If you’ve been keeping a close eye on flooring trends in recent years, you’ll have noticed a distinct rise in the popularity of bamboo flooring. Once a little known, somewhat bijou, alternative to hardwood flooring, bamboo floors are now available from several major retailers including Home Depot, Costco, BuildDirect and Wayfair and offer an affordable and chic option for most homeowners. In this Home Flooring Pros blog post we take a look at the different types of bamboo flooring available and offer up our bamboo flooring review of the best brands, manufacturers and retailers for you to consider.
Different Types of Bamboo Flooring
Despite its increased popularity, there still seems to be a fair bit of confusion about the different types of bamboo flooring, so here is everything you need to know to make the best decision about which kind will suit your project. For free installation estimates in you area CLICK HERE.
Solid Bamboo Flooring
First of all, there is solid bamboo flooring. However this does not mean a single sheet of bamboo cut into planks – that would be impossible as bamboo does not grow that wide – in fact the manufacturing of all solid bamboo flooring involves pieces (strands, stalks or strips) of bamboo that are fused together using pressurization and adhesives.
The main advantage of solid bamboo flooring is that it is the most natural and characterful looking product, and it is possible to sand down and refinish solid bamboo planks in order to refresh them or repair damage.
The main disadvantages of solid bamboo, is that like hardwood planks, it is advisable to have it professionally installed and the general rule of thumb is to avoid installing it in “wet” areas – particularly bathrooms and basements. This is because, even with good waterproof finishes, solid bamboo flooring is prone to swelling in areas that have heavy moisture levels.
Within the solid bamboo floor category, there are in fact three sub-categories: horizontal, vertical and strand woven. Each of these sub-categories refers to the way the plank is created and this gives different attributes to the plank, both in looks and hardness.
Horizontal and Vertical
With horizontal bamboo flooring, the strips of bamboo are set out horizontally to make a plank and this results in giving the plank a more authentic look, with the “knuckles” that you would instantly associate with bamboo being clearly visible.
With vertical bamboo flooring, the bamboo stalks are laid out vertically and the result is a plank that does not have “knuckles” but rather is more uniform in nature with a striped aspect to it. The picture below demonstrates this well.
Aside from the differences aesthetically, there is little else that differentiates horizontal and vertical bamboo: they both have a similar level of hardness and tend to be similar in price.
Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring
With strand woven bamboo flooring, rather than gluing the strips of bamboo together in one direction or the other, strands of bamboo fiber are actually woven together. The process results in a look that is a little less “busy” than the stripy vertical bamboo and, unlike horizontal bamboo, no “knuckles” are visible.
The major advantage of strand woven bamboo is that it is the hardest and most durable of all types, a fact that is reflected in its more costly price bracket.
Carbonized, Tiger and Stained Bamboo Flooring
Finally, “carbonized” is another term you may see when looking at bamboo flooring. As opposed to “natural” bamboo, which is very light in color, carbonized bamboo has undergone a process to darken the bamboo fibers; meanwhile “tiger” bamboo planks are made up from mixing natural and carbonized fibers; and of course stained bamboo is exactly that – stained with pigment to give it (usually) a very dark tone. Be aware that carbonized bamboo is softer than natural bamboo, so less appropriate for high traffic areas like kitchens and entry halls.
Engineered Bamboo Flooring
Engineered bamboo flooring is a clever alternative to solid bamboo: only the top wear layer is made from solid bamboo while the remaining layers are made from a mix of other wood materials, glued together to provide a much more stable product. Whether it comes in tongue and groove or click and lock planks bamboo engineered flooring offers a more versatile option.
The main advantage is that engineered bamboo is super hard, less prone to scratches or dents; also it is very easy to maintain and install. Plus because it is much more water-resistant than solid bamboo, you can use engineered bamboo flooring in bathrooms.
However, because the bamboo layer is very thin, when the wear layer eventually erodes you cannot simply refinish engineered flooring – it will have to be replaced entirely. To this end, choose planks that have the thickest wear layer you can find to maximize the shelf life of your floor.
Laminate and Vinyl Bamboo Flooring
Need something even more durable and/or cheaper than solid or engineered bamboo? If you’re looking for a bamboo floor look, but real bamboo is either too expensive or simply impractical, then you can turn to laminate or vinyl flooring as an alternative.
Laminate flooring with it’s tough, clear resin wear layer and easy click and lock installation uses a printed image, much like a photograph, of bamboo flooring to imitate the real thing and offers one of the most durable flooring options around.
Vinyl flooring is also becoming popular again too thanks to the emergence of luxury vinyl tile and plank. Although not to everyone’s taste bamboo vinyl plank flooring is a practical and hard wearing option especially in high traffic and wet areas of the home.
Best Bamboo Flooring Brands
Plyboo – We start our bamboo flooring reviews at the top end of the market, Plyboo was established in 1989 (one of the first US bamboo floor specialist companies), have impeccable environmental standards and now use a ground-breaking soy-based, formaldehyde-free adhesive system to produce their bamboo products. This rigor is enough alone to justify the higher price bracket of their products (from $4.30 up to $6 per square feet), but added to that is the sheer gorgeousness of their bamboo flooring! Aside from their beautiful strand woven floors, they also have a couple of quite different floors that you won’t find anywhere else such as the Plyboo Squared where the bamboo has been laid out in an end grain orientation which makes it look like mosaic squares, and the specialist Plyboo Sport bamboo flooring specifically designed for high impact sports courts. Plyboo also offer a superb collection of carved and textured bamboo panels that are fixed to walls to great effect.
Teragren – Established in 1994, Teragren was also among the first US companies to promote bamboo as a sustainable construction material, offering not just flooring but also plywood panels and worktops. Teragren have an impressive track record of not only delivering high quality products, but also ensuring fair trading practices with their Chinese farmers and factory workers and being committed to “environmentally sensitive specifications… that has no negative impact on human health”. They currently have eight ranges of bamboo flooring, each offering several different colorways, finishes and coordinating flooring accessories, moldings etc. My personal favorite is the Visions range which offers nine different colorways including a couple of grey toned planks that are bang on trend for 2014. I also really like their excellent user-friendly website that gives clear technical and easy to understand information; for example, alongside the Janka score for hardness, they explain it as a percentage difference to traditional oak!
Ambient Bamboo Floors – Established in 2005, Ambient bills itself as a one-stop shop for all your bamboo flooring needs; indeed they do have a comprehensive range of matching trims, moldings and installation materials for their floors and the fact that all their flooring is free from urea formaldehyde is a massive bonus too. Ambient’s range is mainly made from a large selection of strand bamboo flooring in different finishes, covering all shades from the nearly white Malaga Strand to the almost black Java Strand, and including striking options like the Tiger Strand and on-trend gray options too. They also have a smaller selection of horizontal and vertical bamboo floors; and an interesting line of eucalyptus flooring. All of Ambient’s strand bamboo floors can be installed over underfloor radiant heating and prices range from aas little as $2.89 per square meter.
Cali Bamboo – This San Diego based company also promotes bamboo as a eco-friendly building material. As well as their flooring, they offer a range of other bamboo products including a seriously awesome composite decking product that is made from 60% reclaimed bamboo fibers and 40% recycled HDPE plastics. Cali Bamboo is clearly committed to green technology and even contributes a percentage of its revenue to environmental organizations, so if green credentials are important to you then this is a great choice. It’s also home to one of the hardest strand woven bamboo flooring in the market – with a Janka score of over 5000 – that comes in a comprehensive range of colors, styles and sizes; and they also have a click lock easy installation version and edgings, nosings and stair risers to match.
EcoFusion – EcoFusion are developing excellent eco-alternatives which “blend renewable and recyclable products… and ‘fuse’ them into innovative flooring solutions”. In the case of their rather unique Color Fusion and Strand Woven bamboo floor ranges, that means blending bamboo strands and recycled hardwood sourced from furniture makers. And with their Color Fusion range they take their technology even further by dyeing the bamboo strands in plant-based pigments, resulting in some truly gorgeous deep toned bamboo floors that are quite different from much on the market; like the super chic slate grey toned Morning Mist bamboo floor pictured below right. Other great reasons to recommend EcoFusion are that their products contain no added urea formaldehyde and that they offer a 35-year warranty. Prices range between $4 and $8 per square foot.
US Floors – Another committed green company, US Floors’ company motto is: “Manufacturer of Unique and Sustainable Floors”. They specialize in bamboo and cork, but also have a range of natural oiled hardwood flooring. They have three bamboo floor ranges, the Traditions, Expressions and Corboo. It is the third range – the Corboo – that we find the most interesting, as it is a unique combination of strand woven bamboo and seams of natural cork – the result, we agree, does have a “certain rusticity and variegation for a look like no other floor”! The Corboo range comes in six colorways, including the really beautiful Glacier colorway that resembles whitewashed wood planks. Wayfair have a selection of bamboo floors from USFloors
Yanchi (available at Buildirect.com) – Our next bamboo flooring review is this cost effective range manufactured by a Chinese corporation for over a decade and now exclusively retailed through the BuildDirect website. It may not seem wise to buy flooring via the Internet, but the great news is that BuildDirect are more than willing to send you free samples and their website also has a lot of information detailing things like installation and maintenance. The Yanchi product range is truly extensive with bamboo floors available in different thickness gauges and finishes, strand woven or horizontal, extra wide planks, and even 15 selections that can be installed over underfloor heating systems. Beware, however, that their budget selections under $2 per square foot tend to be the carbonized horizontal bamboo, which is softer than strand woven, and much more prone to dents and scratches.
Home Legend (available at Home Depot) – The Home Depot company stock a very comprehensive range of bamboo floor planks from Home Legend, with over 300 different bamboo products listed, including hand scraped, strand woven, horizontal, click lock and tongue and groove options, as well as bamboo nosings and moldings too. As you would expect from a leading home improvement store, the prices at Home Depot are pretty competitive ranging between $2.30 – $4.50 per square foot and there’s a good range of colors and styles of bamboo flooring, although Home Legend does tend to err on the more conservative side of things (no greys or whitewashed options here). There have been some mixed reviews of Home Legend products, particularly when used in a floating floor system, so please do your research and ensure that you are matching the right product to the correct specifications of your project.
Have we omitted a brand that you’ve installed and love? Please let us know about your bamboo flooring project by leaving a comment below or contacting us via email. And take a look at our Bamboo Pinterest Board for more design ideas. And if a sustainable product is one of your main flooring criteria the take a look at our cork flooring reviews by clicking here.
Bamboo Flooring Photos