Canadian Contractor

From pilot to contractor: (17) Four reasons why I used bamboo flooring

Bamboo looks great, is hard as nails, provides unmatched value... and is eco-friendly. However, you want to watch out for manufacturers who use urea formaldehyde as the gluing compound.


September 22, 2014
By John Bleasby
John Bleasby

I get a kick when I tell people about the bamboo flooring in the new house. The look on their faces would suggest they imagine a series of bamboo reed mats. Then I explain that our bamboo flooring is in fact a highly sophisticated product like any other they see in the flooring section of any building supply store.

But oh! The advantages of bamboo! Here are four reasons I decided to use it…

(1) Looks Great
First of all, is it highly attractive. We selected the ‘edge grain’ look. We preferred that versus the alternative ‘flat grain’ which emphasises the fluted shape of the bamboo stalks. The light ‘natural’ colour we selected also suits the interior brightness of our home; however there were many other colours we could have chosen, from caramel ambers to walnut browns.

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Kyle and Corry install our bamboo flooring. The tongue & groove, micro-bevel format is the same as other hardwood flooring products.

(2) Hard as Nails
A neighbour asked the other day: ‘Is it dog-hard?” We laughed, knowing exactly what she meant. Pets and teenagers take a toll out of a floor finish. However, bamboo has a Janka hardness number that is significantly higher than oak, maple or many other exotic hardwoods available on the market. We can count on the floor looking good for many years.

(3) Unmatched Value
And then there is cost. Bamboo flooring is significantly less expensive than the hardwoods. We paid about $5 per square foot for solid bamboo flooring. This is no laminate or engineered top veneer; this is a solid bamboo product. Do your comparisons and see what I mean about value for the money. There’s nothing close.

(4) Eco Friendly
If you are ecologically sensitive, know that bamboo grows like a weed in the Far East making it a very desirable renewable material. Bamboo can earn you LEED points in a commercial or institutional project or just feel-good points if you are building a home.

Research your Supplier
I do advise some research and caution, however. The manufacturing process for some brands of bamboo flooring can include the use of urea formaldehydes in the gluing compound. This is not good! The Europeans have standards that limit urea content. Sadly, I have not been able to confirm that North America has any such standards at all! However, some importers in Canada will issue certificates to certify that their products meet European standards, which is one way to reduce risks resulting from this potentially toxic substance. However, we found a product line that avoids the issue entirely by using a soya-based glue that in fact has no toxicity at all! Given the difficulty in confirming under what circumstances bamboo materials are manufactured in China, it is very important to do your research on this subject.

Other Forms of Bamboo
By the way, you can also purchase bamboo as a 4 x8 sheet product under such names as ‘Plyboo’ or ‘BamPly’. We did just that and will use the bamboo sheets for feature walls, shelves, vanities counters and furniture pieces in the new house. The sheet material has the same attractive grain linearity we love, is available in a variety of colours and, because of its beautiful exposed edge grain, offers numerous opportunities for unique applications and installations.

Prediction
Bamboo will be part of your building at some point in the near future.


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2 Comments » for From pilot to contractor: (17) Four reasons why I used bamboo flooring
  1. Ben Polley says:

    Very comprehensive and convincing argument for the use of bamboo T&G flooring. I agree with most every enthusiastic comment. We ourselves have been installing bamboo flooring for 12 or more years.

    Two quick addendums to your comments:

    Regarding dogs (or anything action/material else that serves as an abrasive)…I would suggest that it is not entirely the density of the underlying woody material that determines how well it will perform against scratches.

    Instead it is the finish. This is true of most any wood flooring. I have seen bamboo floor finishes fail in just months under dog traffic. Such flooring probably only had 3 or perhaps 5 coats of finish. Better would be something with 5 to 7 UV cured coats PLUS aluminum oxide, the latter which helps provide an anti-slip surface and incidentally happens to slightly reduce the sheen, both of which make scratches less frequent and/or less obvious.

    Given the other qualities that you sought out, I expect that your quality bamboo probably has such a finish. The stuff I have seen sold at the big box stores does not always seem so.

    There also is a Canadian supplier of bamboo that to my knowledge is the longest operating such biz in the country at around 15 years: Nadurra. They were also the first (maybe still the only?) to acquire the third party Ecologo certification for some of their bamboo products, which too would address the (commendable) concerns that you had about adhesive and other such issues. They also sole source to particular plants in China and Vietnam so they actually know the fabricators, process, workers and are assured of the product quality. We have sourced material through them from the outset and have always been happy.

    Great post.

  2. Thought I’d chime in as we are the supplier of the eco-friendly bamboo flooring Ben mentions above: http://www.nadurrawood.com. (Thank you for the glowing reference Ben)

    A couple of points regarding your post Bob:

    1) The Vertical/Edge grain you chose is actually not much harder than Red Oak. However the Composite / Strandwoven bamboo is over twice as hard. So look for that to be even tougher;

    2) As Ben says, it is really the finish – the first line of defense – that makes the difference in seeing scratches or not. We’ve found issues, as had Ben, with the standard bamboo finishes that are on most bamboo floors today. We have moved much of our line over to a low-gloss Bona-Kemi finish that far outperforms any we’ve seen. It has gone down in major chain retail stores across Canada and performed well;

    3) Watch out for false eco certificates and low-VOC claims on flooring boxes! Asian factories will put anything on the box that the customer wants them to – we know this from 20 years of importing bamboo. Look for suppliers with actual formaldehyde or emission testing results from labs here in North America.

    Good that you’re on the bamboo train now Bob. Sounds like you’re headed in the right direction.

    Best Regards,

    Michael Boulger :: NADURRA

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