Bamboo vs Wood (Which is better for your floor?)

Bamboo vs Wood

Bamboo has become a popular choice for flooring over the past few years. 

It looks good, it’s durable and importantly for the planet today, the farming and manufacturing process is more sustainable than wood.

Whatever your reason for looking at bamboo as a flooring option, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between bamboo vs wood.

Why is bamboo better than wood?

When it comes to eco-friendly credentials, bamboo outshines wood in every way.

A fast growing grass, rather than a tree, makes bamboo a super sustainable material.

A full-grown stem, or culm, cut from bamboo to use in manufacturing is around 3 or four years old.

Trees, in comparison, take around 25 to 40 years for a softwood such as pine to be ready to harvest, and up to 150 years for hardwoods.

Once a tree is harvested a new one must be replanted for the cycle to begin again. This takes resources, staffing and land.

Bamboo on the other hand regrows. A new leafy shoot will grow from the cut stem, absorbing sunlight and sending energy down to the roots, spreading and throwing up new shoots to replace the cut ones.

Pesticides are used regularly to protect young trees from pests such as the pine weevil which would destroy up t half of all newly planted pine trees if they were left untreated.

Bamboo in comparison is almost indestructible even if they are attacked by pests. 

Mealybugs are bamboo’s biggest threat and when infested the bamboo leaves become misshapen, but the culms are unaffected and therefore fine to harvest and use in manufacturing.

An acre of bamboo will produce 35% more oxygen than the same area populated by trees.

Due to its lightweight nature, importing it has a smaller carbon footprint than importing heavier materials like wood. 

Is bamboo stronger than wood?

So it’s clear that bamboo is better environmentally, but is it useable? 

When it comes to strength in the engineering world, the tensile test is where strength is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI).

Pressure is applied to a piece of wood across the grain and pressure is increased until it starts to break.

White oak, for example, has a compression strength of 7,440 psi. White pine is around 4,400 psi and Teak is around 8,410 psi.

Bamboo has a tensile strength of around 28,000 psi. 

Is bamboo harder than wood?

The hardness of wood is measured using the Janka test. 

This test measures the amount of force required to push a steel ball bearing 11.28mm wide into the wood so that it’s ‘submerged’ halfway into the wood.

The measurement is taken and expressed as ‘pounds force’.

Ebony is 3250, white oak is 1360, and poplar is 540.

Bamboo scores 1400, slightly harder than Oak.

How is bamboo wood made?

Bamboo planks can be made by a couple of differing methods.

Both start the same way;

  1. Harvesting: Mature bamboo stalks are cut down and stripped of their leaves.
  2. Cutting and boiling: The bamboo stalks are cut into smaller sections and boiled in a solution of water and boric acid to remove sugars and starches that could attract insects and bacteria.
  3. Drying and sorting: The bamboo sections are then dried and sorted based on their color and quality.
  4. Strips and lamination: The bamboo is sliced into thin strips and then laminated together with an adhesive under high pressure to create a solid and durable flooring material.
  5. Finishing: The bamboo flooring is then sanded, stained, and finished with a protective coating, such as polyurethane, to enhance its appearance and durability.

Solid bamboo planks are made by glueing strips of bamboo either lengthways (vertical bamboo) or widthways (horizontal bamboo).

Strand woven bamboo planks are made from bamboo fibres which are set into a resin and finished after curing.

How do you tell the difference between solid bamboo planks and strand woven planks just by looking at them?

To tell the difference between solid bamboo planks and strand woven bamboo planks just by looking at them, you need to observe the pattern of the bamboo material.

Solid bamboo planks are made from thin strips of bamboo that are glued together with the natural nodes visible on the surface. The pattern on the surface of the solid bamboo planks will have distinct nodes and linear lines running along the length of the planks.

Strand woven bamboo planks, on the other hand, are made from shredded bamboo fibers that are compressed and bonded together with resin under high pressure. The pattern on the surface of the strand woven bamboo planks will have a more random and uniform appearance, with no visible nodes or linear lines.

In addition, strand woven bamboo planks tend to be harder and more durable than solid bamboo planks due to their denser composition. Overall, the pattern and texture of the surface of the bamboo planks will be the most noticeable difference between solid and strand woven bamboo flooring.

Carbonized bamboo vs natural bamboo

Natural bamboo is a light straw color. In order to create a darker, amber color the bamboo can be carbonized.

Carbonized bamboo has been through an extra process of steaming and smoking under high heat in order the darken it. It’s similar to how you make bread into toast. The sugars in the bamboo carmelize and darken.

The downside to carbonized bamboo is that it has been weakened by the process and is more susceptible to damage than a natural bamboo plank.

9 ways bamboo is more sustainable than wood

  • 1. Bamboo is a much faster growing resource than wood, so it can be harvested more quickly and sustainably.
  • 2. Bamboo is a naturally renewable resource, as it grows back quickly after being harvested.
  • 3. Bamboo produces 35% more oxygen than trees and absorbs more carbon dioxide.
  • 4. Bamboo needs less fertilizer and water than wood, making it more sustainable.
  • 5. Bamboo is more resistant to pests and diseases than wood, making it less vulnerable to damage.
  • 6. Bamboo is more lightweight than wood, so it can be produced and transported more efficiently.
  • 7. Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, reducing the need for chemical treatments.
  • 8. Bamboo is more durable than wood, so it can last longer and be used more often.
  • 9. Bamboo is often grown without pesticides or other chemicals, making it safer for the environment.
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