Marketed as the perfect solution for environmentally responsible homeowners, bamboo flooring was quickly adopted in the United States. The most utilized sales pitch for flooring retailers is that the durability of the bamboo floors is vastly superior to maple. Overall, maple makes a poor comparison gauge because the open-grain is extremely susceptible of making even the tiniest scratches and grazes extremely visible. Bamboo is certainly better in terms of resilience, but that says very little.
An additional point you will regularly hear from flooring manufacturers is that bamboo constitutes the construction material of choice in Asia. Fairly true, but the main reason for this consists of its abundance and quick replenishment of the supply, as well as its superior resilience compared to pine. But is it bamboo flooring all it’s cracked up to be? Yes and no – Let’s elaborate.
What makes bamboo good for flooring?
The answer to this question is simple: age. To put it simply, the bamboo that is permitted to reach maturity will display a far better durability than its younger counterpart. Bamboo grows so fast because it is not actually wood, but a variety of grass that gains the wood-like properties only after a certain age. While younger bamboo has a similar appearance, the resilience of its fibers is significantly inferior. Now, while the reputable flooring manufacturers get their bamboo from well established exporters that understand the importance of allowing the plant to reach maturity, others focus exclusively on profits and harvest the bamboo as soon as it presents the wood-like appearance.
Why do the authorities permit this?
Basically, the legislation concerning the moment when the bamboo can be harvested and floor manufacturing process are vague and sometimes non-existent. The production is not regulated by an authority and the bamboo has no industry standards to adhere to, which means that virtually anyone can become a bamboo exporter. The same applies for the manufacturers, as they are free to select the cheapest supplier if they want to. It may not be the case with companies that value customer satisfaction, but we can safely say it is not an infrequent business practice either.
How can you avoid purchasing poor quality bamboo?
First of all, refrain from purchasing bamboo with extremely low prices. Yes, great savings seem tempting, but the price of the bamboo generally reflects its quality. Keep in mind that the manufacturer knows the source and is aware of the fabric’s quality. The generous price comes from the manufacturer’s low investment in acquiring and treating the bamboo before it is made into flooring. Sure, you may find really affordable bamboo through promotional offers, discounts, store coupons, etc. However, when the price is constantly bellow market average, it’s probably for the best to shop somewhere else.
In case you are purchasing the bamboo flooring from a brick and mortar store and not online, then you can perform the fingernail test. This simple verification involves determining the age of the bamboo by pressing onto its surface with your fingernail and examining the indentation. The larger the print it leaves, the younger the bamboo. However, you can also perform this test if you are shopping online by requesting a sample of the bamboo flooring prior to the purchase.