While bamboo seems to be a miracle flooring option, there are some unknowns you need to investigate when choosing a flooring company. Most bamboo used for flooring is produced in China and other countries where labor practices are questionable. Many overseas farms and factories have no guidelines for fair labor practices. There are no regulations in the United States as to where the bamboo originates. Also, in China there are no set government standards for bamboo flooring production and construction or for air quality standards. For these reasons, it's possible that production of bamboo flooring produces toxic byproducts and expends large amounts of energy. Many bamboo floors exported from China contain high levels of urea formaldehyde that do not meet safety standards in other countries.
Fortunately, because bamboo flooring has become so popular, many flooring distributors in the United States have established must more stringent guidelines for products they sell. Some of these guidelines require bamboo flooring to have water-based finishes and to be manufactured with formaldehyde-free processing. Keep in mind that quality bamboo dealers will also disclose the bamboo's country of origin. They will also indicate whether the bamboo was harvested from a plantation, which would point to more stringent harvesting techniques.
One factor you can't avoid is shipping. For example, if a product is coming from China, it may be traveling a long way to get to you. Green building practices encourage finding more local products to avoid the energy used in shipping. Unfortunately, as long as bamboo floors are made in Asia, there's no getting around the issue for people who live elsewhere. Some flooring distributors help offset the costs and energy of shipping by donating money to carbon offsetting companies.
If you're in the market for a bamboo floor, always check with the manufacturer to make sure you're purchasing formaldehyde-free, fair trade bamboo flooring. You can also check with the Forest Stewardship Council, which maintains a thorough database of businesses that manufacture well-made, responsibly-produced bamboo flooring.
Remember, a cheap bamboo floor will yield cheap results. As the saying goes, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Get lots more information on how bamboo flooring works on the next page.