Laying a solid foundation

Adam and his daughter Drew hang out on the bamboo flooring that

Bamboo has long been famed for its flexibility and strength,
having been used for a variety of supports throughout Asia such as
construction scaffolding.
The fast-growing plant can also make a wonderful privacy screen
when planted outdoors, but stateside homeowners are discovering
bamboo anew for entirely different reasons.
Bamboo has long been famed for its flexibility and strength, having been used for a variety of supports throughout Asia such as construction scaffolding.

The fast-growing plant can also make a wonderful privacy screen when planted outdoors, but stateside homeowners are discovering bamboo anew for entirely different reasons.

Hollister accountant Adam Harlow found the plant listed as one of the options on iFloors.com when he began searching for a material for a hardwood floor during a recent home remodeling project.

“I saw bamboo, and I thought, ‘that’s kind of interesting-sounding,” said Harlow. “It’s basically a grass, and I liked that instead of having grains it had joints that made just a really interesting pattern.”

Strong, durable and naturally beautiful, the hollow shoots are an eco-friendly flooring option that provides homes with a distinctive look for a distinctive price: Often comparable or less than traditional hardwoods with local prices ranging from $6 to $13 per foot.

Just like regular wood, bamboo can be nailed, glued or floated in place, a term that applies to the process of simply laying the wood on an existing surface using nothing more than a tongue-in-groove method.

And despite the fact that the bamboo boards are made up of small strips of material laminated together, they are more durable than cherry, teak or walnut and almost as strong as traditional oak, said Monte McDonald, owner of Windows, Walls and Doors in Hollister.

Choices are limited when it comes to the coloring of the wood, which does not accept stain well like traditional hardwoods.

The boards only come in two colors: natural finish and caramelized finish, a tone similar to oak that is achieved with a special heat treatment applied to the boards, said Viola Christensen, a flooring consultant for Rainbow Carpet One in Gilory.

But the limited color choice wasn’t a problem for Gilroy homeowner Christine Mellon.

When Mellon and her husband Dennis decided to install wood flooring in their living room two years ago, they compromised on bamboo because of its durability – superior to the laminate wood Pergo floor she’d been interested in – and price, which was five dollars less per square foot than the hardwood he had gravitated toward.

Limited choices helped the couple to come to a quick and mutual decision, said Mellon.

“We both liked the natural look, and there are really only four choices because of the cuts,” said Mellon. “If you get vertical, it’s thin and it looks like a regular board, but if you get horizontal, you really see the pattern.”

Vertical boards are comprised of quarter-inch strips of the bamboo glued together to form boards while horizontal cuts take half-inch sections on average, exposing more of the bamboo’s texture, a reedy looking grass with knotted joints every two feet or so.

The Mellons chose the vertical cut, laying it straight through into the room’s coat closet to allow dripping umbrellas and muddy boots a place to rest out of sight.

The bamboo deals well with small amounts of water and does not show stains easily, said Mellon, a thought seconded by Harlow, who successfully installed it in his bathroom.

“It’s practically care free,” said Mellon. “It’s our main walkway from our front door to our family room and kitchen in the back of the house, so it’s constantly used for our general traffic pattern, but you can just sweep it with a broom or use a duster and occasionally a sponge mop.”

McDonald was so impressed with the material’s durability and distinctive look that he even installed it as one of the main flooring items in his showroom, and he was also pleased with bamboo’s low environmental impact.

Unlike hardwoods, which are cut from trees that must grow in a forest for 20 to 25 years, bamboo is a fast-growing plant that can be farmed effectively and sustainably, regenerating crops entirely every three years, said McDonald.

Cared for properly – which basically means regularly vacuumed or dusted and occasionally mopped with a damp sponge or mop – the floors will last a lifetime, said McDonald, who also added that they can be refinished like regular hardwood floors.

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