If you’re convinced that bamboo hardwood flooring is the greenest option, now it’s time to pick the type of bamboo flooring you want in your home. There are several factors to consider, including color, shape and overall finish. To give you a better idea so you’ll know what to shop for, read our Bamboo Hardwood Flooring Selection Guide:
Types of Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of types. The three most common styles in the marketplace are solid, woven (strand) and engineered bamboo flooring.
Solid bamboo flooring
Solid bamboo flooring bears its name because it is made up of pieces of solid bamboo. This distinguishes it from engineered bamboo, which combines bamboo wear layers with wood cores and backs. It also differentiates the solid bamboo from woven or strand bamboo which is made of shredded bamboo fibers. In actuality, â€œsolidâ€ bamboo flooring is made up of small strips of bamboo that are glued together to form the finished product.
Woven bamboo flooring
Woven bamboo flooring is also known as strand or strandwoven bamboo. Woven bamboo results from a fundamentally different manufacturing process than the one used for solid bamboo flooring. In this process, the timber bamboo is shredded into fibers, which are then mixed with resin and compressed into solid blocks that are then cut into planks to be milled to a standard flooring profile. Woven bamboo is much harder and denser than traditional bamboo flooring (about 3000 on the Janka scale), making it well suited for high-traffic areas. The hardness results from the resin that is used and the density achieved by pressing the fibers tightly together.
The adhesives that are used are a critical factor in determining the quality of a finished product. Low quality adhesives, especially those containing urea-formaldehyde, can emit harmful chemicals in the home and should be avoided. Higher quality adhesives eliminate these problems. EcoTimber Solid Bamboo is made with a top-quality formaldehyde-free European adhesive, and EcoTimber Woven Bamboo is made with a proprietary phenolic resin that contains no urea-formaldehyde.
Engineered bamboo flooring
Engineered bamboo flooring faces some issues with reliability. Because it is laminated to a cross-ply backing, the top layer of an engineered bamboo floor does not have the ability to shrink when the floor is exposed to dry air, and this causes stresses develop within the plank. With most hardwoods, the natural material (lignen) that binds together the fibers is strong enough to withstand these stresses and resist cracking. With bamboo, the fibers are very strong, but the bonding material between them is weak, making engineered bamboo floors much more susceptible to surface checking (cracking) than most engineered hardwoods.
Traditional solid and Woven Bamboo flooring, by contrast, have all of the fibers aligned in the same direction, so when the plank needs to shrink, it can do so without developing those internal stresses. At EcoTimber, we no longer offer engineered Bamboo flooring because we feel that no matter how carefully it is manufactured, the biology of Bamboo makes this format unreliable in many areas of the country.
Bamboo flooring comes in many types. The look and feel of bamboo flooring can be customized to some extent in order to better meet aesthetic and practical needs. In this bamboo types section you will learn about the common construction of bamboo, and the three main types; solid, engineered and strand woven. Beyond the construction of bamboo we explore the common colors of bamboo flooring which include; natural, carbonized (amber) and multiple stain colors. Do you want to glue your bamboo flooring down to the sub-floor or are you going to click lock it together and let it float? Click lock and traditional tongue and groove bamboo types are explored below as well as their finish types, unfinished and pre-finished.
Read this section to learn about the differences in bamboo styles, patterns and construction so you can find the bamboo floor that’s right for you.
Bamboo has three common types of construction. Each manufacturer may have their own version of constructing bamboo flooring, but they generally fall into these categories; solid bamboo, engineered bamboo and strand woven bamboo (sometimes referred to as compressed bamboo).
Solid bamboo flooring
Individual strips of bamboo are glued together to create solid planks of bamboo flooring. These planks are installed with either flooring adhesives or by nailing/stapling them in place. Solid bamboo flooring is available in two different grain styles:
Horizontal: Also referred to as “flat” grain,” horizontal is a wider cut of bamboo flooring that visibly shows the knuckles (nodes) of bamboo.
Vertical: Unlike horizontal bamboo flooring where the strips of bamboo are laid flat, vertical bamboo flooring stands the strips on edge. This results in little to no visible knuckles (nodes,) giving vertical bamboo flooring a more uniform appearance.
NOTE: Nodes are often referred to as bamboo knuckles, the nodes are the joints of the bamboo stem located between hollow points along the culm pole. The node is made up of a stiff membrane spanning the culm where buds and branches can be found. These joints help reinforce the bamboo stalk.
Engineered Bamboo Flooring
Engineered bamboo flooring consists of a surface (wear) layer of either vertical or horizontal bamboo. These top layers of bamboo are attached to another layer of wood (such as plywood, pine or fiberboard) with special flooring adhesives under extreme pressure. The result is a floor that looks identical to solid bamboo from above, but the core and backing are nonâ€“bamboo materials. Engineered bamboo floors are available in 2 types:
Multiple layer (or multi-ply): multiple plies of wood (plywood) with a top layer (veneer) of finished bamboo.
Three-layer (or three-ply): these bamboo planks consist of a backing ply sheet, a middle (or core) layer of wood or fiberboard, and a top layer (veneer) of finished bamboo.
As a general rule, the higher the ply count in multi ply engineered, the more stable the product will be, especially in extreme humidity conditions. Just like hardwood engineered flooring, engineered bamboo floors tend to be more dimensionally stable (surface height and width evenly balanced) and easier to install than solid bamboo flooring.
Strand woven bamboo flooring is the hardest bamboo floor type available. In fact, it’s comparable in durability to many of the hardest wood flooring types, and is nearly two times stronger than Red Oak and horizontal/vertical bamboo flooring.
Strand woven (compressed) bamboo flooring is made from strips of bamboo that are shredded into thin strands (or fibers) and combined with resins in rectangular steel molds. (These resins help protect the finished product from moisture, scratching, and UV light exposure). Under high levels of heat and pressure, the strands are pressed together to form a dense bamboo beam. These beams are then cut into floor planks and sent to the milling machine, where a tongue and groove is cut on all 4 sides. The planks are sanded until smooth and sent to the finishing line to receive multiple coats of finish.
Bamboo floor comes in three common color types; natural, carbonized (amber) and stained.
Natural bamboo flooring is literally just that, the natural pale golden tone of bamboo. The color is neutral, and pairs well with most decor, and can truly light up your living space.
Bamboo contains natural sugars. To achieve a darker color, natural bamboo strips are steamed which caramelizes the natural sugars and darkens the bamboo. The longer the bamboo is steamed, the darker it becomes. Shades will range from light amber to dark brown. The steaming process adds extra stress to the bamboo which weakens it slightly compared to natural bamboo; check the Janka Hardness scale for the differences between natural and carbonized bamboo.
Many bamboo flooring manufacturers are now staining bamboo to offer a wider variety of colors. Stained colors vary and can resemble the colors of natural wood flooring species or can be extreme colors for an artistic statement. While you can sand and stain bamboo flooring that is already installed, it is more cost effective and easier to purchase a pre-stained and finished product.
Bamboo Floor Construction
Bamboo flooring is manufactured using various construction processes. Read below about the different types of edges and milling available.
The edges of bamboo flooring are cut at 90° angles so when individual flooring planks are placed together, the transition is smooth with no groove between the edges.
Micro-beveled bamboo flooring has very small angles cut into the edges so when flooring planks are placed together, a small groove or seam will appear. The main reason for this type of milling is to hide minor imperfections that may be in the subfloor. Subfloor imperfections can cause squared edged bamboo flooring to have areas that are higher or lower than others.
Bamboo Flooring Milling
Milling refers to the type of bamboo locking or fastening mechanism. There are two popular types; tongue and groove and click lock.
Click and Lock
Click and lock bamboo flooring is individual planks of engineered floor that quite literally click together, requiring no adhesive between the planks. This type of floor is meant to be “floated”, meaning that flooring fasteners such as nails or staples are not used. For more information on floating click and lock engineered flooring, refer to the Bamboo Installation Instructions at FindAnyFloor.com.
NOTE: Floating is the installation method used when a floor is placed on top of a subfloor, only separated by an underlayment and not fastened using adhesives, nails or staples. This is considered the easier and quickest of all installation methods.
Tongue and Groove
Tongue and Groove (T & G) is the most common milling system used for bamboo and wood flooring. T & G bamboo planks are manufactured like puzzle pieces, with a groove in one side and a tongueâ€“shaped ridge on the other. The grooved side acts as a slot for the tongue-shaped edge, minimizing the space between planks. Most tongue and groove floors are installed using flooring fasteners (nails or staples) or special flooring adhesives. Some T & G engineered floors can be floated by applying glue between the tongue and the grooves to hold the planks together.
Bamboo Flooring Finishes
Bamboo flooring is manufactured with two finishing options; Pre-finished (finished) or unfinished.
Pre-finished Bamboo Hardwood Flooring
Pre-finished bamboo floors are sanded and coated with flooring finish at the factory. This allows the bamboo to go from the factory to the floor with no additional processing. After bamboo flooring has been constructed, milled and sanded at the factory, multiple coats of finish are applied using a process called UV finishing. This finish bonds quickly to the surface with the help of ultraviolet lamps. Many manufacturers are starting to use waterâ€“based (environmentally friendly) finishing systems rather than the common types which are urethane-based. Some manufacturers also add a product called Aluminum Oxide or Ceramic to the finishing process to promote a more scratch resistant and durable product.
Unfinished Bamboo Hardwood Flooring
Unfinished bamboo floors require sanding, staining (if you want a color other than natural or carbonized), and several protective coats of finish after installation. Warning: Unfinished bamboo floors can only be sanded and finished once the boards have had time to acclimate (or adjust) to the environment where installation is taking place. Finishing floors after installation lengthens the installation project time line, and will always be more expensive then buying pre-finished bamboo flooring.