Types of Bamboo Flooring and the Challenges of Installing
Bamboo flooring and other bamboo products have been gaining momentum as an environmentally renewable resource for hardwood floors. And there are several reasons why it has. Bamboo is not actually a wood, but a grass. As such, bamboo’s rapid growth and its ability to regrow from harvested roots make it very appealing to those who are conscious of forest depletion through excessive cutting. Its dense composition is also very appealing, as bamboo can withstand high traffic and remain strong and beautiful. But for the flooring industry, bamboo has created a whole new set of factors to be aware of when using bamboo products.
The most important factor is that bamboo does not have a uniform density, and this can create problems when attempting to set a moisture meter to correctly read the moisture in bamboo. Bamboo flooring’s hardness (and its capacity to hold moisture) and density can vary significantly according to the species used, the growth region of that species, its maturity when harvested, the directional grain and the manufacturing process of the flooring.
For example, strand woven bamboo flooring – which fuses bamboo fibers together under high heat and pressure during the manufacturing process – is much harder than bamboo floorboards that run with the vertical or horizontal grain. And a horizontal grain is even softer than the vertical grain. If the bamboo flooring was manufactured from bamboo that was growing further up the stalk, the final flooring product might be weaker still. That’s quite a range of factors to consider.
Engineered bamboo flooring can be solid throughout, or can be a bamboo layer attached to a (typically) pine base. Bamboo flooring is comprised of many layers being glued together either vertically or horizontally to give a variety of looks and textures to the finished product. But if the layers used vary from each other, different moisture conditions can also exist within the same floorboard or bundle of boards. Accurate moisture testing during acclimation and before installation is crucial. Because bamboo has a lower expansion rate than many hardwoods, it would seem ideal for any type of climate. However, at this point, grading criteria are not standardized for bamboo flooring and other bamboo products. So it pays to beware and be sure that your bamboo flooring is manufactured as carefully as possible. And while there is some suggestion that some commercial grade finishes are stronger than job-site finishes, even the best finish can be ruined by excessive moisture. Testing the subfloor for moisture conditions is just as important as with any other wood floor.
In spite of what is being learned about bamboo products in the wood industry, as with wood flooring, it is clear that accurate moisture testing is still as crucial as ever. Even as dense as it can be, bamboo still is susceptible to warping, cracking and delamination if not installed and finished correctly. It pays to be knowledgeable about the inherent strengths and weaknesses of bamboo and to research the manufacturers as thoroughly as possible. And then it pays to install it with the same care you would any hardwood floor.
Wagner Meters offers a variety of high-quality moisture meters for woodworking and wood flooring projects. Protect your bamboo flooring investment by accurate moisture testing your expensive flooring at installation.
Ron is an application specialist for Wagner Meters, and has over 30 years of experience in instrumentation and measurement systems in different industries. In previous positions, he has served as a regional sales manager, product and projects manager, and sales manager with manufacturers involved in measurement instrumentation.