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How to select what type of Bamboo Floors to Install

Updated on November 9, 2013
Chinese Bamboo Grove
Chinese Bamboo Grove | Source

Bamboo Floors

Bamboo floors are a beautiful addition to any home. There are different types of bamboo flooring to chose from: solid, strand-woven, and engineered. Before we talk about how each one is made and the pros and cons of each, lets learn a bit more about bamboo and what it offers as a material.

Bamboo is actually a grass and not wood. There are over 1,200 varieties of bamboo grown around the world, the most ideal bamboo for flooring is Moso or Moa due to its strength and density. If being green is important to you, bamboo is considered a rapidly renewable resource. When bamboo is harvested, the root system remains in the ground and continues to grow and can be harvested again in 5-7 years. Since trees such as oak take 60 years or so years to grow, bamboo is considered an ideal sustainable material for the environmentally conscious.

The durability, warmth and natural beauty of strand woven bamboo flooring, make it an eye-catching and atmosphere generating material that creates an immediate impression.

  • Is 27% harder than Red Oak
  • Is 13% harder than hard Maple
  • Can be installed in the same way as traditional wood floors (nailed, glued, or floated)
  • Performs better than most hardwoods in terms of hardness and dimensional stability

Color

Bamboo comes in three different color types, which are based on how they are created: Natural, Carbonized, and Stained.

Natural bamboo - After the harvesting and stripping processes, bamboo strips are boiled to eliminate impurities and it enhances the natural color of the bamboo. Bamboo is a light, almost blond wood color which is considered to be the 'natural' color. The bamboo strips are then glued and pressed together into planks.

Carbonized bamboo - To carbonize bamboo,the bamboo strips are pressure-steamed after stripping in order to give the bamboo a darker color. Carbon is added to the steam chamber, which dyes the bamboo. This method colors the bamboo throughout, not just the surface. This process actually decreases the strength of the bamboo about eight or ten percent. Colors range from honey to a coffee color. They are generally brown earth colors of various intensity.

Stained bamboo - Bamboo can also be stained into a wide spectrum of colors after the planks have been produced. Bamboo distributors can dye the wood virtually any color to accompany any interior design style. Stain can be either painted on or rubbed on by hand depending on which product you chose.

How Bamboo Flooring is Made

Standard Plank Bamboo

Solid bamboo flooring planks consist of several solid strips glued together. Bamboo pieces are laminated together either horizontally or vertically creating two different looks. Horizontally constructed boards are made from bamboo strips laid flat along the plank length and pressed together which gives it the look of bamboo with its characteristic nodes. Vertically constructed boards have a more linear appearance. The strips are laid on their edges and glued together rather than laid flat (horizontally).

It is important to know that a vertical pattern is considerably less durable than the horizontal pattern and that solid bamboo boards are softer than strand woven boards. Keep this is mind when choosing which type of floor you would like to install and where. Think about what type of foot or furniture traffic it needs to hold up to.

Bamboo Grains

Standard plank bamboo flooring has either horizontal or vertical grain.
Standard plank bamboo flooring has either horizontal or vertical grain. | Source

Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

Strand woven bamboo flooring is made when strands of bamboo are cut and boiled then left to completely dry. Then they are woven together and then glued together under pressure.The boards are then cut into whatever size is needed. The waste from the processing of making standard bamboo planks is usually recycled into strand woven bamboo flooring.

Strand woven bamboo flooring has a very distinctive type of grain, which resembles that of a traditional hardwood such as oak, but it is a lot cheaper and better for the environment. Its durability and toughness makes it a perfect choice when used in high traffic areas not to mention it is also very easy to clean. Strand woven bamboo tends to be more moisture resistant and harder than traditional bamboo flooring which should greatly increase the life span of your floor. Strand woven bamboo flooring is also the most sustainable of all bamboo flooring options as it has the least amount of waste and doesn't use any additives or toxic chemicals in its manufacture.

It is important to note that nails can actually crack and damage the tongues of strand woven bamboo so gluing is the preferred method of securing it to the sub-floor.

Engineered Bamboo Flooring

Engineered bamboo flooring is the same as an engineered hardwood flooring with the difference being the material. Engineered flooring is comprised of multiple layers, cross-banded for stability and glues together. The more layers of ply, the more stable the flooring, which helps to protect against expansion and contraction from moisture as well as prevents cupping and warping. Bamboo has a lower expansion rate than hardwoods so it expands and contracts less in changing moisture conditions. If you live in a climate that fluctuates between dry and humid, an engineered bamboo floor is an ideal choice.

Engineered bamboo flooring is perfect for basements and over concrete surfaces, as they are even more resilient to the effects of moisture than solid wood so an engineered floor will expand less than the other types of bamboo floors, it gives you added moisture protection. Despite is moisture resistance, bamboo is recommended for both dry and humid climates and anything in between. This type of flooring is precision-engineered to be dimensionally stable and as a result, it is also recommended to put over radiant floor heating.

This type of flooring can be installed in three different methods: glued down, cleat, or floated. Essentially the flooring can be glued to the sub-floor, cleat or nailed to your sub-floor or floated by gluing it together and not to the sub-floor, usually done when the sub-floor is concrete or over radiant floor heating loops.

Source

Click Engineered Floating Floor

A click engineered bamboo floor is a second type of engineered flooring. The method of installation is different however. It is precision engineered to click together to form a continuous flooring. There are two varieties, both have a tongue and a groove on the long wide that 'click' together. One the short ends however, some have a tongue and groove so they must be tapped together, other have a lap joint which holds the end of the boards firmly together. The product itself installs simply and easy using only a few tools and a whole lot of time. The best part of a click flooring system is that you can take it up if need be and quickly put it back down.

Generally this type of flooring is used over a radiant heating system. It can also be used to coverup old wood floors for a new look without destroying them with nail holes. You can also use them over concrete without having to worry about glue. Click Engineered flooring is generally the most expensive option, but it gives you added flexibility in your renovation. To learn more about the installation of a floating bamboo flooring, please see Installing a Click Engineered Bamboo Floor.


Milling

There are four types of milling: square edged, micro-bevel, tongue and groove, and click
There are four types of milling: square edged, micro-bevel, tongue and groove, and click | Source

Flooring can be milled in a variety of ways. The key phrases to look out for are square edged, micro-bevel, tongue and groove, and click.

Square edged - The plank's edges are square and not beveled so there isn't a groove between planks.

Micro Bevel - The edge of each plank is slightly beveled, helping to reduce varying plank height and highlighting the joint between planks.

Tongue and Groove - The edges of the flooring key together like puzzle pieces. The central tab or tongue fits in the cut out slot or groove in the other. This snug fit helps with cupping, warping, and provides a more stable, continuous flooring. This type can be nailed down, glued down with some being able to be floated by gluing just the tongue and grooves together.

Click - Each flooring plank is manufactured with interlocking joints that click and lock together and hold each plank firmly in place. A favorite for any diy-er as it eliminates the use of glue.

Installation Notes

Bamboo flooring must acclimate to your home or office before installation. It is important for you to have the temperature or air conditioning set to whatever it normally is. This should help to avoid unwanted warping, meaning unwanted expansion or contraction.

As you plan to install a bamboo floor an important consideration is whether you are going to install the floor yourself or are you going to hire a professional flooring installer. Usually their experience will help the job go more smoothly and quickly and may result in a better product. Getting a bid from a contractor as to the cost may help you decide whether or not you want to tackle the job yourself. If you believe you have the understanding and ability to take on the project, you can also take the extra time opening numerous boxes of flooring and blending the colors together verses just installing them as they come out of the box. To learn more about the installation of a floating bamboo flooring, please see my other hub, Installing a Click Engineered Bamboo Floor.

If you decide to get a contractor to install the flooring, get several contractors to bid the job and provide references before you make a final decision. Talking to neighbors or friends about contractors that they have used is the best place to start. Remember that sometimes it can be cheaper to buy the flooring yourself, and hire a handyman to help you install it. They have the knowledge to help you do it right, and you can ensure the quality of the final product.

Simple Chinese Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo - Split, flattened and dried
Bamboo - Split, flattened and dried | Source
Split bamboo flooring
Split bamboo flooring | Source

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