Bamboo is fast becoming a favoured option for those people that are concerned with the environment. It is fast-growing, eco-friendly, and provides outstanding floors in terms of good looks and durability.
Bamboo flooring has been around for a long time in South Africa although, in the early days of its introduction, it gained a poor reputation for quality because the technology used in its manufacture was not conducive to long-lasting floors in terms of the pressing, gluing, and coating production techniques used, but modern technology has solved all these problems, assuring the retention of its aesthetic appeal and durability for an extremely long service life.
Because bamboo is a grass rather than a tree, its finished appearance provides an attractive pattern of slightly darker bands produced by its nodes which, together with the tightness of its grain and the uniformity of its colour, makes it an attractive proposition for any flooring project.
Bamboo is available in its light, natural colour or in darker shades produced by carbonisation, which is a manufacturing process that subjects the bamboo to steam and pressure that in turn causes a darkening of the sugar content in its fibres, resulting in a honey-brown colour. The shade of the colour is dependent upon the length of the process.
Appearance of the finished product is further enhanced by the various plank constructions. Choices include solid vertical or horizontal construction, engineered construction, and strand-woven construction.
Although it comes as a surprise to many people, this hollow, grass-family plant is actually stronger than most hardwoods. Some species of bamboo have obtained Janka hardness ratings higher than maple and nearly double that of red oak – the benchmark of hardwoods. Besides its hardness quality, bamboo is also very resilient and can take a greater impact than most hardwoods without denting.
Other outstanding properties of bamboo are its dimensional stability for both heat and moisture. Because bamboo flooring is a reconstituted product, the quality of manufacture limits the likelihood of gapping, cupping, or warping.
With the ever-growing concern over depletion of natural resources, especially of hardwood forests, the trend towards bamboo flooring is predictable.
Bamboo is extremely fast-growing compared to hardwoods. On average, bamboo is capable of reaching maturity and is ready to harvest in five years. Additionally, since it is a grass, it is harvested again and again from the same plant. Compare that to an individual hardwood tree taking anywhere from three decades to more than a hundred years to mature, depending on the species.
It is also less expensive than many hardwoods and can be purchased for nailed- down, stapled-down, glued-down, or floated installation. With so many positive attributes, it’s no wonder that bamboo has become the hottest trend in flooring.
But, once again, we feel it necessary to tell our readers that you need have no concerns over taking the food away from the endangered pandas – the variety of bamboo they eat will not make a decent floor!
Bamboo flooring can be provided in three construction types: solid vertical and horizontal, engineered or strand-woven. The traditional plank variety of bamboo floor will invariably be provided with tongue-and-groove fixing which must use an adhesive. This means that the installer must be expert in these techniques, particularly if the substrate is faulty or of poor quality.
Engineered bamboo floors utilise the same material throughout in three layers, with the middle layer cross-laid. Using the same material throughout means that there is no differential between the layers, and this also minimises any movement. Also, with this form of construction it is possible to use a click system of installation.
However, the preference often sways towards the strand-woven construction which is extremely hard and can also be incorporated with the Välinge-patented self-locking system which is ideal for ease of installation.
Bamboo seems to have largely overcome the initial criticisms regarding the use of formaldehyde in its manufacture, but once again – as a resurgent flooring material in the marketplace – there are plenty of suppliers around with second-rate, poor-quality bamboo floors. So make sure you deal with a reputable supplier, an accredited installer and a proven brand before you trust your money to someone you don’t know!
In conclusion, although bamboo flooring is regarded as ‘the new kid on the block’ despite its having been around for a few years, there is no doubt that it has a bright future within the South African flooring industry, not only for its excellent eco-friendliness, but it should also enjoy a huge demand with the declining availability of natural hardwood.
This article was compiled from information obtained from a presentation given by Andrew Murray, chairman of SAWLFA, at the recent WoodEX exhibition in Midrand. Acknowledgement and thanks are also given to www.fastfloors.co.za
Checklist for obtaining high-quality bamboo flooring
- Does the raw material come from certified sustainable plantations, process-endorsed with International Standard for Environmental Management ISO 14001?
- Are the highest standards followed, including the manufacturer being certificated IS0 9001 for Quality?
- Are the lush strand-woven boards covered with seven layers of water-based polyurethane for extreme durability and easy maintenance?
- Is the product compliant with European E1 and Japan F4 Formaldehyde Emissions Standards?
- Is the product at least on par with the hardness and durability of the most exotic woods?
- Does it have a unique click system, making the installation simple?
- Is there a written guarantee, backed by the manufacturer?