Bamboo Flooring: An Introduction


For the environmentally driven homeowner, there is no better option than bamboo flooring. Bamboo is a highly renewable resource with an extraordinary growth speed. The bamboo plant is actually not a tree, but a woody-looking grass that can reach its maturity in as little as 3 years.

But this is no regular grass. Bamboo floors have no problem competing with solid hardwood floors in both beauty and hardness. One interesting fact is that, unlike the consistent qualities of other species, both the looks and durability of bamboo vary greatly from one type of bamboo board to another, depending on the way they are manufactured. Here is a round-up of these types of bamboo.

Horizontal Bamboo

Bamboo fibrous stalks are not simply cut into planks as it happens with other species of wood. Instead, they are processed in order to create the solid wood plank. This is achieved by bonding together bamboo strips under extreme pressure and heat and using a strong adhesive to seal the deal. The strips can be glued together in either a horizontal or vertical fashion.

In order to obtain a horizontal bamboo floorboard, the bamboo strips are placed horizontally next to each other in three layers, the way that bricks are laid down. The beauty of the horizontal bamboo planks is that, with the strips’ wide side up, they leave their knots and knuckles in full view. These little imperfections give the planks their beautiful natural look.

Vertical Bamboo

In vertical bamboo boards, the flat bamboo strips are glued with their edge up. This gives vertical bamboo flooring a different, more contemporary look than that of horizontal bamboo, with very thin stripes and little suggestion of growth rings or knuckles. The difference between the horizontal and vertical bamboo boards can be clearly seen when looking at a cross section of a plank.

Carbonized Bamboo

Bamboo has a light, blond color, close to that of maple. In order to obtain a darker shade, the bamboo is processed by steaming under high pressure. The process helps the sugar inside the stalks caramelize, which makes the strip change color. So the auburn or coffee-brown hue of carbonized bamboo is not stain, but the color achieved through natural processes within the stalk when exposed to heat.

Even though the darker bamboo shade is lovely, the carbonization process softens the strand, so that carbonized bamboo loses about 25% of its hardness along the process.

Strand-Woven Bamboo

Another way of manufacturing the boards is by soaking strands of bamboo in a strong adhesive, then condensing them into a mold under extreme pressure and heat to create remarkably hard planks. This process can use the waste produced by manufacturing the traditional horizontal or vertical bamboo planks.

This is an important point, since up to 60 percent of the curved bamboo strip may be removed when being milled into a flat strip. Reusing these strands ensures that nothing goes to waste.

The product obtained this way is extremely durable, twice as hard as regular bamboo or oak. The look of strand-woven bamboo is different than the one of the knuckled horizontal or striped vertical bamboo floorboards, with slightly swirly details that show how the strands of bamboo were woven together. As in the case of regular bamboo, strand-woven bamboo can be light or dark-colored (if carbonized).

Tiger Strand-Woven Bamboo

Tiger bamboo planks are obtained by strand weaving carbonized and uncarbonized bamboo strands together. The alternate stripes of light and dark-colored bamboo give these floorboards their particular appearance and specific name. Tiger bamboo lends your space a particularly dramatic look that never goes unnoticed.