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Bamboo flooring - Good for the environment?
Submitted by: John Raum

 

 

It seems that whenever you see a show on Television where a new floor is being installed, or you read a magazine article about flooring, you are told how eco-friendly bamboo flooring is.

I think you are being bamboozled!. A lot of marketing money is going to promote bamboo and the message is being repeated by every Tom, Dick and Harry without any further thought.

Bamboo is supposed to be environmentally better than other flooring choices because it is "renewable". Bamboo, which is a grass and not a wood, is harvested every three to seven years. However, unlike another renewable flooring category - hardwood flooring - it has to go through an amazing manufacturing process before it is usable.

Before we get to the manufacturing, though, some thought should be given to growing the bamboo. Because of the demand, forests are being cut down to find land on which to grow it. This immediately thows some cold water on the hot environmental claims. How much fertiliser and other agricultural input is required to keep growing the plants on the same land is also to be questioned.

Onto the manufacturing. Once the bamboo is harvested it is cut into narrow strips. There are three main types of bamboo flooring currently available - "Horizontal", "Vertical" and "Strand". The first two categories describe to way the strips are oriented. Strand is basically baboo fibres. The strips or fibres are then boiled. After that the boards are manufactured by gluing the pieces together. To feel the weight of a plank of babo flooring, it is fairly clear that a a large proportion of the board is in fact the glue, and this is a crude oil based item. Having sanded and polyurethaned the finished boards, they are then wrapped and boxed. From my experience of this product, the amount of wrapping material is prodigeous. Each layer of boards in a box, is separated with a thin plastic foam sheet. The plankis are then boxed in cardboard, strapped with plastic strapping and the the whole box is wrapped in a plastic sheeting. After installing a bamboo floor, you seem to have more used packaging than you had bamboo! Finally, of course, you should consider the fact that the product has been shipped seven ot eight thousand miles.

My final word of caution, is that I have found that bamboo flooring is not as hard or durable as it is claimed. My experience is that it dents fairly easily. I have not had experience yet of how well a bamboo floor can be refinished. But if you are considering a purchase this is something you should investigate.

From my point of view, if you are in the market for a new floor and want to be "eco-conscious" a hardwood floor from a local species is well worth considering - oak, ash, maple, hickory. cherry, walnut - and others. It is true that trees take longer to grow than bamboo, but while they are growing they are good for the environment. The forests in North America are now well managed, and there are allegedly more trees growing here now than there were a century ago. A hardwood floor can last a lifetime and can be refinished many times. In fact rather than use a polyurethane finish you should consider a oil finish, which is also from a renewable source.

If you like the look of Bamboo, then by all means use it - it is probably no worse for the environment than other choices like carpet or vinyl. But just take the marketing claims with a rather large pinch of salt.

Agree or Disagree? Need mor information? Would you like to make an appointment for a free quote on a new floor? Email me - john@expressionsunderfoot.com.

John Raum

Expressions Underfoot Inc

"the floor store at your door"