When it comes time to choose new flooring, many homeowners think first of wood, and why not? Wood flooring is durable, beautiful and relatively easy to maintain. While the popularity of wood flooring remains undiminished, there is another type of specialty flooring that is fast catching up. This is actually a type of flooring that comes from grass. It’s bamboo.
Bamboo surprises people in many ways. First, many people don’t realize that bamboo is actually the world’s largest species of grass. Granted, it’s a tough, woody grass that can grow several feet high but it’s still grass and not a tree. Grown originally in Asia, bamboo has now traveled all over the world and can be found growing wherever conditions are right.
Second, bamboo is one of the world’s most renewable resources. Environmentally conscious homeowners can be understandably uncomfortable about installing wood floors, no matter how beautiful. That’s because many suppliers aren’t careful about how they harvest the wood, sometimes cutting down swaths of old-growth forest that can’t be replaced. There are also concerns about how excess logging depletes the forest ecosystem, removing habitat for animals and insects as well as exposing the underlying soil to erosion from wind and water. For these reasons, homeowners who want wood flooring should be extremely careful about what materials they buy. In particular, homeowners should look for the Forestry Council’s seal of certification when shopping for flooring.
On the other hand, bamboo has been proven to be a remarkably resilient resource (just ask any homeowner who’s been trying to remove a clump of bamboo from the yard!). It grows fast and requires few pesticides or fertilizers, so it doesn’t affect the soil. This hardiness has enable bamboo to spread far and wide, so that there’s always plenty of it available for harvest, in part because harvesting the canes doesn’t remove the root. New bamboo shoots appear quickly after a set of mature canes is harvested.
What’s more, building supply manufacturers are discovering than bamboo products can perform every bit as well as the wood products they’ve relied on in the past. Manufacturers use two techniques to produce bamboo flooring. One method assembles the canes in a horizontal pattern to allow bamboo’s natural finish to show. The other method involves a vertical cut pattern for more color and texture in the flooring. Bamboo also can be more easily installed by do-it-yourselfers, since the planks are engineered with a “click and lock” design akin to wood laminate flooring.
Bamboo flooring is available in two basic colors, its natural golden-green shade or a darker color created by a high pressure steaming process known as “smoking.” This method, known as carbonization, produces a honey blond or dark amber color.
Maintaining a bamboo floor is similar to the maintenance of other wood flooring. Sweep and mop with a damp mop using a gentle detergent. Protect the floor from abrasive substances and excess moisture.
With natural durability and beauty adding good value to the home, plus its environmentally friendly status, bamboo flooring offers some of the best benefits any new floor can bring.