stand can simply be replenished within a year or two, as opposed to ordinary forests, which when cut down often never recover. In their home ecologies, bamboo species thrive in warm temperatures and take advantage of heavy, intense rainy seasons. This tropical plant is used to putting out huge volumes of new growth as quickly as possible, which makes it an ideal substitute for hardwoods.
A different variety for every needThere are dozens of different species of bamboo, and each grows in its own unique way. Clumping bamboo tends to grow new stalks in a small area, while running bamboo sends out "runners" that create new plants all along the root system in a chain. Both species are fast growing, but running bamboo is the fastest-spreading type, and uncontained can swiftly take over large areas. In fact, when introduced to foreign environments, some bamboo species are considered invasive and can quickly overwhelm local ecosystems.
Thanks to the huge variety of bamboo species currently living, your new bamboo flooring will have a unique and beautiful texture completely unlike any other hardwood floor. The long grains and fibres of the bamboo plant give this type of wood a very intricate, organic pattern that is especially beautiful in modern homes, and bamboo floors can be found in an astonishing array of colours and shades.
Durability firstSince the fibres of the plant are springy and flexible but just as woody as any tree, bamboo makes an ideal flooring material. Typical bamboo floors are smooth with a satin-like texture, and take stains, sealers, and top coats extremely well.
But how durable is bamboo flooring? The answer depends on the additives included in the material. Stalks of bamboo aren't simply cut down and sawed into planks the way trees are. Bamboo fibres, before they become solid wood floors, are broken down into strands and then woven and reintegrated with adhesives to bind them more closely together.
Traditional construction bamboo, made by laying the bamboo stocks crosswise against the planking of the floor, has a Janka rating hardness of between 900 and 1300, a good mid-level rating. This type of bamboo may be susceptible to small scratches if you move your furniture regularly, but can be protected with rugs and sealers.
Strand-woven bamboo, however, is woven much more tightly among the strands, and uses more adhesive to create a higher hardness rating of between 2000 and 3200, near the peak end of the Janka scale. These floors are as tough as any hardwood and will certainly stand the test of time. Shop carefully for your specific needs.
Which bamboo is best for you?Whether you're looking for a cherry red or a lighter blonde colour, there's certainly a bamboo available for you. Be sure to carefully research the flooring that will best suit your needs, and enjoy your beautiful new floor!
Mark Hutchison founded bamboo flooring company Bamboozle, based in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Mark on Google Plus, too..