Another option when considering what timber flooring will be best for you is bamboo. Marketed for its environmentally friendly aspects, cost and durability, bamboo can be a great option for your home. Although, as with any timber flooring, knowing enough about the product to make an informed decision and not get stuck with expensive, long-term problems is important.
Bamboo flooring is an engineered or manufactured product, unlike solid timber floorboards, it has to be laminated and hot or cold pressed to form the boards. There are a number of different ways this is done, resulting in quite different looking and performing flooring.
The bamboo strips are laid side by side along their widest edge. They are then laminated and pressed to form the more traditional looking bamboo floorboards where you can clearly see the bamboo strands and nodes.
This process lines the strips along the narrow edge before lamination and pressing. The result is a more uniformed, lined effect. Vertical bamboo flooring tends to be more durable than the horizontal type.
As a way to minimise any waste from the previous two manufacturing processes, strand bamboo flooring takes the leftover bamboo, separates the strands and weaves or compresses them to form an extremely hard and durable floorboard.
As with other timbers, bamboo flooring comes in a range of colours (although more limited than traditional hard or soft woods). Naturally bamboo is quite pale and comes in a range of tones all the way to almost black. Rather than staining, the bamboo is carbonised to create varying degrees of darkness.
What to look out for
When researching bamboo flooring, opinions tend to be divided as to whether it is a good quality product. In the same way that you can have great quality and very poor quality traditional timber flooring, the same is true for bamboo flooring. Some of the things to look out for are exactly the same; how thick is the laminate and has it been properly sealed along the top, sides and the bottom?
Engineered bamboo boards tend to have less of an issue with expansion and warping as the cross lamination structure holds the strands together more effectively. Having a professional install any timber floor will also minimise these issues as they know how to cater for moisture content and expansion in different environments.
From an environmental and sustainability standpoint, bamboo grows much faster than timber, has fewer pests and the root structure is left intact when harvesting, minimising soil erosion, so is a great choice as a renewable resource. There is some concern over deforestation occurring to create bamboo plantations and the loss of natural flora and fauna habitats. Another environmental and health concern is the use of urea-formaldehyde (UF) in the adhesives used in bamboo flooring production, this causes VOCs to be released (although significantly less than particle board). If this is something you are looking to avoid in your home, there are bamboo floors which use adhesives free of UF, you will just need to hunt around for them.
When considering bamboo flooring remember, low quality, cheap options are more likely to have problems including warping, expansion issues, excessive wearing and water damage. Some interior fittings and fixtures are easily fixed or replaced when they break or you get sick of them, your floor is not one of them. Take the time to really think about how your choice of flooring will be able to withstand your family and lifestyle.
If you want ot know more about traditional timber flooring options, have a look at