Bamboo Flooring

November 17, 2005
beautiful bamboo flooring
Bamboo is relatively new to the flooring industry. Compared to tile, stone, carpet, wood, laminate, and linoleum floors, it has lots to offer. It’s a renewable resource and good on radiant floor heating systems.


Have you thought about using grass for your flooring? Well, you can do just that, if you select bamboo.


Bamboo is grown in latitudes between 40 degrees south and 40 degrees north, mostly in Asian forests, though Central America has bamboo forests as well. It’s a grass with a tree-like or shrubby form and woody stems. The strength of the bamboo comes from its growth structure; it’s a hollow stem with rigid internal internodes, like a collection of solid-ended tubes, one on top of another, running the length of the stalk. Bamboo matures enough to use for quality flooring in five to seven years; Bamboo younger than five years old isn’t strong enough to make a long-lasting floor. After harvesting, a new batch of bamboo grass re-grows from the remaining rhizomes and “trunk”. Not only is bamboo a fast growing resource, but it also takes much less space than a hardwood forest to get the same amount of flooring product.

This flooring material may seem a bit unusual at first glance, but it can really be a great option for those wanting a hard-surface floor. The positives of bamboo flooring are numerous.


    • Fire, mildew, and naturally insect resistant.
    • Health issues (being a hard surface, it’s a good option for those who suffer allergies because it doesn’t harbor dust and dander).
    • It can be stained to match your decor
    • It is a renewable resource, known for its hardness and durability.
    • Good on radiant heat floors.


Negatives around bamboo are few, and mostly relate to preferences, not the material itself.


      • Noisy (being a hard surface, it reflects rather than absorbs sound).
      • Bleaches in intense, direct sunlight.
      • Construction (engineered versus solid material).
      • Short history in the market (it has only been manufactured as a flooring product since 1993, meaning we don’t have the history to tell us how it will wear in the long run).


Bamboo is an engineered floor, with the processed grass strips layered and glued to make a dimensionally stable flooring product. It can be cut and glued horizontally or vertically, giving different looks and hardness results. And given its native climate where moisture ranges widely during the growing season, it can be used in places wood floors are usually avoided, like the in bathroom and kitchen and on radiant floors, because it is used to moisture fluctuations.
Bamboo flooring’s hardness rating, usually gauged by ASTM 1037 (also known as Janko Hardness Rating) is higher than most wood floorings. According to ASTM 1037 tests, bamboo shows an average hardness of 1642, making it 21 percent harder than white oak and 13 percent harder than hard maple. Bamboo is amply hard enough to use as flooring. One example of its strength is illustrated by the fact it’s used for scaffolding in even high-rise buildings in China.
Bamboo normally comes in two styles and two shades, though some manufacturers also make tinted floors. The styles include vertical and horizontal cuts. The horizontal, or flat grain, cut is the broad pieces glued side by side, and then several layers glued on top of each other to attain the 5/8″ thickness. Both show the “knots”, but the vertical cut is narrow slices glued side by side to achieve a 3-6″ plank width (both style of construction have thick enough slices that repair and refinishing are readily done). The shade options you have are natural (a soft, golden blonde color) and caramelized, or carbonized (a rich, caramel or amber color). Flooring of horizontal grain with natural shade is the hardest of the bamboo products, followed by vertical grain with natural shade, then horizontal grain with caramelized shade, and finally vertical grain with caramelized shade being the least hard, but still harder than white oak.
The question of whether bamboo can be used with radiant floor heating systems is discussed a lot. My analysis is that given its durability and being engineered, that if the radiant temperature in the heating element (electric wire or water pipe) doesn’t exceed 105 degrees (85 degrees being what my plumber subscribes to), there’s no problem installing acclimatized bamboo on a radiant floor. Your flooring installer can help you decide which installations style — floating, glue-down, or nailed-down — is best for your situation.
Live dangerously and buy grass for your new floor. It may be the best option for you, given all that it has to offer, as your choice in a hard-surface floor.


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