Bamboo is a renewable resource, making it an eco-friendly choice.
Bamboo floor manufacturing affects its appearance, price, and durability.
Bamboo flooring typically costs $2–$11 per square foot.
Factory-applied finishes offer the most longevity for bamboo floors.
Bamboo floors can elevate your interior design with warmth and texture. They're also low-maintenance, versatile, and quite durable, so they're a particularly attractive option for busy households. From manufacturing methods to maintenance and finishes, learn everything you need to know about bamboo flooring to determine if it's right for your home.
What is Bamboo Flooring?
Bamboo flooring is a popular alternative to hardwood floors for many homeowners. Made from bamboo grass, it offers a similar appearance to hardwood. Most bamboo flooring materials come from the Moso bamboo plant, which is native to China, where it grows abundantly and is manufactured almost exclusively.
Thanks in part to a quick harvest time—generally about five to seven years—bamboo is considered a renewable material. Bamboo can also grow strong without the use of fertilizer, sprouting up again after it's harvested and contributing to its renewability. Compared to hardwood, which can take decades to mature and harvest, bamboo is far more renewable.
However, like hardwood, bamboo must undergo energy-intensive processing before becoming flooring, which isn't considered environmentally positive. Therefore, bamboo as a raw material is incredibly eco-friendly, but processing it into flooring has a similar environmental impact as processing hardwood.
Solid vs. Engineered Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo and hardwood share another similarity: bamboo can be either solid or engineered. Solid bamboo floors comprise strips of solid bamboo adhered to one another, while engineered bamboo floors feature a thin top layer of bamboo glued to high-density fiberboard or plywood.
Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring
Knowing the pros and cons of bamboo flooring can help you figure out whether this flooring style is right for your home.
Sustainable: Bamboo is a green flooring option because it is a renewable material with a short harvest time.
Allergy-Friendly: Bamboo flooring doesn't trap dust or mites, like carpet, so it's an excellent choice for those with allergies.
Durable: Strand-woven bamboo floors with a factory-applied finish can last several decades, largely thanks to their high Janka rating.
Versatile: Since bamboo flooring comes in many styles, colors, and finishes, it's easy to find the right style to complement your interior design.
Inconsistency: Bamboo flooring varies widely in terms of quality and hardness, making finding high-quality, consistent bamboo flooring a challenge. Your best bet is to go with a flooring company that does third-party testing on its flooring for hardness and consistency.
Off-gassing: Some lower quality bamboo floors are made with resins that contain urea-formaldehyde, which can potentially cause adverse health effects. To avoid this, look for bamboo flooring manufacturers that are clean air verified by the International Accreditation Service Labs.
Bamboo Floor Manufacturing Method
Bamboo flooring is manufactured in three ways: horizontal, vertical, and strand-woven. The manufacturing method can affect the appearance of your bamboo floors.
Horizontal Bamboo Flooring
Horizontal bamboo flooring features strips of bamboo cane layered together horizontally. These strips are usually skin-side up, meaning you can often see the bamboo's natural nodes (also called "knuckles") in the finished floor. The strips are usually made with at least three layers of bamboo cane and offset for added strength.
Vertical Bamboo Flooring
Vertical bamboo flooring offers less variation if you don't want many visible bamboo nodes on your floor. Vertical bamboo flooring is made with strips of bamboo cane arranged with their cut edges facing up (rather than skin side up), which creates a more consistent look with fewer natural nodes and dents than horizontal bamboo flooring.
Strand-Woven Bamboo Flooring
Strand-woven bamboo flooring looks more like traditional hardwood floors than bamboo. In fact, it doesn't look like bamboo at all. That's because it's manufactured by shredding bamboo cane into strips and sorting the strips by color. The strips of the same color are then mixed with binders and pressed under high temperatures before being kiln-dried. The end result looks very similar to hardwood planks.
Bamboo Flooring Finishes
You can choose from several finishes for your bamboo flooring. Each finish comes with a few advantages and disadvantages.
Most bamboo flooring today is pre-finished in a factory before you buy it. Factory-applied finishes are the most durable and long-lasting. They typically feature multiple layers of an aluminum oxide coating topped off with a clear coat. Aluminum oxide coatings are particularly resistant to everyday wear and tear and work well for busy households with a lot of foot traffic.
Oil finishes typically consist of linseed oil, carnauba wax, and beeswax. They're often used to give bamboo floors a vintage flair since they mimic the appearance of hand-applied oil. An oil finish also does a good job of hiding scratches—and if you scratch the floors, you can often fix it by sanding down the spot and touching it up with more oil.
Most bamboo floors come pre-finished, but you can also special order unfinished bamboo flooring. One of the biggest advantages of unfinished bamboo flooring is that you can choose a custom stain to create the exact look you're after. Buying unfinished flooring also means that you won't likely sand it until after the floor is installed, which can help you create an ultra-flat surface. However, finishes applied on site don't typically last as long as factory-applied finishes.
Bamboo Flooring Hardness
A floor's hardness, and therefore durability, is often measured using the Janka rating–a universal rating system that indicates how hard a floor is. Bamboo flooring's hardness largely depends on its manufacturing process.
Horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring typically fall around 1,825 on the Janka scale, which is harder than oak, hickory, and maple but not as hard as mahogany. Strand-woven bamboo flooring is much harder—rating around 3,270 on the Janka scale—making it nearly twice as hard as horizontal and vertical bamboo floors.
That said, the hardness of bamboo flooring can vary significantly, even from within the same manufacturing method. You can check with your flooring company to see if they've run third-party tests to determine the exact hardness of their bamboo floors.
Bamboo Flooring Maintenance
Maintaining bamboo floors is similar to maintaining hardwood floors. The best thing you can do for the longevity of your floors is clean up liquid spills as soon as they happen. If too much moisture gets trapped between the planks on your floor, it can warp the flooring and potentially lead to mold problems.
When it's time for a thorough cleaning, you can mop bamboo floors with a hardwood-rated cleaner. Make sure to avoid any ammonia-based cleaners and acidic cleaning agents since these can discolor the floor.
Finally, minimize scratches on your bamboo floors by removing your shoes when you come home and keeping your pets' nails trimmed. You can also put furniture sliders underneath chairs and other furniture to prevent scraping that leads to scratches.
Bamboo Flooring Cost
Bamboo flooring costs vary widely depending on the type, but you can expect to pay around $2 to $11 per square foot. Engineered bamboo flooring will fall at the lower end of that price range, while solid bamboo flooring falls at the higher end.
The manufacturing process also affects the price. Strand-woven bamboo flooring typically costs a bit more than vertical and horizontal flooring due to a more complex manufacturing process; however, strand-woven bamboo floors are nearly twice as hard as vertical and horizontal floors.