As early as 5,000 years ago, the Chinese used bamboo for warfare, construction, and paper. There are more than 400 species of bamboo indigenous to China which grow in greater abundance than in any other area of the world. All of them grow quickly and provide plentiful building material.
Bamboo’s first international appearance as a flooring product was in the 1990s. It’s popularity has grown through its reputation for durability and the idea that it’s the green choice for floor coverings. Today, beauty and durability makes bamboo flooring a popular choice, preferred by some for its fast growth vs old-growth hardwoods that can take 30 or more years to mature.
The majority of today’s bamboo flooring is made from the Moso species of the plant, using only a few different manufacturing techniques. Solid bamboo flooring is made from strips of bamboo arranged either with their widths either parallel (horizontal construction) or perpendicular (vertical construction) to the floor and compressed with adhesives to form uniform floor boards. If you look carefully, you might be able to see the individual strips and the seams between them. Strand bamboo flooring is manufactured with individual strands of bamboo that are pulled from bamboo stock rather than cut as uniform strips. The strands are compressed together with much higher pressures to form floor boards. Strand bamboo flooring uses less adhesive than solid and assumes a variety of textures depending on strand lengths and colors used.
There are more reasons to like bamboo flooring. It is physically similar to hardwoods and is promoted for its strength, moisture- and insect-resistance. Whether it is eco friendly is debatable as is its durability. Ie. It depends on which manufacturing process and which hardwood is being compared. Carbonized horizontal hardwoord flooring earns a Janka hardness rating of 1180, while some strand bamboo products reach 3000 and more. Red oak’s hardness is in the lower range for hardwoods with Brazilian Cherry at 2350.
Some cautionary notes. Like any product you may purchase for your home, quality varies with manufacturer. A poor quality bamboo flooring product can warp, cup, de-laminate and discolour. Do your research to find products that have a good reputation. Aim for products made with bamboo no younger than 5 years old at harvest. Kiln-dried is a better value as are no-formaldehyde and solvent-free finishes.