Fully-grown bamboo in gardens can be quite imposing. It overtakes yards, creeps into neighbors' properties, and resists machetes and shovels. Cut and expose the core of this grass to sun and rain for only a short time, and it will quickly flatten, shred, and break up. Paradoxically, bamboo has also become a highly popular interior floor covering material known for its toughness.
Bamboo flooring imbues your living space with a depth and richness generally associated with highly expensive, vibrant, and richly patterned hardwood. With the right surface treatment, this chameleon-like material can also adopt the look of walnut, oak, or pine flooring. Bamboo's structural weakness means that flooring manufacturers must invent ways to turn grass into a material that behaves and looks similar to wood. Not only that, a browning treatment for bamboo flooring called carbonizing, or carmelizing, can further weaken the bamboo by up to 30 percent, increasing the need for strengthening measures.
Producers subject the material to tens of thousands of pounds of force and bathe the bamboo in resins. These production processes create a floor covering that is durable enough to withstand human and pet traffic for years to come. But it helps to know the difference between conventional bamboo and strand woven bamboo flooring.
While bamboo is a durable flooring material, it is used in unexpected ways, too—musical instruments, fishing rods, surfboards, and even beer can be made from bamboo.
Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring Defined
Strand woven bamboo flooring is a sharp departure from traditional horizontal and vertical bamboo floors. It is far more durable and offers greater structural integrity than conventional bamboo flooring.
Ordinary horizontal bamboo flooring (non-strand) looks like pressed bamboo, despite any staining or other surface treatments. The coloration might say walnut or oak, but the patterning definitely says bamboo since the bamboo's culm (stalk) and distinctive nodes (similar to knuckles) are visible.
Yet anyone purchasing strand woven bamboo flooring and expecting that their floor will look like bamboo might be disappointed. Early in the production process, the bamboo loses its iconic look.
Bamboo is used as a source product much in the same way that wood pulp makes particle board or crushed minerals make quartz countertops. The bamboo is not stripped in recognizable form and laminated. Instead, it is machine-shredded to pull out and isolate its strong fibers. Steel hydraulic presses then press these fibers, and they are subjected to heat until they form extremely dense logs. Once these logs are cured, they can be milled and fabricated.
San Francisco-based Smith & Fong introduced Chinese bamboo flooring to the U.S. market in 1991. A decade later, the company introduced strand woven bamboo flooring. They call strand woven bamboo flooring "an entirely new bamboo aesthetic" because it moves beyond that traditional bamboo look that attracted so many buyers during the 1990s and 2000s. Strand woven bamboo can be turned not just into floorboards but other building materials such as plywood.
Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring's Durability
Unlike oak, hickory, maple, or other hardwoods, bamboo is not inherently wear-resistant. Without treatment, many hardwoods wear quite well. Even a softwood such as cedar is known for its longevity due to its natural oils that help the wood resist weathering.
By contrast, bamboo flooring relies almost entirely on manufacturing methods such as the strand weaving process, binding materials, and tough surface aluminum oxide finishes for its strength and durability. 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.
Testing of many hardwoods with the Janka hardness testing system shows that a majority have around a 4,500 rating. According to major bamboo flooring supplier Cali Bamboo, third-party testing "typically find(s) Janka hardness ratings for most strand woven bamboo floors test closer to 3,000 pounds."
Strand vs. Conventional Bamboo
Strand woven bamboo flooring is roughly three times more durable than conventional horizontal or vertical bamboo flooring, making it an excellent floor covering for high impact areas. If you have young children or large pets, strand woven bamboo flooring might be the highly durable material that you need.
Sources of Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring
The originator of the bamboo flooring movement in the United States has moved past only producing residential interior flooring, and now produce underlayment, gym flooring, trim, and a host of other bamboo-based products. But Smith & Fong is still a reliable source for strand woven bamboo flooring with its Stiletto Strand and PlyBoo Strand flooring lines.
All of Cali Bamboo's Fossilized Bamboo Flooring products are strand woven and exceed the 5,000 Janka point rating. Cali Bamboo’s Fossilized strand woven bamboo flooring compacts 30-percent more bamboo into each plank than horizontal bamboo flooring.
Based in Bainbridge Island, Washington, Teragren keeps track of and controls the entire manufacturing process for its strand woven bamboo flooring.
This online-only home improvement materials retailer offers inexpensive strand woven bamboo flooring, though you do need to meet certain order volume minimums to secure those lower prices.