The Truth About Bamboo Flooring

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Bamboo floors are marketed to consumers as a green, environmentally sustainable choice. Is this true or is this what manufacturers want us to believe? Why does this type of floor have such a terrific reputation?

Bamboo Flooring And Its Environmental Impact

Bamboo is a fairly new type of flooring for the American market. Its popularity has grown very fast. Bamboo flooring is commonly sold as a “green” floor product. After all, it is a renewable resource.

So what exactly is the ethical problem with bamboo flooring? Well, this topic has become very controversial as consumers are learning more and more about how these floors are actually made.

Bamboo has a reputation of being sustainable and elegant. If you have ever been to a high-end spa or a classy office, you may notice that very often these businesses choose bamboo flooring because they depict a stylish image.

Marketing Claims

The bamboo floor manufacturers sell it as the cost-effective, environmentally-friendly choice. Often people have small budgets for doing their floors and would love to get something relatively cheap and sustainable.

The appeal that many consumers have to bamboo floors is quite obvious. Manufacturers have done an incredibly good job convincing the public that if you purchase bamboo flooring, you are making an environmentally responsible choice.

There has been a move away from our dependency on hardwoods. People still want the properties of hardwoods and bamboo is sold as this alternative.

But is this really the case? How sustainable is bamboo flooring? Is this just a sales pitch?

Bamboo vs. Hardwood: Which One Is Harder?

Many of the sales pitches will compare traditional bamboo floors to hardwood floors. One of the most common claims about bamboo flooring is that it is actually harder than hardwood floors.

Some companies will even show statistics on the hardness of bamboo compared to hardwoods. Some make ridiculous claims like “bamboo is actually harder than oak”! It is much softer than oak!

Bamboo is not as hard as the floor manufacturers claim. A lot of people look at the Janka Hardness Test as a means to justify and explain the durability of bamboo flooring.

If you look at many of the Janka Hardness Test online, you will see that bamboo largely fluctuates. It is actually rated at 1180 p.s.i. However, some tests put bamboo higher up in the Janka Hardness Test, making it appear stronger than it actually is.

You should be very weary of these skewed test results, especially when they are coming from manufacturers who our out to sell you bamboo floor coverings. These manufacturers want to make bamboo look as hard as possible.

A lot of the skewed results will test the hardest parts of the wood like the joints, edges and knots. (Bamboo doesn’t have any knots but you get my drift.)

Many people will bend the rules of the test to make bamboo look strong. They may use the highest quality bamboo even though most of the bamboo available to the public is young and soft.

A Fast-Growing Grass

The reason bamboo flooring is known for its environmental sustainability is because it is considered a grass and not a tree. It is harvested when it is quite young.

The comparison is that it takes an oak tree 60 to 120 years to grow to maturity whereas it takes only about five years for a bamboo plant to mature to the point when it can be harvested.

It also self-generates relatively quickly. Without planting a new crop of bamboo, it will regenerate on its own. Also, it uses hardly any pesticides and fertilizers. In other words, bamboo is a very easy and fast-growing crop.

Bamboo Receives Green Building Credits

Another compelling reason for bamboo is that the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Rating System recognizes bamboo as a green building material. The USGBC actually grants credits for using bamboo in building construction and this obviously includes bamboo floors. This makes bamboo even more appealing.

This credit program supports the manufacturers’ sales tactics. This easy-to-understand sales pitch grabs any consumer who doesn’t do his homework! But, as you become more familiar with bamboo flooring, you will learn that it is sold as a “feel good” product.

People think that by choosing a bamboo floor, they are doing an act of green. Besides, brands like “EnviroChoice Bamboo Flooring” and “EcoTimber Flooring” make bamboo flooring sound like a terrific, environmentally-friendly option to the average homeowner looking to do their floors.

Now that you have learned the truth about bamboo floors, you should really think twice. If you want to learn more about the environmental and social impacts, read my article, “China, Bamboo Plantations and Bamboo Floors”.

Sustainability and Bamboo

Bamboo flooring is not a sustainable choice. Manufacturers have capitalized on the trendiness of bamboo. They have tried hard to convince consumers that it is good for the environment. This is a clever sales tactic. Sadly, you cannot trust those bamboo floor manufacturers. After all, they are only out to sell bamboo floors!

There are more negatives than there are positives. It’s your choice and your floor. I am just trying to enlighten you about some of the false claims that you might encounter when you look into bamboo flooring.

Do your research on the manufacturer prior to purchasing your new floor. Always look around. Don’t ever go with the first person ready to sell you anything. See what other companies are offering and how they differ from their competition. If you go with a bamboo floor, make sure that the formaldehyde emissions are low and safe. To learn more about formaldehyde and bamboo floors, read my article, “Type of Bamboo Floors”.

Consider hardwood floors. They don’t require clear-cutting forests. They don’t destroy habitats as erratically as bamboo.