There are several different types of bamboo that you can purchase for your kitchen, and they all have very different properties and characteristics. Solid bamboo floor planks consist of solid bamboo fibers throughout the planks, bonded to together with adhesive resins. Strand-woven bamboo is a similar product, but one in which the bamboo fibers are woven together at 90-degree angles, giving it very good strength and hardness. Both these types of products can be sanded down for refinishing when they become worn. Engineered bamboo is a product created by applying a very thin layer of natural bamboo to a backing material. It is the most affordable product with good water resistance, but it cannot be refinished.
Kitchen Spills and Stains
The major concern when purchasing any flooring material for a kitchen is the environmental stress placed on the floor. This can be a pretty tough environment, where food and food ingredients will splatter, spill, and splash across the room, sending a variety of colorful staining agents raining down on your beautiful floors. Water and other liquids are almost certain to spill onto the floor from time to time, and pots, pans, and dishes are likely to strike the floor occasionally. No wonder flooring choices here are so important.
In its natural state, untreated bamboo doesn't have much of a chance in the kitchen. While it is less absorbent than hardwood, it is still a natural material, and if liquids come in contact with its surface they will seep in. This can cause staining, warping, and the growth of mold. That is why bamboo in a kitchen needs to be treated with a proper sealing agent in order to create a clear, impervious top layer that can be easily and frequently cleaned.
Most bamboo sealing agents are comprised primarily of polyurethane. In some cases, wax can be used, but this is only recommended in commercial applications, as it will require periodic industrial buffing. Many bamboo materials come pre-sealed, and engineered flooring actually has a variably thick, invisible wear layer that protects its surface, making it nearly impervious to stains and moisture—except through its seams.
Surface Scratches and Dents
While it is true that bamboo is harder than most hardwood flooring options, it is still relatively soft and can suffer from scratches, dents, and marks caused by a variety of objects. Unprotected furniture legs dragged against the floor can cause gouges, and unpadded high heels can lead to nips and marks in the floor. Pet claws can also be a problem, especially if you have a large, rambunctious dog.
Prevention is the best strategy here. Mats and rugs can be placed at entrances to the kitchen and in other high traffic locations, such as in front of the sink. Make sure all furniture legs are equipped with felt protective pads and that your high-heeled shoes have pads. Regularly trimming pet nails will also help to keep your floor looking good.
Regularly sweep or vacuum the floor clean of any loose dirt or debris that may accumulate. When scraped across the floor, these tiny particles can tear small grooves through the surface finish. Over time, these blemishes give a bamboo floor an aged, worn appearance.
Bamboo is one of the most highly renewable natural resources available. Unlike trees, which take upwards of 20 years to reach maturity, bamboo can be fully ripe and ready for harvest in three to five years. It is also recyclable, and biodegradable. This material it has a very low impact on the environment.
However, there are some concerns about bamboo manufacturing practices. In some cases, bamboo fields are planted to the exclusion of more important crops and natural vegetation. You also have to consider the impact of carbon-dioxide gasses released through the vehicles that transport bamboo from where it grows in Southeast Asia to the rest of the world.
There are also potential health concerns with bamboo. Solid and strand-woven bamboo floor materials are made by using adhesive resins to bond together stalk fibers into dense planks. Depending on the adhesive used, there may be a potential for the off-gassing of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) from this adhesive. Some people may be susceptible to pronounced allergic reactions to this off-gassing.
Bamboo looks much like hardwood flooring, and it can range in color from light tan all the way to burnt brown. You have to be careful, however, as darker colors are achieved through a carbonization process that makes the material less hard. Bamboo can also be stained and painted in an endless variety of colors.
Because it is both harder and more water resistant than wooden floors, bamboo is often a good alternative in a kitchen. However, you still have to be aware of moisture, flooding, and humidity damage that can occur.