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Bamboo Flooring

Beth Asaff
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Caring for bamboo flooring is easy.

Bamboo flooring is fairly new on the North American market. With everyone looking to be more environmentally friendly, bamboo seems to be a good alternative to hardwood flooring.

About Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is a renewable building material. Unlike hardwood, bamboo can be harvested and will grow again without clearing forests. It can take an oak tree over 100 years to mature, whereas bamboo can be harvested every three to six years, depending on what type and where the bamboo is grown. Available in different colors and finishes, it is sure to match almost any décor.

Many manufacturers claim bamboo is as durable as other hardwood flooring. As with any home improvement purchase, it is wise to do a lot of research on the particular product before you buy.

Types of Bamboo Flooring

Different forms of bamboo flooring exist. Each will vary in its manufacturing and installation process.

Southeast Asia Flooring

The most common form comes from Southeast Asia, where they use thinner bamboo stems that are cut as flat as possible. Such bamboo can be stained or used as is. Bamboo stems are nailed down to bigger pieces of bamboo or beams. This results in space between each stem, providing more air circulation during hotter summer months.

North American Flooring

In North America, bamboo is processed quite a bit for use in floors. The bamboo is split and flattened, then laminated together with glue under high pressure (similar to plywood). Bamboo is typically made into planks for flooring installation. The bamboo planks click together as a floating floor system.

Strand-Woven Bamboo

Also available is a strand-woven bamboo. Strands of bamboo are coated with a resin and then compressed with heat to form dimensional timbers. The timbers are then milled into flooring planks. When this process is finished, you will have a floor that is twice as strong as traditional bamboo flooring.

Colors

Available in two major colors now, bamboo floors are relatively new and should see different variations as the demand for bamboo rises.

  • Carbonized - Brownish color brought out of the bamboo when it is steamed, and bio-organisms and sugar break down. This color is softer than the natural, and will scratch more easily.
  • Natural - The name says it all. This type is not steamed, so it does not have any added color. It is similar in color to beech.

Variations

  • Vertical-Grain Orientation - With the vertical grain, individual joints are hard to see, giving even grain and color.
  • Horizontal-Grain Orientation - In this way, each joint is highly visible, giving a visual distinction over the vertical-grain.

Even though these two variations will differ in appearance, they offer the same strength and quality characteristics.

Where to Install Bamboo Flooring

Most manufacturers do not recommend or warranty bamboo for bathroom flooring, due to the chance of water leaking and not being noticed right away, causing warping wood that needs to be replaced. Other than that, bamboo can be used anywhere inside your home.

Care and Maintenance

Caring for your new bamboo floor will be a breeze if you follow some simple rules and read the manufacturer's suggestions included with the flooring you have purchased. Below is a list of recommendations you should follow as part of your floor's normal care.

  • Put doormats or rugs at entrances to help collect dirt, moisture and other substances that can damage your floor.
  • Use a dust mop or something soft to keep your floor free of dirt and debris.
  • Sticky spills require a damp soft cloth. Always gently clean the mess. If necessary, use a hardwood floor cleaner for tough spots.
  • Do not use abrasives at all on your bamboo floor. This will cause permanent scratches.
  • Use felt pads on the legs of furniture to avoid scratching or marring the floor.

Installation

Bamboo floors are frequently installed in the same manner as laminate flooring. Rather than nailing the boards to the subfloor, the boards interlock into one another in a "floating floor". The sides of each section of bamboo are molded into a tongue-and-groove. To install a bamboo floor:

  1. Remove the baseboards from the room you wish to lay the bamboo in.
  2. Lay out the first row of flooring, paying attention to the direction of the grain and the boards. Adjust for a pleasing layout.
  3. Lay the next rows by placing the boards at a slight angle to the first, inserting the tongue of one board into the groove of another and lower the board into place, snapping it down as you do so. Push boards end to end tightly as you go for a seamless floor.
  4. Cut the ends of boards to fit on a table saw, and leave a 1/4-inch gap around the edges of the room to allow the wood to swell slightly without buckling.
  5. Replace the baseboards over the finished floor.

Replacing Damaged Boards

If boards have become damaged, remove the baseboard closest to the damaged section and pull the boards up until you reach the damaged portion. Replace with new boards and work back to the wall again. Replace the baseboards.

Where to Purchase

Many flooring retailers now carry bamboo. To see a wide selection of colors and styles available, check out the following resources:

Consider It for Your Home

Bamboo floors are growing in popularity for good reason. This eco-friendly, beautiful and durable product is suitable for nearly every home design. Install it in your home for a beautiful new floor with personality to match.

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Bamboo Flooring