This tree-like grass (yep, bamboo is technically a grass) can be used for a multitude of applications. According to Australian-based business Bamboo Land Nursery & Parklands, these can include the production of paper and clothing, medicines, and building and landscaping materials, not to mention it is also the staple food of the giant panda.
Build.com.au, an online building and renovation publication, said due to bamboo’s fast-growing nature and therefore plentiful supply, as well as its overall strength and durability, it has become a increasingly popular flooring material in Australia.
So, you may be wondering, how is this ‘grass’ made into a floorboard? What costs are involved? And what are some of the pros and cons of using this material for your floors?
Let’s lay it out, one floorboard at a time.
How much does bamboo flooring cost?
To purchase bamboo flooring, ATFA claims that on average you could pay between $40 and $65 per square metre (excluding installation). Factors that may influence the price of bamboo flooring can include the quality of the flooring, such as how and where it was manufactured, as well as the design of the floorboard.
How is bamboo flooring made?
CEO of the Australasian Timber Flooring Association (ATFA), Randy Flierman, told Canstar most bamboo flooring is manufactured from strands of bamboo that are glued together with adhesive and then cut and made into floorboards by a machine. This is known as strand-woven bamboo.
Less common, Mr Flierman said, is bamboo flooring that is made by laminating small pieces either vertically or horizontally, and engineered bamboo flooring which usually consists of several layers of wood (such as plywood) and a top layer of bamboo, bonded together with adhesives.
ATFA states that by the time it gets to the consumer, most bamboo flooring comes pre-finished, consisting of multiple layers including fillers, sealers and final coats that provide a protective barrier. In the coating stage, stains may be used to add different colours or tones to the boards.
How is bamboo flooring installed?
As bamboo can react and warp from moisture released from concrete, most bamboo floors are installed as a “floated floor” over an underlay, Mr Flierman said. This means that the boards are fixed to each other but not fixed to the ground. Alternatively, he said, bamboo floorboards can be fixed with adhesive to an underlayer made of particleboard and plywood.
Simply Bamboo, an Australian business, said an average 100m2 home can take approximately three to four days to install bamboo flooring through a fixed method, or two to three days to install via the floating floor method. However, the exact time to install will ultimately depend on the method of installation, the layout of the design and if there are any obstructions such as a staircase.
How much does bamboo flooring installation cost?
According to hipages, professional installers on average charge around $80 to $90 per square metre to lay bamboo flooring. This covers the costs of preparing the ground surface (that may involve removing any existing flooring), installing an underlay layer, removing and replacing skirting boards and laying the floor boards.
Skirting boards themselves may cost an additional amount to purchase, and hipages notes the cost will depend on whether you choose MDF boards (medium-density fibreboard) or hardwood boards.
Mr Flierman said installation prices can vary widely depending on the contractor chosen to do the work and the location, as well as how the floors are installed (floated floor or fixed) and whether the cost also includes the supply of the flooring.
ATFA, which provides the industry standards for installing bamboo flooring, recommends customers get at least three quotes from professional installers and carefully comparing the products, services and warranties as well as cost before choosing one. To find an accredited association installer, you can visit ATFA’s website.
What are some of the pros and cons of bamboo flooring?
There are some widely reported benefits as well as drawbacks to be aware of when it comes to using bamboo flooring. Some of these reported pros and cons include:
Both ATFA and build.com.au report strength and durability as a positive of bamboo flooring. Hardwood Floors, an Australian-based business, said natural, un-carbonised bamboo that has been properly harvested and manufactured can be as durable as red oak, and strand-woven bamboo can be manufactured even harder than that. However, it’s important to note that not all bamboo flooring is made equal, so it may be a good idea to consider a supplier who can provide a substantial warranty.
Interesting colours and forms
Bamboo flooring can come in a variety of styles and colours. According to build.com.au, it can be made either of ‘natural’ coloured bamboo (which is lighter), carbonised bamboo (which is darker), or a tiger-striped combination of the two. The stains used when coating the boards may then add different colours or tones to them.
Easy to clean
Hardwood Floors states that bamboo is relatively easy to maintain and recommends home owners sweep or vacuum it regularly and use a damp mop with a non-wax, non-alkaline, hardwood or specialised bamboo floor cleaner.
Sustainable to produce
According to build.com.au, one of the advantages of bamboo over hardwood flooring is that it grows extremely quickly – in some cases up to a metre in a single day. It reported that bamboo can typically be harvested when it is between four-and-seven years old with the crop continuing to produce useable material from that time onward, making it a rapidly renewable resource. Hardwood trees, on the other hand, are likely to take at least 15 years to reach ‘maturity’ and once they do, they typically only offer a one-time yield of timber.
Prone to movement
Mr Flierman said bamboo flooring is prone to movement (shrinkage and swelling) with seasonal changes. Hardwood Floors notes that if the floor is installed in a very humid area, the moisture in the air can cause the floor boards to “plump” or expand, and if installed in a dry environment, it can cause the floor boards to shrink. In both cases, this movement can cause cracks in the bamboo.
Hardwood Floors states that while bamboo flooring is generally hard-wearing and easy to maintain, lower-quality bamboo can be prone to scratching, such as from high heels, pet claws and furniture legs.
Potential VOC emissions
Some bamboo floor boards are manufactured using adhesive (formaldehyde-containing glues), which can release small amounts of volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) into the air over time, according to build.com.au. The level of adhesive used and the number of VOCs emitted will vary depending on how the boards were manufactured. Some VOC emissions may lead to poor indoor air quality which, according to the Australian Government website Your Home, can produce a range of health effects from headaches and tiredness, to an aggravation of asthma and allergic responses.
ATFA recommends customers check the credentials of any bamboo flooring products they are considering to confirm whether they were made in accordance with the Clean Air Policies of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in their state or territory.
Cover image source: Daniel X D (Shutterstock)