Floors are an essential and important element in an interior design scheme. Small wonder, then, that the eye-catching patterns of bamboo flooring have been attracting attention. Made from the bamboo plant-a grass-this style of flooring allows homeowners to make a bold design statement underfoot. Another reason for the buzz? Bamboo is considered an eco-friendly flooring option. “While bamboo flooring is unique and beautiful, it's also a fast-growing grass that reaches maturity in four to six years,” reports Chelsea Fossum, a buyer for Lumber Liquidators. “This makes it a highly renewable resource that is gaining popularity in home design.”
To make bamboo flooring, the stalks of the bamboo plant are cut into thin strips and bonded together in layers with the use of an adhesive resin. They can be layered horizontally, with the strips facing up to reveal the natural shape of the plant, or vertically, with the strips turned on their ends and pressed one against the other, resulting in a striated pattern. A third process, which creates a product known as “strand-woven bamboo,” involves shredding the bamboo stalks, mixing the fibers with adhesive, and pressing them together into highly durable flooring sheets.
Horizontal-grain, vertical-grain, and strand-woven bamboo flooring are commonly referred to as “solid bamboo,” because they are made up entirely of bamboo strips or fibers. Another option on the market is called “engineered bamboo,” which takes a thin strip of solid bamboo and adheres it to the top of another type of wood such as plywood or fiberboard. The main advantage of engineered bamboo is ease of installation; engineered planks can be floated above a subfloor without the need for nails or adhesives, while solid planks are installed much like traditional hardwood.
Bamboo flooring is available in a wide range of colors from pale straw to deep mahogany tones and everything in between. Natural bamboo resembles light woods like ash and beech. To create other colors, bamboo can be stained or carbonized, a process that produces pleasing deeper hues. Carbonization, however, is thought to degrade the durability of bamboo floors, so darker colors may not be best for high-traffic areas.
The variety of patterns in bamboo flooring is truly one of its biggest draws for homeowners-from the natural silhouettes visible in horizontal-grain planks to the linear quality of vertical-grain planks to the graphic quality of strand-woven designs. Which variety to use in a room of your house will depend on your personal taste and the overall style of the space.
Regular sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that's needed to keep bamboo flooring looking its best. If your home has high foot traffic, pets, or young children, thoughtfully positioned area rugs may be a worthwhile investment. As with hardwood floors, placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs can help extend the life of bamboo.
At about $3 to $8 per square foot, the price of bamboo is comparable to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. It's worth paying a little more for a higher-quality product for increased durability. Warranties are often a good indicator of quality; planks with a longer warranty are generally more durable. Households with young children or anyone with respiratory sensitivity will want to inquire about VOC levels before making a purchase, because the chemicals sometimes used in manufacturing can off-gas in the home. For some of the top-rated bamboo floors, click here.
To help you find the best pattern for a particular room, think about the other colors, fabrics, or finishes that will share the space with the bamboo floor, much as you would when considering paint swatches. More graphic patterns lend themselves to use in modern interiors, while simpler designs are typically suited to more traditional decor.
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