Bamboo is a natural surface covering material that has many of the positive benefits of hardwood flooring, even though it is actually produced from a type of grass.
Bamboo flooring has evolved a long way from its initial use as a flooring covering or overlay which has been used throughout Asia for centuries.
The traditional method of making bamboo floors involved slicing the stems of the plant into thin, flat planks.
These could be stained a particular colour, varnished, or left untreated depending on the desired effect.
These strips were then nailed down to wooden beams or larger bamboo pieces to create a support system.
Generally the arrangement of the planks was loose, leaving irregular gaps throughout the floor. The result was a floor that breathes, creating a room that stays cooler and more ventilated in the summer. This is the most common type of bamboo flooring used in Asia.
While the open air arrangement of traditional bamboo flooring was fine for the hot climes of Asia, it was never going to be enough for the western world.
The Chinese utilised western floor overlay manufacturing technology to develop the next evolution in bamboo flooring, which is known as the compressed or strand woven method, and is now used all around the world.
In this manufacturing method the stalks of the bamboo plant are sliced into thin strips so they can be treated.
Often the material will be boiled, or dipped in borax. The material is then crushed into fibres and mixed with an adhesive. The fibres are pressed together into blocks using extreme heat and pressure.
Once the blocks are formed the material is cut down into usable plank sizes. It is then thoroughly sanded and any applicable stain or finish is applied at that point.
The natural colour of bamboo is a soft, light tan colour, but it can be darkened using a process known as carbonisation. Whether carbonised or not, the bamboo slices are then kiln dried.
The natural benefits of bamboo flooring
Bamboo is made from natural vegetation. The bamboo plant is a highly renewable resource that is able to grow to maturity in as little as three to five years. This is much faster than hardwood trees which can take upwards of 20 years or more to reach maturity.
Bamboo is relatively easy to maintain. You just have to sweep or microfibre dust mop it regularly to remove small particle debris. You clean it with a light spray of water or use a hardwood or bamboo floor cleanser.
In terms of resistance to dents caused by footwear and the like, Bamboo flooring is unsurpassed by any hardwood, being twice as dent resistant as oak and significantly stronger than jarrah, which is widely recognised as the strongest hardwood.
Bamboo is a trendy flooring material that can elevate the elegance of a space almost instantly. It has an appearance and a feel that is similar to hardwood and yet, is still distinct and different.
The use of natural materials is an important trend in the construction industry. As people are becoming more ecologically conscious, they are demanding products which reflect these values and seeking materials and designs that reject the modern ‘cookie-cutter’ world, instead focussing on individual personality and natural evolution.
Article compiled by Joseph Lewitin from About.com Guide and Claudia Page of Ecodure Bamboo Flooring. For more information visit: www.bambooflooring.co.nz