One of the incredible things that people would like to see or comment once they step in to someones house is to find out what kinds of flooring that she or he has. In traditional floor construction, bamboo stems are cut as flat as possible and then nailed to wooden beams. Conversely, the bamboo flooring commonly in use today is highly processed: to manufacture it, mature bamboo poles are sliced into strips of desired widths and boiled in a solution of boric acid or lime (to remove the starch and sugars); the strips are then dried, planed, and laminated into usable planks. The energy expenditure required to turn bamboo into flooring—and to ship it from Southeast Asia where most bamboo is grown—doesn’t always stack up against locally grown hardwoods. From the standpoint of an average homeowner marmoleum flooring is durable and easy to clean.
To get what you’re after, ask the right questions when speaking to bamboo flooring suppliers (see the Total Formaldehyde Chart from Green Builder’s Suppler for an idea of good-practice sources). Engineered bamboo flooring—Also known as horizontal cut, engineered bamboo flooring, like engineered hardwood floors, consists of a solid layer of bamboo glued over a substrate. Bamboo floors offer an attractive, eco-friendly alternative to solid hardwood floors if you do your research.
This is the most recognizable bamboo flooring on the market: it’s the one in which the bamboo stem looks like it’s been flattened out and it’s patterned by bamboo’s distinctive horizontal ring markings. Solid bamboo flooring—Made up of solid pieces of bamboo that have been glued together, solid bamboo flooring, also known as vertical cut, is typically stronger than the engineered version. This type of flooring has a thinner overall stripy look created by all the bamboo strips compressed together. It is best installed by an experienced contractor and that does raise the cost of the floor.
Strand-woven bamboo flooring—By most accounts, strand woven bamboo flooring, in which the bamboo is shredded and then compressed with adhesives, is the most durable of the three. It looks the least like traditional bamboo because the manufacturers can blend colors and lengths to create many different styles. When we were purchasing our bamboo flooring 10 years ago, our choice of finish was limited to two colors: a natural blond finish or a caramel colored carbonized finish.
Like hardwood floors, bamboo floors come in many finishes, from polyurethane to oils, as well as different sheens, including satin, semi gloss, and high gloss. Solid bamboo floors and engineered floors range from 1180 psi (comparable to pine) to 1700 psi (comparable to beech), depending on the quality of the product. Prices for bamboo flooring range from $4.80 to $7.50 per square foot installed, while prices for hardwood range from $8 to $9 per square foot installed.