A Sustainable Alternative to Wood
Bamboo is among the most sustainable natural building materials on the planet. Often characterized as a wood, bamboo is actually a grass that grows exponentially faster than wood – with the potential to reach heights of as much as 39 inches in just 24 hours.
Largely dependent on climate conditions, soil, and species, bamboo’s typical growth rate in temperate climates ranges from 1–4 inches per day. Bamboo is primarily grown in warm climates, such as in Asia, where some of the largest bamboo stems, or culms, can grow over 98 feet tall and be as large as 7.9 inches in diameter.
Unlike trees, which can take upwards of 30 years before they are ready for milling, bamboo culms emerge from the ground at their full diameter and grow to their mature height in 3-4 months, becoming harder over time until they reach peak hardness, usually within 3-7 years. Once culms are cut, new shoots quickly regrow, reaching full maturity again within 3-7 years. This is incredibly quick given that a cut oak tree can take more than 120 years before it is strong enough to be re-harvested.
Another environmentally friendly quality: bamboo is naturally pest-free, so no pesticides are required for its growth.
The Versatility of Bamboo
Bamboo has been used in Europe, Asia, and especially China for more than 4,000 years due to its extreme versatility. Younger shoots, which are edible, are included in numerous Asian dishes and are available in many supermarkets. Bamboo’s culinary applications also include use in cooking utensils, kitchenware, such as chopsticks, and cutting boards.
Chinese medicine also credits bamboo as an effective treatment for infections, while Indian medicine has long used the silicious concentration found in the culms of the bamboo stem as a tonic for respiratory diseases. Additionally, bamboo fibers are used in everything from textiles, paper, and musical instruments, to bicycles, skateboards, furniture, and building materials, including flooring and decking.
When harvested at its peak hardness, bamboo used in flooring, decking and other building materials is often harder and more resilient than products made from popular woods such as oak, maple, and Ipe. There are no rays or knots in bamboo like those found in natural woods. This naturally smooth surface makes bamboo planks far more dimensionally stable throughout their length, allowing pressure to be more evenly distributed over the surface area.
Mature bamboo is so dimensionally stable that it is often compared to steel. In fact, in China, bamboo is used as scaffolding on many commercial projects. And in the United States and France, there are homes built entirely of bamboo that are certified as earthquake- and cyclone-resistant.
In its natural form, bamboo is also incredibly water resistant. The lamination process used to manufacture bamboo flooring further enhances this water resistance, providing even more protection against the warping and gapping that is common with solid hardwoods. Bamboo also repels mold and mildew and is fire resistant
In addition to having high wear resistance, bamboo is also naturally stain resistant, making maintenance easy. Bamboo floors require a simple sweeping or dry mopping. For sticky stains, a damp mop with water is sufficient, eliminating the need for harsh cleaners.
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