Bamboo countertops are a beautiful, sustainable alternative to wood in kitchens and bathrooms.
It wasn't too long ago that bamboo was considered an accent material, good for Asian inspired decorating themes, stir fried dishes, and living privacy backyard privacy fences only. Today bamboo is one of the premier building materials. It takes many forms from flooring to countertops and sinks. It is beautiful, durable, and best of all - eco-friendly.
Since bamboo grows so quickly it can be harvested and regrown in a short period of time, unlike the hardwoods that can take a decade or more to reach maturity. This means less impact on the environment.
Although the strips of bamboo are bonded together a low emitting bonding material is used. While many traditional countertop materials emit toxins for years, bamboo does not. It is a beautiful wood and can create many looks in your home, depending on the way the material is cut and bonded.
Bamboo Is Healthy for the Earth
Bamboo is good for the environment while it is growing, as well.
- Compared to traditional hardwoods, bamboo releases about thirty-five percent more oxygen than a comparable area of trees.
- It absorbs carbon from the environment and stores it, releasing it only when the plant decomposes. In other words, by using bamboo for long term items like flooring and countertops the carbon is removed from the environment and stored safely.
- As a rapidly renewable resource bamboo can be used lavishly with no concern that it will run out or cause deforestation.
- Bamboo creates an ecosystem for a number of creatures.
Durable Bamboo Countertops
Bamboo countertops are equally as useful in the kitchen or bathroom. The come in many stains and styles and can work in any décor from country cottage to modern loft. The strands of bamboo can be laid lengthwise to create a look of planks or they can be used horizontally to look like butcher-block.
Be sure that the material is laminated with a non-toxic, food grade, and formaldehyde free adhesive. Many of the manufacturers do use safe materials but there may be some that use the conventional materials as well. Always ask.
Once the bamboo is laminated it is sealed with a food grade sealer; generally mineral oil, but always ask. Some manufacturers deliver the counters unsealed. In this case you can use whatever you like. Be sure that it is non-toxic and eco-friendly.
Generally mineral oil is the best choice for sealing bamboo because it is safe, inexpensive and does not release odor. Olive oil, which some people recommend, can discolor your bamboo or leave an off odor.
Bamboo countertops are about sixteen percent harder than maple, the current popular choice for wooden counters. The cost can range from about $25.00 up to about $45.00 a square foot depending on manufacturer and type. If you are experienced in working with wood it is possible to install them yourself but using a contractor experienced with bamboo is always recommended.
Caring for Your Counter
- Like any wood countertop bamboo can be burned or scratched. You should be careful to protect the countertop from hot pans or serving dishes that come out of the microwave. Likewise, you should not cut directly on the counter because of scratching and nicks.
- To clean your countertops use a mixture of one tablespoon white vinegar to a quart of water. Keep this mixture in a spray bottle to clean and disinfect the counter as needed. Always wipe water and other liquids up promptly.
- Never use ammonia or harsh chemicals on the counter because they can soften the oil sealer and allow moisture to seep in.
- Every so often you will want to reapply mineral oil to keep your bamboo counter water resistant and looking its best.
- If your bamboo counter does get scratched or stained you can sand it and reseal it with an eco-friendly sealing product.
Bamboo counters may be the perfect choice for those who like the look of wood in the kitchen and prefer a sustainable alternative. If you are unsure whether or not you will like it, spend a few dollars on a bamboo cutting board and use it for awhile. See if you like the look and the way it fits in your lifestyle. It may be the best way to "try before you buy".