Bamboo Flooring: Why It’s
Bamboo flooring is regularly mentioned in the same breath with such terms as “eco-friendly” and “green flooring.” But what actually makes this flooring choice a good one for those interested in lowering their carbon footprint? Is it really as eco-friendly as manufacturers say? We’ll try to answer your questions here.
Bamboo is a grass and not a wood, and as such, it grows at a very rapid rate. The speed at which it grows allows for a three to five year harvest cycle and a harvest rotation of 10 years or less in most cases. By comparison, most hardwood species used to make hardwood flooring products take between 50 and 120 years to mature before they can be milled. In addition, when the bamboo is harvested, the root ball of the plant is left unaffected which allows the plant to regenerate in the same spot for as long as the plant is alive.
Bamboo can grow at a rate of three to four feet per day – without the help of pesticides, fertilizers or excessive watering. Because of this, bamboo can yield 20-times more usable product than trees in a similar sized area.
A bamboo grove produces 35% more oxygen than an identical-sized stand of trees, making bamboo a much better contributor to the planet’s breathable air supply. The plant also improves soil conditions and it is one of the best natural deterrents to soil erosion.
Bamboo flooring is available in an engineered variety that features a thin layer of bamboo laminated over a bamboo-oriented strand board (OSB), utilizing post-industrial waste bamboo to minimize material waste. Of course, some manufacturers incorporate non-bamboo materials in their coreboard so it is important to learn as much about the product as possible before you purchase to make sure it is definitely bamboo-oriented.
Bamboo offers one of the hardest natural flooring surfaces available, even harder than most types of hardwood, which makes it highly durable and long-lasting. Its durability means that it will require less frequent replacing, which will ultimately save the homeowner more money over the life of the floor. The lower rate of replacement will also generate significantly less waste. Bamboo offers the ability to be refinished, much like traditional hardwood, which extends the floor’s life even further.
One of the major arguments against the eco-friendliness of bamboo lies in the fact that nearly all of the bamboo used to make flooring products is grown, manufactured and shipped from the Pacific Rim area, predominantly China, the Philippines and Vietnam. For this reason, many people believe that the energy consumption and fuel emissions caused by transporting the product to the United States counter-balances bamboo’s otherwise eco-friendly attributes.
Currently, no comparative data exists to determine whether or not this claim is accurate, so homeowners will have to ultimately decide themselves whether or not bamboo is the best choice for their green home.