Bamboo flooring is a term that can be somewhat misleading if you’ve never seen this type of flooring up close. While we’ve discussed the best bamboo flooring brands and talked about how to keep it clean, what most homeowners don’t realize are the types of bamboo flooring available. In this guide, we’re going to break down bamboo to help you better understand the options for your home.
Engineered Bamboo Flooring
This type of bamboo flooring is what most homeowners will be familiar with, and is often the most affordable option as well. Engineered bamboo flooring is manufactured in the same way as traditional engineered flooring whether the veneer is made from Oak, Maple, or something more exotic.
Engineered bamboo flooring uses a thin strip of wood across the top of each plank to give it the look of solid bamboo. It’s thinner but has a core that can be flexible or rigid. Some engineered bamboo flooring can be refinished as well if the top layer is thick enough for a light to medium sanding.
Vertical & Horizontal Bamboo Flooring
Both vertical and horizontal bamboo flooring are unique and can be used as a veneer for engineered flooring. In solid form, it’s much thicker and made in an interesting way. Long strips are taken from the bamboo stalks where they are then boiled and dried. This removes starch, insects, and sugar from the strips.
With vertical bamboo, the strips are glued together vertically which makes the flooring as thick as with width of the strips. The grain pattern is less pronounced than what you’ll find from horizontal bamboo flooring. While the basic techniques remain the same, these strips are much wider which provides homeowners with a completely different look.
Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo is well-known for being a fast-growing resource that’s much stronger than it looks. That holds true for all types of bamboo flooring, but one style is harder than the rest. That’s strand woven bamboo, which is comprised of shredded bamboo fiber.
Bamboo strands and strips have the skin removed before being boiled, dried, and processed into a pulp. This mixture is then put into a mold and pressed under extreme pressure into a solid block. Planks are cut from these blocks, which given the boards a random pattern. The strength varies by manufacturer, but strand woven bamboo is generally rated at 2,500 to over 3,000 on the Janka hardness scale.
Bamboo Flooring by Installation Method
Most formats of bamboo flooring are considered DIY-friendly, but there are actually four types of bamboo flooring to choose from going by the installation method. Needless to say, some are easier than others and several can be installed in more than one way.
Bamboo flooring that’s listed as glue-down will require adhesive. The glue can be applied along the edges of each board or to the subfloor depending on the manufacturers’ recommendations. Alternatively, click-lock bamboo flooring is also an option if you prefer engineered flooring to solid bamboo.
Click-lock milling along the edges allows each plank to snap together which makes installation quick and easy. It’s considered floating flooring, little to no adhesive is used with this type of bamboo flooring. While the selection is somewhat sparse, nail-down bamboo flooring is also an option just like with traditional hardwood.
Bamboo Flooring Styles
Bamboo flooring in its natural form will bring a distinct look to your home, but as with hard flooring styles, it can also be stained. With that in mind, strand-woven bamboo flooring is challenging to stain and has its own unique vibe. The most popular color options for vertical and horizontal bamboo flooring are browns that range from light to dark and several shades of grey.
One unique style comes into play with carbonized bamboo flooring. It’s something you won’t find from other types of flooring as it relies on sugar within the bamboo strips. The sugars are caramelized which adds a darker hue to the material depending on how long it was boiled. Caramelized bamboo is unique, but not as strong as other types of bamboo flooring.
Bamboo Flooring by Size
In recent years, a big trend in the flooring world has been boards that are wider and longer. Manufacturers use terms from wide to extra-large to describe these planks, which can range from 6” to 8” wide.
In our research, we found most bamboo flooring is actually medium or traditionally sized. That means the majority of brands produce flooring between 5” to 6.5” with a few exceptions. Cali Bamboo and a few other companies also make narrow boards at 3 ¾” along with some styles that come in mixed widths.
Thickness depends on whether you choose engineered or solid bamboo flooring. 9/16” is the most popular option, and can be found with both engineered and solid bamboo flooring. It’s also the most affordable. 7/16” hardwood is more expensive along with flooring, and other popular sizes include 5/8” and 1/2" bamboo flooring.
One of the ways manufacturers added realism to synthetic forms of flooring has been through the use of finishing techniques. It’s a way to add an extra level of depth to vinyl or laminate flooring but is also used with solid, engineered hardwood and bamboo flooring.
When you are looking for flooring with a smooth surface, you’ll want traditional planks. They are also considered the easiest to clean as no texture has been added to the top. Wire-brushed bamboo flooring is one of the most popular types while distressed boards live up to their namesake with a worn surface. Hand scraped and hand-sculpted bamboo flooring is also available for a premium price.
Whether you’re interested in budget-friendly bamboo with a natural tone or something thick and caramelized, rest assured there is an option for your home. This versatile flooring can outlast traditional hardwoods but is just as easy to install. There is no perfect flooring material, however, so we advise considering the pros and cons of bamboo flooring beforehand.