Bamboo Flooring – Sustainability with a History

 

On a recent trip to Shenzhen, I was riding along in the taxi admiring the country’s voracious growth. Building projects filled the skyline in every direction. As we approached an overpass under construction, I noticed dozens of men working away on scaffolding at least four stories high.

 

Bamboo artwork in ancient china

It was then I realized all of the scaffolding was constructed with bamboo.

 

Not something you see in the United States. I still struggle with the concept of supporting weight with a grass. How can be as strong as steel? How can a plant grow forty-seven inches in a day? These concepts remain foreign to most of us, but bamboo is so woven in traditional Chinese culture that it is even regarded as a behavior model for gentleman.

 

In Use for at least 5000 years

 

Bamboo was first used in China more than 5000 years ago, but was largely unknown to the rest of the world until modern times. It never reached viability in the West is until the dawn of the sustainability movements in the EU and North America.

 

Bamboo uses in the home

As far back as the sixteenth and seventeenth century BC, the Shang dynasty used bamboo to make bows, arrows, and other weapons of war as well as household items. Throughout the centuries it was used to build rafts, and make clothing and shoes. The ancient Chinese burned it for firewood and ate the tender bamboo shoots.

 

In 1972, ancient Chinese writing tablets made of bamboo strips, called Yinqushan Han Slips, were discovered in burial tombs. We also know that as far back as 105 AD China made the world’s first plant tissue paper out of bamboo. The paper industry was founded in China and their papermaking prowess later found its way into Europe centuries later.

 

Today, there are thousands of uses of bamboo and more are discovered each year. From medicines to chopsticks, musical instruments to pajamas, the possibilities seem limitless. Because it’s a fast growing, easily replenished, renewable resource, inventors and environmentalists are racing to explore using bamboo to replace less sustainable products across the spectrum.

 

Bamboo is Grass

 

Bamboo is in the grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Some argue that there are as many as 70 genera divided into 1450 species. Various species are found from cold mountainous to hot tropical regions but are most prolific in China and parts of Vietnam. They exist in Northern Australia, in India and the Himalayan region. They also occur in the Americas from the mid-Atlantic United States south to Argentina and Chile.

 

Though China completely dominates the organized growth, harvesting and distribution of bamboo attempts are being made to grow it on a commercial basis in the United States and in eastern Africa.

 

Moso bamboo is the type used in flooring. It is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan. Though parts are hard enough to make flooring it produces edible shoots. This bamboo can reach heights of up to 90+ feet. This species is commonly used in the textile industry of China as well. Its average breaking tenacity is more than three times that of cotton and wool, or synthetics like rayon and polyester.

 

Bamboo Flooring

 

Not until the 1990s did bamboo flooring see any significant increase in usage outside of China. Though attractive, and as comparably hard as popular hardwood flooring, sustainability was the key to adoption. It has taken more than a decade for the industry to educate distributors, retailers and the public about the advantages, but in the last few years, all the hard work is paying off. More and more of you like the idea of adding bamboo to the mix of options to choose from when selecting flooring for your projects. The presence of so many other home furnishing made from bamboo is another plus. The combination can make for an unforgettably beautiful look.

 

Bamboo Manufacturing ProcessBamboo flooring manufacturers are on the cutting edge in delivering a huge variety of colors and styles. Not only do they offer natural bamboo looks, they use technology during the manufacturing process to mimic the look many hardwoods. The advent of the direct printing process has given manufacturers to layer natural-looking variations onto flooring planks in a three-part process. This produces an authentic appearing grain pattern and color nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.

 

How is Bamboo Flooring Made?

 

Compared to wood forests, bamboo plantations can be developed and become mature in seven to ten years (three to five for Moso bamboo) with yearly harvests of about twenty-five percent of the poles. Harvesting the bamboo does not damage the grass. The root system remains and continues to produce an abundant crop for future harvests. In the fall and winter of each year, the moisture level is lower making it the ideal time to harvest bamboo. This prevents the bamboo from potentially fracturing during the curing process.

 

After harvested, manufacturers remove the green layer and shoots of the bamboo stalk. They cut the stalks into strips the length of the final flooring. The idea is to cut narrow strips to minimize the curvature. To remove starch and sugars the strips of bamboo are boiled in a solution of boric acid or lime. The process also makes the product resistant to termites and minimizes expansion and contraction.

 

At this point, the strips are dried and planed then get graded and sorted based upon their quality. The sorted material is kiln dried and prepared for assembly.

 

Coloring

Manufacturers can choose to keep the strips a natural color or darken it by a carbonization process. Following the boiling process, bamboo will be a blonde color ready to be glued and pressed together. To carbonize bamboo, the strips are pressure-steamed where carbon is injected to the steam chamber. This dyes the bamboo throughout the strip.

 

Carbonized bamboo can range in color from a honey or caramel color to a lighter brown. Carbonizing decreases the floor's strength around ten percent so some customers choose stained bamboo instead.

 

After producing the planks, manufacturers can stain the planks any color they choose. As this type of flooring becomes more popular, the options continue to expand.

 

Assembly

 

Floors are assembled using three different methods:

Horizontal – Manufacturers place bamboo strips into three layers on top of one another. One board usually contains 15 strips of bamboo. The strips are then pressed together using a high-pressure laminate system. The characteristic nodes of the bamboo are visible on the finished horizontal surface.

 

Vertical – The bamboo strips are stood on their narrowest edge next to one another usually 19 strips wide. The strips are glued and pressed together to create one bamboo board. This provides a linear look but can be less durable than the layered, horizontal construction.

 

Woven, strand-woven or stranded – Strands of bamboo fibers are compressed under intense pressure to form the floorboards into different varieties of exotic looking flooring. Woven construction is the most environmentally friendly form of bamboo flooring because it uses very little adhesive. It's also considered to be the most durable because of the intense pressure used to create it.

 

Though solid bamboo flooring exists, most bamboo flooring in the United States is engineered. An engineered bamboo floor is made of bamboo strips (usually 1/8'') on top and layered with other types of wood underneath. Engineered bamboo is marketed as stronger than solid bamboo because of the blending of woods. It’s also easier to install because it can be floated using a click lock system where two pieces snap together. No nails or glue are required with these type of click lock floors.


Wellmade Bamboo Flooring

Why Choose Bamboo?

 

 

  • Sustainability
  • Versatility
  • Ease of Installation
  • Easy to Clean and Maintain

 

 

 

To check out which of our bamboo options are right for you, call 1.888.703.5667, or click here to browse through our selections.