Bamboo flooring beautiful and eco-friendly

Bamboo flooring beautiful and eco-friendly

Bamboo flooring: beautiful and eco-friendly

by Mary Beth Faller — Dec. 6, 2008 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

In the mid-1990s, bamboo was touted as an eco-friendly flooring option. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass, so it was considered more environmentally friendly than hardwood culled from forests.

But the process used then to get the grass stalks from China onto people’s floors in the United States was not always environmentally responsible. Natural habitats were destroyed, and the bamboo was harvested before maturity, which produced a weaker product that buckled and cracked.

«Bamboo got sort of a bad rap because it was a difficult product to work with when it first came out,» said John Toliver, president of Toliver’s Carpet One Floor and Home stores.

Today, several brands of bamboo, including Teragren and EcoTimber, are much more environmentally friendly, for these reasons:

� The companies ensure the bamboo is harvested at maturity, after five to six years, when fibers are denser. This makes the planks easier to install and very resilient.

� Much of the bamboo used in flooring now is harvested from plantations, not natural habitats. (The companies point out that the bamboo used in flooring is not the same species that pandas eat.)

� When bamboo is harvested, the source plant is not destroyed. As quickly as bamboo grows, the harvest cycle is about 10 years.

� Teragren said bamboo stands release more oxygen into the atmosphere than a comparable group of hardwood trees, and that bamboo plants «hold» more carbon than trees, offsetting the carbon expelled during shipping from China.

Still, the Forestry Stewardship Council notes that because bamboo used in flooring is grown in China, it’s not always possible for the companies to monitor working conditions, and the product must still be shipped from Asia.

Bamboo flooring is classified as hardwood flooring, and statistics on its popularity aren’t available. But Wanda Toliver, an interior designer at the Toliver’s 1006 E. Warner Road store in Tempe, said it accounts for about 10 percent of the hardwood sales there. Her store sells the Teragren brand.

«Lots of people come in and ask for it, and I think part of it is the green movement,» she said. «They understand that it’s durable.»

Bamboo is naturally light tan. The planks can be carbonized, meaning they are super-heated, which caramelizes the sugar in the fibers, producing an amber shade. It can be stained any color.

The planks come in several types:

� Horizontal bamboo planks are cut so that the «knuckles» from the bamboo stalk joints are visible in the grain.

� Vertical bamboo planks have a cleaner, more linear grain without the «knuckles.»

� Engineered bamboo planks are made with 1/8-inch-thick bamboo over a backing, which is sometimes made from post-industrial content. They come in vertical or horizontal grain.

� Woven bamboo, in which the bamboo strands are shredded and pressed together under extreme pressure with a resin, creates a harder product with more of a whorled wood-grain look. Mac Dubord, an associate at A.k.a. Green eco-friendly building and design center in Scottsdale, said woven bamboo can be sanded and refinished like hardwood, and it’s good for high-traffic areas. «It’s stronger than red oak,» she said. Her store sells the EcoTimber brand.

Wanda Toliver said that bamboo is «open celled» and absorbs more moisture than regular hardwood.

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