Are you sick of your carpet? Is your current hardwood flooring getting you down? Then you may want to take a look at bamboo flooring.
Related: Home Depot has a great flooring department. Click here to learn how the big orange store can save you big money on your flooring project.
A couple of decades ago, bamboo flooring was introduced to the world. Since then, it’s gotten a lot of attention as an environmentally friendly flooring choice.
But just as with many other things in life, there are some things you must consider before installing bamboo flooring. Here are the pros and cons to help you figure out if this flooring product is the right one for you.
Bamboo Flooring: A Primer
You may hear bamboo flooring referred to as a “hardwood” but we’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not made from wood at all. Bamboo is a grass and the flooring made from it is created from shredded and sliced strands of bamboo grass that are pressed together to form planks.
There are three basic types of solid bamboo flooring, each with its own distinctive look:
- Vertical bamboo– This flooring is made from cutting bamboo vertically, creating a uniform, striped look.
- Horizontal bamboo – This flooring produces a grain pattern that shows the “knuckles” of the bamboo. This is the look most commonly associated with this type of flooring.
- Strand woven bamboo – This flooring mixes together the grass fibers so they’re interlocked. This process produces the most expensive but hardest type of flooring.
Bamboo is normally very light in color but can undergo a process called carbonization in order to darken the surface. The problem is that carbonizing the flooring makes it softer than natural bamboo, which is a definite drawback. But more on that later!
The Pros of Bamboo Flooring
No doubt you’ve heard people you know wax philosophical about the wonders of bamboo flooring. Well, they’re not totally off base because there are some definite advantages to choosing this type of flooring.
Bamboo is a sustainable and natural material. It grows very fast, so cutting bamboo down in order to create flooring doesn’t have a huge impact on the environment because it can regrow in about five to seven years.
Compare that to red oak, which takes about 60 years to mature, and you can see why this is such a big ecological advantage as a renewable resource.
Bamboo may be a type of grass, but it can actually be harder than a lot of wood, including oak. That ensures that the bamboo flooring you install in your home will last a long time.
Just remember that the lighter, natural-color flooring is going to be far more durable than the darker finishes that have been carbonized.
Part of the reason bamboo flooring has seen such a surge in popularity is because it fits in well with different types of home designs and styles.
There are grains available in bamboo flooring that look very similar to hardwood. Of course, you can go with the flat grain that gives bamboo flooring its unique look, too.
It’s Low Maintenance
Flooring that’s low maintenance? That’s music to every homeowner’s ears. With bamboo flooring, you don’t need to apply any special treatments.
Just a regular sweep and a mop and your floors will stand the test of time. You can find cleaners specially made for bamboo flooring, but a simple mix of mild soap and water can get the job done.
If you’ve priced out your flooring options, then you know that there’s some serious sticker shock associated with installing hardwood flooring in your home.
Part of the beauty of bamboo is just how affordable it is. Since it’s a product that grows in abundance, you can normally find engineered bamboo flooring for as little as $3 to $5 per square foot.
Just do your research to make sure the product you’re getting is high quality and don’t simply go for the cheapest option you can find. You certainly get what you pay for when it comes to flooring.
It’s Resistant to Termites
When bamboo flooring is created, it’s treated with chemicals that make it impossible for termites to digest. Simply put: If they chew on bamboo flooring, they’ll starve to death.
Considering how much damage termites can do to hardwood flooring in a home, that’s a huge advantage. Take that, termites!
It’s Good for Allergies
If you suffer from allergies, then bamboo flooring may be a great choice for you. That’s because it won’t harbor dust mites and also repels pollen and dust.
You should, however, look for flooring that is low VOC and isn’t manufactured with formaldehyde. Otherwise, the bamboo flooring you choose for your home can contribute to respiratory issues or allergic reactions.
The Cons of Bamboo Flooring
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to bamboo as a flooring material that must be addressed. Up until now, it may have sounded like the unicorn of the flooring world, but there are a few cons to bamboo flooring.
It’s Prone to Scratches
Yikes! There’s nothing worse than a scratched-up floor. Even with its excellent durability, bamboo flooring is prone to scratching, especially from furniture.
You can reduce scratches by using felt pads under furniture and using mats or decorative rugs on your floors to help keep your bamboo looking flawless.
Of course, purchasing higher quality bamboo flooring can help since some bamboo floors have more durable finishes that reduce scratching.
It’s Sensitive to Humidity
Shrinking and expanding of the bamboo planks can occur, especially if you live in a very wet or very dry environment. It really depends on the size the planks you use for the flooring, but it’s something to be aware of.
It’s Prone to Water Damage
Due to the fact that bamboo is an organic, natural material, if there’s too much moisture in the environment then it can cause discoloration, warping, and even the growth of mold.
That’s why you must keep your bamboo flooring as dry as possible and use very little water on it when cleaning. Steam mops can really work wonders!
It Lacks Versatility
Although you can find different types of bamboo flooring on the market, they all end up sort of looking the same at the end of the manufacturing process.
Some homeowners want a little more versatility with the finish and style of the hardwood flooring they choose. So this can be a strike against this type of flooring. It really just depends on what you’re specifically looking for to know if bamboo appeals to you.
It Limits Refinishing Options
Depending on the thickness of the bamboo flooring in your home, you may have trouble refinishing the floors if you ever want to.
Bamboo floors can be refinished. But you have to use a lot more caution than you do with other types of flooring. If you find an experienced person to do the refinishing, then the bamboo flooring should be able to be refinished without much difficulty.
What to Look For
If you are sure bamboo flooring is the right choice for you, then there are several things you should be on the lookout for when shopping for it.
Not all bamboo flooring is created equal – and not every option out there will be equal in hardness. If you want floors that are very hard, then go for strand woven bamboo flooring – it’s twice as hard as Tigerwood or Brazilian Cherry.
You should also choose bamboo flooring that is natural in color. Remember, the carbonizing process used to make bamboo darker can actually make it up to 30 percent weaker. So your far better off buying bamboo flooring that hasn’t had that treatment. If your heart is really set on dark floors, then you can always stain bamboo flooring.
High-quality bamboo flooring will have a moisture level of between 6 and 9 percent, which is the industry standard. This is due to the fact that the moisture level in the bamboo flooring you choose has a direct impact on the performance and longevity of your flooring.
If the type of flooring you choose was made in subpar conditions, then it simply won’t hold up over time. So make sure to ask about the moisture level when purchasing the flooring for your home so you can avoid delamination, cracking, and warping in the future.
How It Was Harvested
The quality of the bamboo flooring you’re looking to buy is also heavily influenced by how it’s harvested. Bamboo that was harvested from the lowest section of the trunk and is at least six years old is what you need to look for.
Look for bamboo flooring with at least a 25-year structural warranty. A 10-year protection plan against wear on the surface of the flooring is also highly recommended.
Just keep in mind that a warranty is only as good as the company it’s offered by, so make sure to buy from an established and well-respected manufacturer. If some guy is selling bargain-basement bamboo flooring out of the back of a truck, then give it a hard pass.
Rating for Air Quality
Finally, you need to take a look at the air quality rating for the flooring you purchase. Many manufacturers advertise their bamboo flooring as being environmentally friendly, but not many will actually put it into writing, and you want flooring that won’t have a detrimental impact on you or your family’s health.
Make sure the manufacturer of the flooring you’re looking at doesn’t use finishes or adhesives made from hazardous solvents and chemicals. Flooring made with these substances can release toxic fumes that can cause many side effects.
Look for flooring that was manufactured with solvent-free, water-based finishes with few or no VOCs. These flooring options may cost a bit more, but when you’re talking about your long-term health, what’s a few dollars?
Bamboo flooring is often regarded as a very affordable option. You’ll see options that start around $3 per square foot and go all the way up to $10 per square foot. This does not include installation. The price of the flooring depends upon several factors such as style, rating, and manufacturer.
Vertical and horizontal bamboo flooring costs about $3 to $5 per square foot on average. But the strand bamboo varieties will run you anywhere from $4 to $10 per square foot.
Is Bamboo Right for You?
Bamboo flooring is, on the whole, a great choice if you like the look of traditional hardwood but don’t like the price of it. We think bamboo floors are a great option for homeowners seeking modern styling at an affordable price. It is well worth your time to explore to see if it’s the right option for your home.