Monday, September 24, 2012

To Buy or Not To Buy Bamboo

Although many people think of it as wood, bamboo is actually a grass. But because matured bamboo enjoys many of the robust properties of hardwood, it has become a popular choice for flooring. There are many reasons why you might choose a bamboo floor not least because bamboo comes from an environmentally sustainable source – or does it?

Unsustainable bamboo– the new hamburger?

Widely produced in the Far East, bamboo grown specifically for flooring generally comes from India, China, Japan and Vietnam. However some countries are now clearing natural forestation in order to grow the fast growing and lucrative bamboo. It is worth questioning whether, in addition to the unsustainability of growing acreage of bamboo where once stood majestic tropical trees like teak, mahogany and redwood, bamboo is in danger of following in the wake of massive South American deforestation to make way for animal grazing.

Bamboo and VOC

Bamboo flooring can also exude toxins of not properly treated or if the bamboo has been cut too soon. Be aware of the origin of your bamboo, as some Far Eastern countries may not control levels of urea formaldehyde. To ensure your bamboo is free of formaldehyde and has been responsibly produced with fair trade commissions for workers contact the Forest Stewardship Council UK (FSC UK).

Because bamboo flooring is produced by slicing the huge stalk of the plant into lengths before gluing them together using a blend of heat, pressure and resin adhesive, the bonding agent can discharge harmful and volatile organic chemicals (VOC) into the atmosphere of a room over the lifespan of the flooring. Whilst most bamboo flooring does have the resin in its construction the amount of VOC exuded will be dependent upon both the quality of bamboo and the manufacturing process.

Whilst bamboo is a fast growing plant it does require at least three to five years to reach a maturity point where it can safely be used as flooring (as opposed to trees which require 20 to 30 years). Immature bamboo that is laid as flooring tends to be too soft and will last a couple of years at best, making your bamboo floor a costly experiment.

Unfortunately at the time of writing there is no hard and fast classification in place to rate bamboo quality. Sometimes bamboo is sold as Grade A or Grade B, but this is purely subjective and is not generally recognised as meaningful in terms of quality. The only way therefore to ensure top quality bamboo is to purchase from a reputable and accredited wood flooring company.

Now the good news

It’s not all bad however. Bamboo does look good and is fairly simple to maintain. Bamboo can be easily cleaned with a brush or light vacuum. It can also be mopped using a well wrung out mop. Avoid excess water on the floor as constant puddles will lead to warping and staining. Alternatively you can use a wax-free bamboo floor cleaner.

Bamboo, when properly harvested and allowed to mature, is a very hard substance and the distinctive style of bamboo offers something a little different, bringing elegance and character to any room.

Bamboo flooring is extremely popular in health spas, offices and studios where a unique style is required. Bamboo flooring is even and smooth to the touch and, because it is a grass and not wood, it is also knot-free.

Bamboo flooring is available in a wide variety of shades from bright and light natural bamboo through to the intensely dramatic black bamboo. And, jusst like any other type of wood flooring, it is possible to professionally sand and re-finish good quality bamboo flooring that has been scratched and return it to peak condition.

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