How Durable is Bamboo Flooring?

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Alex Wilson

Bamboo grass regenerates in a fraction of the time of traditional woods. But because it is relatively new, time will only tell about the longevity of bamboo flooring. I have learned that because bamboo is highly laminated, several bamboo products fail when introduced to spills. Is this a valid concern?

As far as I know, all bamboo flooring is manufactured in China, which has a deplorable manufacturing record with regards to the environment. Would you comment on the environmental impacts of manufacturing bamboo products?

Finally, please comment on labor issues and the rumor that some manufacturers are cutting into panda habitats.


Alex Wilson responds:

Virtually all bamboo flooring products are made by laminating small pieces of bamboo together. While this generally improves uniformity and stability, it also raises the concern of glue failure. I haven’t heard about the lamination failures that you refer to, but they don’t surprise me. As more bamboo flooring manufacturers enter the market, we can expect some poorly made products. I expect we’ll see more distribution partnerships with U.S. companies, which may shoulder the burden of ensuring quality control. In the meantime, if you’re installing bamboo flooring in an area with likely spills or other moisture exposure, select a product that has been sealed to improve moisture resistance.

Most bamboo flooring products do come from China, though several come from other countries, such as Vietnam. The bamboo species used for flooring is different from the one eaten by pandas, but it is conceivable that indigenous bamboo vegetation is being removed to grow bamboo species that offer a higher financial return. No measures exist to ensure that bamboo has been produced in an environmentally responsible manner. I hope that environmental standards will be developed for bamboo production so that products can be certified–much as wood products can now be certified according to standards developed by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Regarding labor practices, we have long struggled with this issue in reviewing green building products in Environmental Building News and our GreenSpec directory. I’d like to see a program that allows manufacturers to go through a third-party certification process to verify that their labor practices are responsible. Given the demand for responsibly manufactured apparel, I suspect that such a program would quickly gain wide attention.