Bamboo flooring is a popular and easily-obtained flooring option that offers a natural appeal alongside ease of installation.
However, there is no right flooring option for all situations and installing new flooring is an expensive endeavor, so it’s worth doing your research.
Here we address some of your burning questions about bamboo flooring.
What Is Bamboo Flooring?
When walking down the flooring aisle at your local home improvement store, you may not be able to tell the difference between different material options—bamboo included.
Visually, bamboo has little in common with the look of the plants it comes from. When left natural, bamboo is light in color. With treatments, it takes on a richer, darker look.
Bamboo is actually grass rather than wood. However, as a flooring it works similar to a softwood, although it can be stronger than hardwoods like oak or maple.
In the flooring market, however, bamboo can be considered a hardwood floor, an engineered hardwood floor, or a laminate floor.
There are three types of bamboo flooring.
Vertical-grain bamboo is created with narrow strips of bamboo glued together, which gives the product a striped appearance.
Flat-grain bamboo is made with thin, flat layers of bamboo glued together, similar to the way plywood is constructed.
Strand woven bamboo is made up of bamboo fibers mixed with resin.
There are also natural bamboo floors, stained products, and carbonized options that allow the color to seep deeper into the grain. Of the three techniques, natural bamboo is overwhelmingly the strongest.
Although there are these different options to consider, there is generally not a vast array of variation between bamboo offerings.
Compared to other types of wood and laminate flooring, bamboo has a slim selection of options when it comes to the look of the product.
Are Bamboo Floors Expensive?
Bamboo flooring is an affordable option compared to real hardwood and many other types of flooring. However, there are different grades of bamboo flooring, meaning there are quality differences. In short, you often get what you pay for. Even at that, bamboo flooring can be half the cost of traditional hardwood.
If you need a short-term fix or have an inflexible budget, the lower end options for bamboo flooring are very affordable.
For all types, you can expect to pay between $2 and $10 per square foot, which gives you an idea of the huge variation. The average cost lands between $4 and $6 uninstalled.
One thing that makes bamboo a more affordable choice is that it’s easier to install than hardwood, hence eliminating installation costs.
Do Laminate Floors Look Cheap?
Some do, most don’t. Again, the cheaper materials, whether it’s engineered hardwood or laminate, come with less depth of the actual bamboo. That means you’ll see less grain and contrast than with a higher grade floor.
Many people feel bamboo is the perfect fit for their interior design style. Others say it doesn’t have as much character as wood flooring since it features fewer grains and knots.
Either way, the natural appeal of bamboo brings a clean, organic, minimalist feel to a room. Some might find that look a little too stark.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring?
The needs of each home and room vary, making some types of flooring a better choice for the space.
When it comes to bamboo flooring, it’s versatile for many types of uses, but it’s not a perfect match for everything.
Pros of Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo is primarily a sustainable option. It’s the fastest growing plant on the planet, making it an endlessly renewable resource.
Although the initial growth can require up to ten years before harvest, bamboo can then be harvested every three years from new shoots without damaging the land, surrounding trees, or the host tree.
In contrast to slow-growing hardwood trees that take decades to regrow and have to be cut down to harvest the wood, bamboo offers a weapon in the fight against deforestation and a solution in the search for environmentally-friendly materials.
Bamboo offers elements of biophilic design by bringing nature indoors. As mentioned, if you’re seeking a natural appeal with a modern vibe, it’s the look for you.
Bamboo is also hypoallergenic, and repels dust mites and termites.
Cons of Bamboo Flooring
If you decide to install bamboo flooring, select the materials carefully. It has some disadvantages over other floors worth considering.
The first is that bamboo is a soft material. That means it can scratch in some environments, depending on how it was manufactured.
If you came here with the question, “What is the best type of flooring for dogs?” bamboo might be a good option. A quality bamboo flooring material can hold up to a lot.
Just make sure you choose strand woven bamboo if you’re looking for the best of the bunch.
Strand woven flooring is the densest option available and offers the best protection against scratches from moving furniture or sharp pet claws.
Bamboo is also sensitive to changes in humidity. It doesn’t perform at its best in moist environments. It takes on the characteristics of other woods that swell in the winter and shrink up during the hot summer months. So it’s not the best choice for areas with a lot of humidity variations.
In fairness, most hardwoods don't perform well in spots with humidity outside the 30-50% range.
Another possible disadvantage is that even though bamboo is fast growing and renewable, it is mostly grown in Asia, which means manufacturing standards are different as far as the use of chemicals.
Also, the product needs to be shipped long distances, contributing to transport emissions. Conscientious consumers can look for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) label, which ensures responsible harvesting and manufacturing.
We include some more specific pros and cons in the discussion to follow.
Is Bamboo Flooring Waterproof?
No, but it is water resistant. For the most part, bamboo is susceptible to water damage, both from water spots and also structurally through warping. If water seeps into the surface, it can result in mold and mildew.
Is Bamboo Flooring Bad for Your Health?
Mostly, no. Bamboo flooring is a natural product in its cleanest form. However, during manufacturing, chemical use can be heavy. When buying floors, ensure the bamboo was tested by an independent third party who verified it is VOC and formaldehyde-free.
Is Bamboo Flooring Durable?
For most applications, bamboo is as durable as other laminate and hardwood flooring options. With proper care, it will last many years.
Before buying a particular brand of bamboo flooring, ask for samples of a few different kinds. Then put the samples through the tests. Scrape the surface with a fingernail or a key to see how easily it scratches.
Grab a hammer and hit the surface as if you were dropping something on the floor. Then flip the sample over to see if it cracked along the back. Also dribble some water onto the surface. Test times, leaving it there for a bit to see if it stains.
Because there is so much variation between different types of bamboo flooring, it’s worth the time and effort to test the durability before committing to it throughout your space.
What's the Best Laminate Flooring Brand?
Early on, Pergo made a name for themselves in the industry, and they’re still a quality brand today. However, there are countless players in the market now.
Although there’s no right answer to the question, Mannington, TrafficMaster, Mohawk, Shaw, and Tarkett all have good quality options.
Is Bamboo Laminate Flooring Easy to Install?
As far as DIY flooring options go, bamboo laminate flooring is one of the easiest to install. It’s one of the reasons for the recent fanfare. There’s essentially no difference between bamboo and other click together laminate options.
With a bit of planning, you’ll figure out where to start in the room. With a tongue on one side of the board and a groove it fits into on the other side of the board, you’ll work your way across the room, connecting them end to end.
When you start the next row, cut a board, or use the end of the board, you cut on the last row so the seams are staggered by several inches. If your seams are within six inches of the row before it, make a cut so you can change the length.
Angling the board upwards as you slide it into the installed row, you’ll then lower the board flat and feel it click into place.
There is a lot of variation in how this process goes. Cheaper types of laminate don’t click together nicely. Sometimes you’ll have to tap them into place using a block. Other brands suggest gluing or nailing them to keep them in place.
Most laminates, including bamboo, are put together as a floating floor, meaning they aren’t anchored to the ground in any way.
Once clicked together, this allows the floor to breathe as needed and provides room for subtle expansion and contraction as the temperature fluctuates.
Always leave a minimum ¼”-inch gap around the room to accommodate for this. The gap will be covered by baseboard trim. Again, the trim is mounted to the wall but not to the floor.
It takes a bit of practice to install bamboo flooring around obstacles in the room, such as doorways, fireplaces, and cabinets, but throughout the middle part of the room, you’ll find a rhythm to install row after row.
How Do I Clean Bamboo Flooring?
Bamboo is incredibly easy to care for. Simply sweep frequently. Gritty debris can result in scratches if pressed into the floor. It’s really no different than many other types of flooring in this sense.
You can also vacuum with the beater bar turned off on the machine or with a vacuum made specifically for hardwood floors.
Weekly, you can mop the floor with a minimal amount of water. You don’t want to soak the floor or leave standing water that can infiltrate into the cracks. Instead, wring your mop frequently.
Spot clean as needed, especially if you notice a spill.
Is Bamboo a Good Option for the Kitchen?
Yes and no. A good quality bamboo flooring can work in the kitchen, and function as well as many other options. However, since it’s susceptible to water damage, it might not be the right choice for you.
If you decide to put bamboo in the kitchen, choose a strand woven option and be vigilant about cleaning up spills promptly.
Where Should I Not Use Bamboo Flooring?
Bamboo flooring isn’t the best option for areas that sustain a lot of water, such as bathrooms. Some companies don’t recommend it for basements for the same reason other woods aren’t recommended--basements seep moisture.
However, with a properly-installed moisture barrier over the concrete surface, a bamboo laminate can perform quite well.
Also note bamboo needs to be installed on a perfectly flat surface. That means if your basement or other surface has a lot of undulations, you’ll need to level it or go with something more forgiving like carpet.
Is Bamboo Flooring a Good Choice?
Probably yes. Bamboo has unique features to offer and is one of a handful of sustainable flooring options for the environmentally conscious.
How Does Bamboo Compare to Other Types of Flooring?
Compared to hardwood, bamboo is generally harder as measured by the Janka Scale, which is a pressure test. Some Bamboo can be lightly sanded and finished, including repairing scrapes. However, it’s not as endlessly refinishable as real hardwood. Bamboo is significantly less expensive than hardwoods.
Compared to tile, bamboo is warmer but not as durable. They are both around the same cost, and both are easy to maintain.
Compared to vinyl plank flooring, bamboo is slightly more expensive. Vinyl plank is a great choice for basements and other moisture-rich areas. It’s also more flexible to accommodate subflooring that’s not perfectly flat.
However, vinyl is a synthetic material that doesn’t offer a very warm feel. It also cannot be sanded, repaired, or refinished.
Compared to cork, bamboo doesn’t insulate or offer sound buffering as well. However, bamboo repels water more effectively. Both types of flooring are eco-friendly to harvest, sensitive to humidity, and easy to maintain.
Cork does require refinishing on a regular basis. Bamboo is less likely to dent and gouge, but it’s harder underfoot than the softer cork.
Find out more about bamboo flooring in these related articles: Strand Bamboo Flooring vs Laminate Bamboo Flooring, A Guide to Bamboo Flooring Hardness, and How to Sand Bamboo Flooring.