Contrary to its appearance, bamboo is actually a grass. There are more than 1,400 varieties of bamboo, ranging in various sizes and root systems. Bamboo can grow from just 12 inches tall to over 100 feet tall. It can grow in virtually any climate. Tropical bamboo grows in steamy jungles while more temperate bamboo thrives in grassland or mountainous areas. Bamboo can also stem from one-root systems (clumpers) to more spread-out root systems (runners). The most common -- and pretty much the only species of bamboo strong enough to be made into flooring -- is the Moso variety. Moso bamboo can grow up to 60 feet in the first few months. It reaches maturity in just three years.
Solid and Engineered Bamboo Flooring
During the gluing process of production, solid bamboo flooring can be laminated into three unique styles, each producing a unique look. Choosing which kind of construction is based on decorative choice, but there are strength and environmental aspects for each variety as well. Urea formaldehyde, a chemical that is toxic and does not meet indoor air quality guidelines, is often used as the adhesive during this step. Many companies, however, now use low-emission formaldehyde or a water-based solvent during manufacturing.
With horizontal construction, bamboo strips are placed into three layers on top of one another. One board usually contains 15 strips of bamboo. The strips are then pressed together. This creates a traditional "knuckles" or nodes look, because the grain of the board closely resembles the look of bamboo grass.
With vertical construction, bamboo strips are turned on their side, then laid next to one another. They are then glued and pressed together. Typically, 19 strips of bamboo comprise one vertical bamboo board. Vertical boards give a much more linear look and are considered less durable than the layered, horizontal construction.
Woven, strand-woven or stranded bamboo construction, as it's sometimes called, differs dramatically than both horizontal and vertical construction. Instead of gluing strips of bamboo together in a uniform way, strands of bamboo fibers are compressed under intense pressure to form the floorboards. The woven look of bamboo flooring is very nontraditional. Manufacturers can create very exotic looking flooring, blending varying colors and length of bamboo strips. Woven construction is also the most environmentally friendly form of bamboo flooring because it uses very little adhesive. It's also considered to be the most durable of all the bamboo flooring due to the intense pressure used to create it.
One aspect buyers may not realize they need to decide is if the flooring is solid or engineered. While the look of these two kinds of bamboo flooring is similar, there are some differences regarding the strength of bamboo flooring.
Solid bamboo flooring consists of only bamboo strips pressed together to create the floorboards. While more of a pure floor, solid bamboo can only be nailed or glued on the subfloor.
Engineered bamboo flooring consists of bamboo strips (usually 1/8'') on top of the plank, and is layered with other types of wood underneath. Engineered bamboo is thought to be stronger than solid bamboo because of the blending of woods. It can be nailed, glued, or floated to the subfloors.
What is this subfloor we're talking about and why is it important? Let's discuss installing bamboo flooring, and the various ways bamboo flooring can help make your home beautiful.