Used to be, when I thought about bamboo I thought about a tall grassy plant that is the favorite food of Pandas. Now, you say "bamboo" and I answer, "flooring." How did that happen, and does this mean that the Pandas are starving?
Never fear, the Pandas are fine- or at least, the bamboo that is harvested for flooring is not the same species of bamboo favored by hungry Pandas.
Nearly all bamboo flooring sold in North America is produced in the southern Chinese province of Hunan, in an area known as “the bamboo sea” for its extensive bamboo forests. These forests are owned by the government, and individuals or companies can obtain contracts to harvest from them. The shoots reach full size in one to two years, but it takes a third year for them to mature to the point where they are no longer feeding the plant. If the shoots are cut before that time, the plant suffers, while after the third year the shoot becomes “dead weight,” and the plant benefits from its removal. Contrary to the concerns of some, the harvesting in these forests is not a threat to Pandas, as they live at much higher elevations and eat a different species of bamboo.
A new entry in the flooring market, bamboo has some remarkable qualities. It actually is a type of grass, but when it is harvested, manufactured and formed in a specific manner, it becomes a product that is as hard as Hard maple, 50% more stable and harder than Red Oak. To make bamboo flooring, the hollow round shoots are sliced into strips, which are boiled to remove the starch. The strips are dried and laminated into solid boards, which are then milled into standard strip flooring profiles. Most manufacturers offer both a light, natural color flooring and a darker, amber variety, and some varieties are stained in over 50 colors, all having a unique distinctive pattern.
If you are considering a bamboo floor, there is a particular issue you should be aware of. The bamboo is treated with preservative, either before it is laminated, or after, or both. All the products are laminated using urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesive. UF resin tends to expel formaldehyde for quite a long time after production, although the amount is said to be much less than in a particleboard-type product. Still, this is something to consider if you have environmental sensitivities to consider.
Maintenance for this product is the same as for most prefinished wood floor products. A good quality dust mop or vacuum head is the most effective tool for cleaning dust and dirt off the floor. The cleaner head must be brush or felt. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar. To keep your floor looking best, dust mop or vacuum at least twice a week. You can use a lightly dampened mop when necessary, but be sure to dry the floor immediately. Do not use steel wool, scouring powder, or abrasive cleansers on your bamboo flooring, and do not wax.
Prices for bamboo flooring products range from $4 to $8 per square foot - not necessarily the cheapest thing around, but certainly worth a look.