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Bamboo Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of bamboo flooring is an important factor to consider when determining its eco–friendliness. Unlike other floors that are made using non–sustainable materials (i.e. stone; tile) bamboo floors are made from a self–replenishing grass that grows at an extremely fast rate. The lifecycle of a bamboo floor also includes the manufacturing process, installation method and the transporting of both the raw material and the finished bamboo product to the installation site. Also, don't forget the disposal of the bamboo floors at the end of their useful life. You can help prolong the lifecycle of your bamboo floors by donating them to a bamboo reclamation center. We've addressed all of these concerns and more here.

Bamboo Floor Products

Origin of bamboo flooring:

Globe or Earth image representing Origin

With about 1,000 species, bamboo grows in forests all over the world, from East Asia to the United States, from the sub–Saharan desert to the Himalayas. The species often used for building materials, including flooring, is called "Moso" or "Mao." The Asia Pacific Rim, primarily China and Vietnam, is the source of most Moso bamboo.

How bamboo flooring is transported:

Frieghter illustration representing shipment of product

Bamboo flooring as well as finished bamboo products are generally shipped by freighter (ship) from parts of Asia to North America. Although great distances are involved, this mode of travel uses relatively low levels of energy. When considering a green floor, transportation and the use of fossil fuels needs to factored in to a floors level of eco friendliness.

How bamboo flooring is processed:

Factory illustration representing the production process

The production process varies somewhat, depending on the style of bamboo flooring. There are three main styles: solid bamboo flooring, engineered bamboo flooring and strand woven bamboo flooring.

Solid: The process of turning round, hollow stalks of bamboo into flooring starts with cutting the stalks into strips, each 9 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters) long. The strips are then milled to a consistent thickness and either soaked in a borax solution, or boiled to remove any insects. At this point, strips that will become natural–colored flooring are dried in kilns. Other strips are carbonized: treated with steam and heat in a process that caramelizes the plant's sugars to produce warmer, deeper colors. After carbonization, these strips are also dried in kilns. Next, the strips are covered with glue and pressed together, in vertical or horizontal positions. Using a combination of heat and pressure, the strips are bonded together.

Bamboo Flooring Grains: Horizontal and Vertical Grain

Engineered: The first part of the process is much like that of solid flooring. However, after the strips are bonded together, the now–solid material is sliced into thinner layers. Those layers are laminated onto a backing material, such as fiberboard or plywood. Again, the process uses adhesives, heat and pressure. The resulting material is cut and shaped into pieces of flooring.

Strand woven: Bamboo stalks are cut into strips and boiled or treated to remove insects. The strips are then shredded into strands, or fibers. After those strands are woven together, the material is bundled and pressed into blocks, using extreme pressure and heat. Finally, the block is sliced into flooring planks.

All types of flooring are then sanded. Depending on how the flooring will be sold, finish may be applied.

How bamboo flooring is installed:

Illustration of tools representing installation

Installation methods depend on the type of bamboo flooring you chose to install.

Solid: Planks can be nailed or stapled to a subfloor or plywood underlayment or glued down on concrete.

Engineered: Engineered tongue–and–groove floor planks are nailed over wood subfloors, or plywood underlayment over concrete. Planks designed for "floating floors" are installed over wood subfloors or underlayment. These planks "float" between walls rather than being joined with nails or glue. Another simple alternative is click–lock flooring, which is snapped together over wood subfloors or underlayment.

Strand woven: In most cases, strand woven bamboo flooring (also known as "compressed"), is installed using the nailed, stapled, or glued down installation methods.

Bamboo Flooring Types: Solid, Engineered and Strand

Disposing of bamboo flooring:

Green Recycle Symbol

Most bamboo flooring can be refinished, so its life cycle is quite long; adding to bamboo's value as a sustainable floor product. If you are going to refinish your floor, look for green flooring finishes. When it does have to be removed, bamboo flooring can be recycled or sent to a landfill where it is bio-degradable.