When you want a natural type of flooring that can outlast oak or hickory, bamboo is an excellent choice. It’s one of the most durable types of flooring sold today, and something can add a unique look to any room in your home. As popular as this material is, it’s not perfect, however, which is why it’s important to weigh the pros against the cons.
A bit more about Bamboo…
Is bamboo a plank or wood? That’s one of the first questions we get from homeowners curious about this type of flooring. While it is often referred to and sold alongside hardwood flooring, bamboo is a form of grass.
The stalk or culm of bamboo can grow up to several feet in diameter, and far faster than any tree used to produce traditional hardwood flooring. Instead of being cut down from a large piece of timber, bamboo is sliced, processed, and can even be made into a pulp before becoming flooring.
While you can read more about the process itself in our guides, the main thing to remember is that strand-woven bamboo is the strongest type. Vertical and horizontal bamboo are incredibly resilient as well, but not as durable as strand-woven bamboo.
Colors and Styles
When compared side-by-side with Oak, Hickory, Maple, or Pine, Bamboo certainly stands out. Each type of bamboo flooring has a distinct style as well. Vertical and horizontal bamboo get their names from how they are designed, and strand-woven bamboo is something you just have to see for yourself.
Some exotic species are just as unique, although it’s more for the grain pattern than how it’s produced. With bamboo, you can get both wide and narrow grained boards, but manufacturers also use a few unique techniques that alter the style.
Carbonized bamboo is darker than natural bamboo flooring, and you have to take into account stains and finishes as well. This flooring isn’t quite as popular as traditional hardwood flooring but comes in just as many colors, sizes, and styles.
Maintenance comes down to two things with hardwood flooring of any kind – cleaning and repairs. Bamboo flooring may be durable, but it is not impervious to damage. It can be scratched or gouged – even if strand-woven bamboo is compressed and difficult to dent.
The good news is repairing bamboo flooring is as easy as repairing any type of hardwood flooring. A repair kit with wood filler can take care of mild to moderate issues, even if color matching can be challenging. It can also be refinished as long as the top layer is thick enough, which can revitalize bamboo floors after decades.
Bamboo flooring is also easy to clean. You can use a broom and dustpan or a dry mop like a Swiffer to quickly clean up dirt and smaller debris. Vacuum cleaners are also an option, both manual and robotic along with spray mops. Wet mops and steam mops are not advised for bamboo flooring of any kind.
Bamboo Flooring Installation
If you are looking for a flooring style that’s easy to install, look no further than bamboo. It’s just as easy to install as luxury vinyl tile, but is stronger and gives you more options to choose from. Engineered bamboo flooring is generally of the click-lock variety, but there are also brands that require adhesive.
For thicker bamboo flooring, you can find options that also slide together or are glued to the floor. It can be nailed down like traditional hardwood as many boards have a tongue and groove profile. This not only makes it easier for homeowners to install, but it’s quicker for professionals which can also save you money.
No matter how good any type of flooring is, there are a few things that can damage it beyond repair. Weather is one of those, and while you don’t have to worry about rain indoors, water leaks, spills, and excess moisture can be a major problem.
Bamboo flooring is durable, but not impervious to moisture. It’s more structurally sound than solid hardwood, but not ideal for bathrooms. Moisture will cause bamboo flooring to warp or become damaged, and could even affect the subfloor below.
While there are companies that sell bamboo flooring rated as water-resistant, you still need to read the fine print if you plan to install it in any damp location. It could potentially void your warranty, so pay attention to the room rating considering basements and below-grade rooms can also be a problem.
When given the choice between a synthetic and natural product, the choice is always easy if you are an eco-friendly consumer. Solid wood flooring is considered sustainable, especially domestic species that are plentiful like Oak, Maple, Pine, and Hickory.
Exotic hardwood isn’t in the same class unless it’s been forested responsibly, and while bamboo is exotic, it is very eco-friendly. Bamboo can grow incredibly fast, which means it can be replaced quickly after being harvested. While the manufacturing process itself isn’t exactly green, it’s miles ahead of vinyl and other synthetics.
Resins and adhesives are used in the production of bamboo flooring, however. While that’s common, it also means you need to make sure the flooring is certified as Low VOC by FloorScore. This ensures the flooring is safe to use indoors without elevated levels of VOCs which could lead to a variety of respiratory systems.
Bamboo Flooring Pricing and Availability
The table above will give you an idea of bamboo flooring pricing, whether it’s solid, engineered, or fossilized for extra durability. As always, brand plays a major part in bamboo flooring pricing, but you also have to take thickness, style, and a few other factors into account.
Solid bamboo flooring in any form is “usually” more expensive than engineered bamboo, but that is not always the case. Thicker engineered flooring that can be refinished will bring a premium compared to budget-friendly bamboo flooring. The wear layer and type of finishing techniques used will also affect the price.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $3.50 to $6.00 or more for high-quality bamboo flooring, which is higher than similar forms of flooring and some hardwoods. The good news is it’s incredibly easy to acquire because of its popularity. You’ll have no trouble finding dozens of styles in local home improvements stores or flooring shops along with retailers online.
Bamboo Flooring Pros & Cons
When compared to traditional solid hardwood flooring, the best thing about bamboo is its style and durability. Solid hardwood and engineered planks are all made in the same general fashion whereas bamboo can be vertical, horizontal, or strand woven.
That alone gives it an advantage over hardwood flooring, and that’s before you factor in techniques like carbonization and fossilization. Stain and finishes give you even more to choose from, and solid bamboo is far harder than any domestic species. These floors won’t dent or ding as easily, but scratches can still be a problem along with moisture like other hardwood flooring.
Bamboo is one of the more versatile styles of flooring when it comes to installation. It’s a DIY-friendly form of flooring and one that can even be refinished as long as it’s thick enough. It’s sustainable, easy to acquire, and while it can be expensive, it’s still cheaper than comparable tropical hardwoods. Unfortunately, some of the pros can also be a con for consumers.
Bamboo may be a form of grass, but it’s still susceptible to water damage like solid hardwood, engineered flooring, and laminate. It’s suitable for kitchens, but not a good option for bathrooms and some below-grade areas including basements. Poor quality bamboo can be a problem as well, and the grain pattern or style will not be a fit with every type of décor.
When you understand the pros and cons of bamboo flooring, deciding on whether it’s the right choice for your home should be simple. While a highly distinctive form of hardwood flooring, the style may not be for everyone. If you want to learn more about bamboo and what to look for from the top brands, we have you covered.