There was no question that we were going to pick out new flooring during our renovation. The smelly green carpeting just had to go.
Originally we had our hearts set on reclaimed wood. We really didn’t want to put down new wood that contributes to deforestation, even though it is much more affordable. We also couldn’t stand the idea of putting down a laminate to imitate wood, even though that can come in at under $1/square foot. Also, our main goal was to make the house less bland, and we thought reclaimed floors would add a lot of character.
One of our favorite places was LongLeaf Lumber, a local mill that specializes in reclaimed and salvaged wood. We loved their factory maple flooring, which is actually still covered in scuff marks from being an actual factory floor (how cool is that). We also seriously considered the naily buckshot pine, which is marked by old nail holes, and some of their other pines with a good number of knots or a lot of movement.
However, even though we were looking at their most affordable options, it was pretty expensive ($6-8/square foot!). We finally decided that we didn’t want to totally splurge on the flooring, given the other priorities for that renovation, like bay windows and fixing the walls. (You can read more here about what the house looked like before and the whole renovation process.)
Bamboo was right for many reasons, in addition to an affordable price tag comparable to a lot of the budget new hardwoods.
Bamboo is a sustainable product. But people like to say that about everything these days, so what does it even mean? Bamboo is actually a grass, so it grows really quickly and can be harvested while leaving roots intact, which is important for preventing soil erosion and for regrowth. It generally takes about 5 years for bamboo to reach harvest-age, while it takes more like 20-70 years for hardwoods. It is also generally not necessary to use pesticides to grow bamboo (although they are used in some cases to increase yield).
We also surprised ourselves by loving the look. Bamboo has a reputation of looking very modern: not what we were going for! But there are a lot of options that soften it. We picked a vertical pattern, which has to do with how the bamboo strips are laid when being processed into floor boards. In the vertical version it forms a much tighter pattern that isn’t as immediately recognizable as bamboo, but is still clearly natural.
You can select many colors and tones that are worked into the material through a steaming process before the boards are sealed. (However, choose wisely, because the color permeates the boards, and unlike hardwoods it will be very hard to change the color if you go to refinish it in the future.) The boards come pre-finished so we wouldn’t need to bother with any fuss of sanding or sealing, like we would have had to with reclaimed wood. However, many bamboo products can be sanded and refinished in the future, just like a hardwood floor.
A big concern was how it would stand up to wear and tear. We were surprised to learn that bamboo flooring is as hard as most of the standard hardwoods. Hardness is measured by the Janka Rating, which tells you how many pounds of force (lbf) is required to embed a .444 inch steel ball into the material. Pines, which are generally pretty soft hardwoods, are between 800 and 1250 (870 for Yellow Pine and 1225 for Heart Pine). Other common hardwoods are a bit higher (like Red Oak at 1290 and Hard Maple at 1450). Bamboo seems to be in the 1300s; the particular bamboo that we have earned 1350. So pretty durable!
And, as a final andveryofficial durability test, we can still attain great distance and speed when sliding up and down the hall in our socks. Two years later and we’re still at a respectable 2:1 running-to-sliding ratio.
There are also options to get bamboo flooring that is further processed to be super hard, like 5000+, for commercial or high-traffic areas. This is huge, because even one of the hardest common woods, Hickory, only comes in at 1820. But not something that we needed.
Also, as a bonus, due to the heavy-processing and naturally high silica content, bamboo is resistant to problems like termites and mold.
Once we knew we wanted bamboo, we chose Mocha Vertical Organic Wide Plank from Cali Bamboo. We liked Cali Bamboo because it is ultra-low VOC, produced without the use of pesticides, and is harvested sustainably. Here it is in our house!
The change from the old green carpeting is… too immense and emotional to capture with words alone.
It wasn’t as cheap as a laminate, but it was comparable to a lot of the more affordable new hardwoods. We got ours for $3.75/square foot, and could have gone cheaper if we had decided to get it from a less eco-minded place.
What I love most is that it definitely has that natural, warm look that wood has, but it is not trying to imitate wood grain like a laminate would have to. It has its very own unique texture going on but still brings in an organic element to every room. It doesn’t give off that sterile modern vibe at all.
It’s almost two years later, and it has been holding up great. We have a few small scratches and dings but the finish overall is still nice and smooth. Also, somehow the tone and pattern makes the floor almost always look clean, which I sure appreciate!
We also haven’t had any problems (so far) with our floor being eaten by pandas, which was Brad’s main concern with the whole endeavor.
In summary, the pros and cons of bamboo floors:
- Sustainable and eco-friendly
- Durability comparable to or over most common hardwoods
- Pest and mold resistant
- Natural/warm look
- Pre-finished and easy to install
- Smooth finish makes it super fun to slide around in socks
- Easy to match for future renovations
- Can be sanded and refinished in the future, just like hardwoods
- Color hard to change in future refinishing
- Chemical off gassing, depending on how it was processed (ours was ultra-low VOC)
- Attracts pandas?
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