If you are interested in a different style of hardwood flooring, bamboo is an excellent alternative. It’s one of the more eco-friendly woods available compared to other hardwoods as well. The best bamboo flooring will give your living space a unique look, and we think you’ll be surprised some of the options available.
The Advantages of Bamboo Flooring
Whether you’re looking for acacia hardwood flooring, cork or bamboo, you have to consider the material itself as there are pros and cons when you decide to use bamboo flooring in your home. It’s also important to remember bamboo is actually a form of grass, not a true hardwood, although it’s considerably tougher than other types of building materials.
Bamboo is a natural material and easy to renew when compared to other woods, which is ideal if you are trying to go green. While bamboo still has to be harvested and processed which does require energy, it grows back very quickly. In fact, some forms of this plant can grow over 30 inches in a single day.
This form of flooring is also easy to clean, and can handle water fairly well when properly finished. It’s durable, but how much abuse it can take depends on the type of manufacturing process that was used along with the wear layer. We will address both of those areas shortly.
Compared to hand scraped hickory or oak flooring, bamboo flooring cost is “usually” cheaper so the price can be a major advantage. On average, average bamboo flooring runs around $2.00 per square foot compared to hand scraped Hickory at $5-6 or quality Oak which starts at $3 in most cases.
Bamboo Flooring Cons
As you can’t have the sweet without the sour, there are also a few drawbacks to this type of flooring. There aren’t many compared to other hardwood flooring styles, but you may experience bamboo flooring problems if you live in a humid area.
Humidity can wreak havoc on hardwood flooring, and even though bamboo grows in swampy areas, it can warp and shrink just like any wood flooring. When properly finished, it shouldn’t be a concern, but is something to keep in mind as it is not the ideal choice for bathrooms, basements or kitchens in some cases. Top quality products may be “room rated” as well which can allow you to find flooring for rooms that get more moisture.
Quality control is also an issue as there is no grading system, so you’ll need to pay more attention to things like color variation along with the overall quality. That also applies to toxins and VOCs as untested or cheap bamboo flooring which may contain harmful chemicals that can seep out into your air over time.
If you opt for engineered bamboo flooring, there was an adhesive used in the manufacturing process, so you also have to take into account the type of glue you are using as well. Neither of these should be a significant concern if you purchase properly vetted products and do your due diligence when looking at brands you are unfamiliar with.
Types of Bamboo Flooring
While most bamboo flooring is engineered, the way it’s made makes a huge difference in the durability and the overall style. That means you need to understand a bit more about how bamboo planks are made unless you’re buying solid bamboo flooring.
- Horizontal and Vertical Solid – Both of these styles are made in a similar fashion which starts with harvesting and cutting the bamboo stalks into small strips. Once stripped, treated and dried, you are left with a natural looking wood unless it’s been carbonized. After an adhesive has been applied, the strips are pressed together horizontally or vertically. Both styles give the planks a distinct look, and if you want a look closest to bamboo, horizontal is your best choice.
- Strand Woven – Strand woven bamboo is can be harder than red oak and is perfect for areas of your home that get a lot of foot traffic. It’s a fiber-based form of flooring which that’s processed in a similar fashion and pressed into blocks before being cut down into planks. It’s sanded and finished like our other options, but much stronger if it’s well-made.
- Engineered Bamboo Flooring – A similar process is used to make these planks, but the finished plank is actually sliced into thinner horizontal layers. Those layers are used on top of a “core” which can be made from a variety of things from plywood to MDF. This layered style of flooring is a step up from laminate and is typically thicker, but a step down from solid hardwood flooring. It is suitable bathrooms in most cases; however, as engineered bamboo flooring tends to repel water better than natural hardwood.
If you see bamboo wood flooring that looks darker than its natural shade, it may have been carbonized to give it more depth and bring out the texture. Carbonization will darken the wood but also weakens it, so keep that in mind if you have high traffic areas.
How to Choose Quality Bamboo
Now that you understand the types of bamboo that are available, it’s time to talk about what you’ll need to look for choosing between two styles of bamboo flooring.
As mentioned, some forms of bamboo flooring are more durable than others, so the first thing you’ll want to look for is the hardness rating. It’s measured on something called the Janka scale, and should be a specification that’s to locate in listings or on the box itself.
Wear Layer or Finish
The second thing to consider is the wear layer or finish. This is the layer of protection companies put on top of the plank, and varies wildly from one manufacturer to the next. What’s used isn’t nearly as important as the thickness of the finish, however. High-quality planks tend to have thicker top coats, which means you get more protection against scratches, dents, and dings.
While there is no magic number, look for flooring with a thick wear layer if you expect heavy traffic. It also gives you the advantage of being able to sand down your floors numerous times compared to only a few times on boards with thin wear layers, if you can sand those at all.
Width & Thickness
This is an overlooked and important area for obvious reasons. Flooring is priced by the square foot, but sold by the box and can come in various widths. With bamboo, you can choose from medium or wide in most cases which will also vary by the manufacturer to a degree, but specialty shops offer narrow and extra wide bamboo flooring as well.
As for the thickness, in our research, we found that most bamboo flooring ranges from 9/16” to 1/2” thick. ¾” is the sweet spot for most consumers, and the thicker the wood, the higher the price and the underlayment does add some padding. Regardless of the width or thickness, you also have the keep the run length in mind as well.
The maximum run length lets you know how far you can lay down one run of flooring before you need to break. With solid wood or tongue and groove installs, you may not have a max number, but have to pay close attention to this specification if you are using engineered bamboo flooring.
Whenever you have to use an adhesive of any kind indoors, it can result in pollution through VOCs or other hazardous chemicals. While it pays to read the labels on your glue, there are a few certifications you can look for as well.
GREENGUARD certification is one stamp of approval that you’ll want to check for and Floorscore by SGS Global is another. Each company has its own certification process, and while we won’t go into details, the best bamboo flooring will have one or both of those stamps.
Warranties are generally 25 years, although some products may have separate coverage for the finishing, and structure itself. That number is also only for residential use, so if you are installing the flooring in a commercial area, expect the warranty drop significantly
Installation Tips for Bamboo Flooring
Wondering how to install bamboo flooring? While bamboo may not a traditional type of wood, it’s just as easy to install as any other types of flooring. How easy it actually is depends on the style as glue is easier to deal with than nails, especially if this will be your first installation.
With bamboo flooring, it will either need to be nailed down, glued or will use a click-lock style system that simply lets you slide planks together. That will vary by brand and manufacturer, but there are a few tools you’ll need to have on hand along with your underlayment.
Whether nailing your floor down or installing a floating bamboo floor, you’ll need a measuring tape, pencil, and a square at a minimum. We also highly recommend a good razor knife, rubber mallet, and a tamping block. All of these items are cheap and should be easy to find if you don’t already have them at home.
You can rent a nailer if needed or a saw, but you’ll have to have the latter regardless of your installation method. A miter or chop saw is ideal, but circular and hand saws can be used as well if you’re confident in your skills. Alternatively, you can always hire a professional for the job.
Bamboo Flooring Prices & Cost with Installation
|Bamboo Types||Average Prices||Average Cost with Installation|
|Engineered||$2 – $5||$4 – $8|
|Strand||$4 – $8||$7 – $15|
|Solid||$3 – $6||$5 – $10|
The Best Bamboo Brands Reviews
|Teragren||Engineered, Strand, Solid||FloorScore||12, 14, 15||25|
|Ambient||Engineered, Strand||FloorScore||14, 15||Lifetime|
|Cali Bamboo||Engineered, Strand||FloorScore||6, 10, 11, 14, 16||50|
|Plyboo||Strand, Solid||FloorScore||10, 14, 16||25|
|Home Decorators Collection||Engineered, Strand, Solid||Greenguard / FloorScore||10, 13, 16||Strand: LifetimeSolid: 30|
|Home Legend||Engineered, Strand, Solid||Greenguard||7, 10, 13, 14, 16||Strand: 55, LifetimeSolid: 25, 30, 35|
|Morningstar||Engineered, Strand||Greenguard / FloorScore||10, 13, 14, 16||50/Lifetime|
Teragren is an eco-friendly company that’s often mentioned in top bamboo flooring reviews as they specialize in quality bamboo products including panels, veneer, flooring, and countertops. Their lineup is suitable for your home or office, and there are two types of flooring to choose from with XCORA Strand Floors and Pureform Bamboo. We also like the fact their planks are available in several widths from narrow to ultra wide at 7.68 inches.
Pureform is 40% harder than red oak and available in engineered form with a self-locking system in one collection while the other three collections are solid and use the tongue & groove system. XCORA is 160% harder than red oak, so it’s ideal for commercial use and available in five collections and 14 different shades.
If you are looking for bamboo flooring that’s harder than other brands and available in different widths, Teragren is well worth a look. This flooring might be a bit hard to track down depending on where you live as it’s mainly sold in specialty flooring shops, not major hardware stores.
Ambient Bamboo Floors
Ambient Bamboo has been producing sustainable flooring since 2005 and provides consumers with a range of bamboo options from hand scraped extra wide strand planks to carbonized click-lock and even plywood. They are a one-stop-shop as well, so while you can’t buy their products from big box retailers, you can pick up matching trim, molding and installation supplies.
The company’s bamboo flooring comes engineered or in solid strand. They have several categories with flooring geared for basements and kitchens as well with planks ranging from 3 to 6 feet in various widths. No matter what style or size you choose, their flooring is easy to install and their solid strand lineup can be refinished up to 4 times.
Pricing for Ambient’s bamboo flooring starts at $3.29 per sq. ft. for engineered flooring and a little over $4 bucks for sturdy solid strand boards. They are one of the more affordable options available and safe to use as they are FloorScore certified and approved by all the key associations.
As the name implies, Cali Bamboo is another company that specializes in bamboo although they carry a wide variety of products like acacia wood flooring and composite decking as well. Founded in 2004, the company provides low VOC flooring for homeowners and contractors alike. Some of their bamboo flooring is even backed by a 50-year warranty, and they have a vast selection of shades and styles of choose from.
Whether you need solid bamboo in a Vintage Moonlight finish or prefer engineered Bordeaux bamboo, Cali has you covered with over 40 options to choose from across their product lineup. That includes engineered and solid flooring along with a line of recycled bamboo composite decking if you want to take that exotic look outdoors to the patio.
Cali Bamboo and range from around $3.50 – $6.00 per square foot, so they offer a wide range depending on your needs, but aren’t exactly budget-friendly like other alternatives. You can pick up their flooring from through Lowe’s or contact the company for a quote on your project.
Smith & Fong have been in the bamboo business since 1989, and are considered one of the best bamboo flooring brands around. That includes consumers that want to build a bamboo basketball court with PlybooSport or cover an entire room including the ceiling with their specialty planks. Their product range is impressive, and they are certified by all the leading authorities in the flooring world.
There are four types of Plyboo flooring products available with Edge Grain, Flat Grain, PlybooStrand, and Stiletto Strand. Each style brings something unique to the table, and the solid strand styles are three times harder than red oak flooring. Edge grain is the most common style from a design standpoint while Flat grain put the knots and nodes on full display.
Plyboo’s products are pricey and fall under the premium category when it comes to pricing. That could rule them out if your budget is tight. Pricing for their lineup begins at around $4.50 per sq. ft. and as it’s sold direct, you’ll need to purchase Plyboo online.
While those are just a handful of bamboo brands at the top, there are others worth considering as well. The four stores below carry close to a dozen different bamboo flooring brands, most of which are cheaper than or our top options.
Home Depot carries three different lines with the Home Decorators Collection, Home Legend, and Islander. There are products rated for below grade and a style or shade for everyone. That includes hands scraped and distressed wood along with commercial quality products. They have plenty of affordable options as well, just like their main competition.
Lowe’s is your best place to pick up Cali Bamboo, but they also carry Natural Floors by USFloors along with FLEXCO and SMARTCORE. The pricing is comparable to Home Depot, but there’s not as much of a selection outside of Cali’s products. Both Lowes and Home Depot are easy to locate if you live in the continental United States and ship as well.
BuildDirect is an online retailer that has product pick-up warehouses in select cities and carries Yanchi, one of the more popular options in the budget class. It’s ideal when you need to lay down a lot of flooring without breaking the bank with pricing starting at a little over $2.00 per square foot. At this time, they have are around 50 styles of flooring available along with hundreds of accessories.
You can find a Lumber Liquidators location in almost any state, and it’s a great place to shop for Acacia wood flooring and bamboo hardwood. They also carry two brands of bamboo with Supreme Bamboo and Morningstar. The Supreme line has 10 affordable planks that top out at $2.50 per square foot while the Morningstar lineup consists of the XD and Ultra lines.
There are over 40 options among the Morningstar Bamboo series including some very interesting options like Distressed Café au Lait. Those prices are between $2 – $4.00 per square foot in both engineered and strand although the former is more prevalent than the latter.