Bamboo Flooring. Is it hard or soft?

Reblogger Linda Humphrey
Real Estate Agent with Humphrey Home Connections Realty, Reno, Nevada

I love the way bamboo flooring looks, and it is hard to argue with the sustainability aspect. But does it hold up well? Here is the scoopage from Debbie Gartner of Floor Coverings International. Enjoy!

Original content by Debbie Gartner

Of course, this is not a simple answer.  While bamboo is technically a grass, It's usually classified as a hardwood.  If you search on the web for the Janka hardness (a rating meant to standardize the hardness of wood), you get all sorts of answers.

Janka is a scale based on measurement of the force necessary to embed a .444-inch steel ball to half its diameter in wood.  Red Oak is the standard at 1290.  I have seen bamboo classified from as low as 1,010 to as high as 3000 (but most would agree it's harder than oak and it generally seems to fall in 1350-1400 range).  Almost every other hardwood has a consistent number from site to site.  Why the discrepancy on bamboo???

Well, there are a number of reasons. 

1. The first lies in the type of bamboo.  Is it "regular" bamboo or is it strand bamboo.  (Strand bamboo is much stronger and strand woven even stronger, usually 1,800+). 

2. If it's "regular" bamboo, is it natural (the light color - above) or carmelized/carbonized (the tan color below)?  The process of carmelizing the sugar weakens the wood. 

Carmelized Bamboo

3. Is it vertical grained or horizontal grained? (see below for picts).  The jury is still out on which of these is harder.   Vertical is first (2 picts), horizontal is second.  Horizontal seems to be more popular in terms of look.

Vertical bamboo - carmelizedCarmelized Bamboo side vie

4. And, finally, what brand is it??? Because bamboo is imported (usually from China), bamboo, more than any other hardwood varies TREMENDOUSLY in quality.  It's really important which brand you buy.  Personally, I love Natural Bamboo (made by US Floors) and Teragren.  These are outstanding brands with outstanding reputations.  Their products come with a 25 yr warranty. 

Regardless, most agree that bamboo is a bit stronger than oak, and more importantly, it looks beautiful.  It's exotic and peaceful looking - it can really give the place a zen feeling and give it a clean and modern feel.  And, it's a green product, so you're doing what's right for the environment.  Oh, and bonus, it costs a bit less than oak.

The funny thing is that most people that have seen dents/scratches in their bamboo floors generally got them from one of the big box stores.  And, I'm not surprised at all.  I buy my products directly from the manufacturer and I know I'm extremely cost competitive.  When I see some of the big box stores advertising bamboo for less than what I pay the manufacturers, I know there is something suspicious.    I especially know this since I'm usually less expensive than these same places on oak, so red flag here.

The reason these big box bamboos tend to dent is for several reasons.  First, the bamboo is harvested too early and hasn't had enough time for proper growth.  Second, the products are usually air dried rather than oven dried so they are softer.  Third, they often harvest the softer part of the bamboo.

So, if you are in the market for bamboo, please buy from a reputable flooring store and buy a reputable brand.  This is one place you definitely do not want to buy on-line, esp since it's imported.

For more info on bamboo, read Mark Woodward's blog post from last week.  Lots of great info in here.

Debbie Gartner, Floor Coverings International in Westchester/Western Fairfield

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Linda S. Humphrey, M.D., CDPE, e-PRO, EcoBroker, GREEN

Broker/Owner - Humphrey Home Connections Realty, LLC

cell: 775-287-4665

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Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Thank you so much for reblogging.  I really appreciate that.

Aug 18, 2010 04:13 PM
Linda Humphrey
Humphrey Home Connections Realty, Reno, Nevada - Reno, NV
CRS, Broker/Owner HHC Realty

My pleasure, your post was very informative and I am delighted to share it.

Aug 18, 2010 04:23 PM
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Hi Linda, thanks for putting the post back up.  Outstanding information!

Aug 18, 2010 05:37 PM
Linda Humphrey
Humphrey Home Connections Realty, Reno, Nevada - Reno, NV
CRS, Broker/Owner HHC Realty

Thanks Dan, I agree!

Aug 19, 2010 04:01 AM