As more homeowners become interested in sustainable, environmentally-friendly products, bamboo has risen in popularity. Bamboo is a natural product sourced directly from the earth, just like hardwood, granite, marble, and other popular materials used in the home. However, bamboo is unique in that it is a type of grass. After harvesting, it is cut into long, rectangular strips that are then combined using adhesives and high pressure. This process creates a final product that is durable and aesthetically similar to hardwood, depending on which edges of the bamboo are laminated together.
As with any material, bamboo flooring pros and cons will be best left to the user’s needs. Unfinished bamboo has a light color similar to oak wood but can take on a darker brown hue after the application of heat. Like wood, there are lots of reasons why bamboo can be a perfect material, but there are also drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know before making a decision on whether bamboo is right for you.
Bamboo Flooring Pros
- Eco-friendly. Despite its lasting popularity, hardwood trees can take up to twenty years to reach maturity, meaning that it isn’t the most sustainable option. Bamboo, in comparison, takes approximately 5-7 years to reach full maturity and hardness. This means bamboo can be harvested more frequently to create more products, without the ecological costs that come with deforestation.
- Durable. Bamboo flooring pros relate to strength can be just as durable as hardwood flooring, provided that you purchase a high quality product. Search for bamboo that is un-carbonized and strand woven to ensure that you’re getting the most durable flooring possible. As a rule, light natural-colored bamboo is more durable than the darker kinds that have been treated with heat.
- Affordable. Bamboo’s ability to be harvested more frequently makes it a less rarer product than most kinds of hardwood. This means that bamboo can be priced much lower, making it an affordable option for budget-conscious remodelers. You can find bamboo priced as low as $5-$8 per square foot. However, cheaper isn’t always better, and it’s best to do your research and prioritize quality over price.
- Variety. Stylistically, bamboo is available in many aesthetic varieties. Bamboo is found in light and dark shades, and a variety of grains and finishes. You can find edge grain planks that are almost indistinguishable from hardwood or you can embrace the unique flat grain look that is characteristic of bamboo. For most kitchen styles and design preferences, there is a style of bamboo flooring that is a perfect match.
- Easy to maintain. With regular sweeping and mopping, your bamboo floor will be easy to maintain. Simply use water and mild soap, or purchase a ready-made cleaner specifically for bamboo.
Bamboo Flooring Cons
- Prone to scratching. Though it is quite durable, exposure to sharp products such as furniture edges or pointy high heels can leave scratches in the floor. This, however, can still be remedied by refinishing the floor’s surface.
- Susceptible to expanding or shrinking. Like some wood products, bamboo planks can be vulnerable in climates that are too dry or too humid. While dry air can cause shrinking, humid air can cause expansion.
- Prone to water damage. Under normal conditions, bamboo is just as water-resistant as hardwood flooring. However, because it is still a natural product, it isn’t completely impermeable. Exposure to too much water can cause warping, discoloration, and mold. It’s advisable to take measures to protect your bamboo flooring from prolonged moisture.
- No grading system. If you’ve spent time shopping around for natural building materials, you may have noticed that they often come with a letter-based or star-based grading system that indicates the quality of the material. No such grading system currently exists for bamboo, meaning that it is easier to mistakenly purchase low-quality bamboo products. To bypass this, it’s very important to do your research and purchase bamboo from reputable manufacturers.
- Can contribute to poor air quality. One bamboo flooring con has to do with the manufacturing process. As with many other composite products, some bamboo manufacturers use adhesives that release VOCs, or volatile organic chemicals, which can contribute to air pollution within the home. For the safety of your family, be sure that the manufacturer you purchase from sells low-VOC products. Search for products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
While the bamboo flooring pros and cons could initially be off-putting, they mostly apply to poor quality bamboo sourced from an unreputable source. With proper research, bamboo flooring pros can offer a product that will be more beneficial. To ease your concerns, it’s best to purchase from a reputable manufacturer and choose a product that has holds an FSC Certification. You can then rest assured that your bamboo flooring will be safe and long-lasting. If you’re looking for a flooring material with much of the benefits of hardwood without the environmental and financial costs, bamboo may just be your best bet.