Except for one problem: bamboo is inherently weak.
While fully-grown bamboo can be quite imposing--overtaking gardens, creeping into neighbors' yards, and resisting machetes and shovels--it is fibrous, a grass, an organic material. It is not wood. Expose cut bamboo to the elements for only a short time and it will quickly start to break down.
Bamboo's weakness has prompted flooring manufacturers to devise ways to turn a grass into a "wood." They subject the material to tens of thousands of pounds of force and bathe the bamboo in resins.
This ersatz wood must create a flooring that is durable enough to withstand human (and animal) traffic for years to come. One method is to weave the strands of bamboo into a stronger product.
What Is Strand Woven Bamboo?
Bamboo flooring is made out of a grass, not wood. Because of this, bamboo is highly fibrous. Ordinary manufacturing methods laminate these fibers one on top of the other, in the same direction.
But the strand method, inaugurated in 2007, actually weaves these fibers in an adhesive base, forming a stronger material. Thus the inclusion of the word woven.
Strand woven bamboo flooring is far more durable than vertical or horizontal bamboo flooring because the cross-hatched strands act in concert to hold the material together.
Why Weaving Is Important
Bamboo is a soft material that is difficult to turn into a wear-ready surface.
Not only that, a method of "staining" or browning bamboo flooring called carbonizing or sometimes carmelizing can further weaken the bamboo--up to 30%.
Should Bamboo Even Be Used for Floors?
Unlike oak, hickory, maple, or other hardwoods, bamboo is not inherently wear-resistant.
Even without treatment, hardwood floors wear quite well.
Bamboo flooring, by contrast, relies almost entirely on manufacturing methods such as the strand weaving process, core materials, adhesives, and tough aluminum oxide finishes.
Cost Compared to Other Bamboo Floors
Generally, strand woven is about 50% higher than other types of bamboo flooring.
If durability is not a high concern, choose horizontal bamboo flooring over strand woven. Horizontal bamboo flooring sells for as little as $1.50 per square foot, as opposed to strand woven's $2.50 starting price.
Recommended Manufacturers and Retailers
- Teragren LLC: There are a lot of shifty strand woven bamboo manufacturers, but Teragren is quite above-board. Teragren keeps track of and controls the entire manufacturing process; they do all the required environmental and "green" things; and they are based in the U.S. (Bainbridge Island, Washington).
- Cali Bamboo: All of Cali Bamboo's Fossilized® Bamboo Flooring products are strand woven.
- Build Direct: This online-only home improvement materials retailer offers strand woven for as low as $2.45, though you do need to meet certain order volume minimums to secure those lower prices.