Bamboo is a distinctive and beautiful natural flooring choice with numerous attractive qualities that it can lend to a variety of environments. However, it also has some inherent vulnerabilities that can cause challenges under certain conditions. Understanding the limitations of the material, and the reaction that it will have to elements like liquids, humidity, staining agents, and high-traffic use, will help you to make an informed purchasing decision about whether to use bamboo flooring planks for your flooring.
Pros & Cons of Bamboo Flooring
Vulnerable To Moisture
Bamboo is denser and more resistant to water damage than most woods, and it does have some mild natural antimicrobial properties. However, it still has vulnerabilities to moisture. If installed in a wet environment where liquids are allowed to sit on the surface of the floor, the planks can be subject to warping, plumping, and staining. This can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew, especially in the subfloor.
Requires Diligent Cleaning
Since you should never immerse a bamboo floor in water, a weekly wet mopping isn’t an option. Regular maintenance will require a little bit more work. Sweeping and vacuuming regularly will help to get rid of small dirt particles that can cause scratches. Then the floor can be Swiffered, or damp mopped on occasion, as long as any lingering liquids are wiped up immediately afterward.
Sensitive to Humidity
Even if there are no threats of splashed and puddled water, humidity can still cause problems for bamboo flooring. Spaces such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens are especially prone to these problems, and that water in the air can be more damaging to bamboo than direct liquids. Slipping subtly down through cracks and crevices, moist vapors can cause long-term damage to the planks themselves, while also nestling in the subfloor to cause the growth of microbial menaces.
It's a myth that bamboo flooring excessively expands and contracts in dry or humid climates. However, avoid any issues by making sure bamboo flooring is properly dried and acclimated to your home's environment a week before installation.
Susceptible to Scratches
While bamboo is a relatively hard material, it can be subject to scratches, dents, and cracks under certain conditions. Over time, pet nails, unpadded high heels, and dragging furniture across the floor can cause unsightly marks. Even small particles of dirt and debris can act like grit to sand and score the flooring over time, resulting in a dull and broken appearance.
Damage From Carbonization
The carbonization process uses heat to darken the appearance of bamboo for aesthetic appeal. This allows it to be offered in a variety of shades and hues, to match the specific look of the room where it is being used. The process also makes it look like traditional hardwood flooring. The drawback is that this method weakens the material, making it softer and more prone to damage from impact, abrasion, and liquid staining.
Prone to VOCs
Bamboo may look like wood, but it is a grass that is shredded down and then molded back together using heat, pressure, and adhesive. In some low-quality materials, the adhesive used will contain formaldehyde, which is a toxic substance that can off-gas small amounts of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) over time. This issue can be eliminated by only purchasing from reputable dealers that have the proper certifications and emission standards.
Cost to the Environment
The grass that bamboo flooring is manufactured from is all-natural, organic, and readily renewable, with a growth cycle that only takes three to five years to reach full maturity. The harvesting process also allows the stalks to be cut without harming the root, so replanting is not necessary. This makes bamboo a very eco-friendly resource, at least at first look.
However, there can be an environmental cost to the manufacturing of bamboo. The rising popularity of these materials is prompting some farmers to overgrow these plants to the detriment of the natural balance of flora and fauna in their environment. The majority of bamboo also comes from Southeast Asia, which means that there can be a carbon cost associated with transporting it to locations around the globe.