Bamboo flooring.  Is it hard or soft?

Of course, this is never a simple answer.  Bamboo is technically a grass,  but it’s usually classified as a hardwood. If you search on the web for the Janka hardness scale (a rating meant to standardize the hardness of wood), you get all sorts of answers for Bamboo.  (This is NOT the case for other hardwoods).

Bamboo flooring - Westchester NY

Janka is a scale based on measurement of the force necessary to embed a .444-inch steel ball to half its diameter in wood. Red Oak is the standard at 1290. I have seen bamboo classified from as low as 1,010 to as high as 3000 (but most would agree it’s harder than oak and it generally seems to fall in 1350-1400 range). Almost every other hardwood has a consistent number from site to site. Why the discrepancy on bamboo???

There are a number of reasons why the Janka hardness ratings vary for bamboo flooring.

1. The first lies in the type of bamboo. Is it “regular” bamboo or is it strand bamboo. (Strand bamboo is much stronger and strand woven even stronger, usually 1,800+).   2. If it’s “regular” bamboo, is it natural (the light color – above) or carmelized/carbonized (the tan color below)? The process of carmelizing the sugar weakens the wood through the heating process.

Westchester Bamboo Flooring - Carmelized Horizontal

3. Is it vertical grained or horizontal grained? (see below for picts). The jury is still out on which of these is harder. Vertical is first (2 picts), horizontal are the two on the right. Horizontal seems to be more popular in terms of look.

Horizontal bamboo caramelized spice Horizontal Bamboo Natural Vertical bamboo caramelized spice Vertical Bamboo natural

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. And, finally, what brand is it??? Because bamboo is imported (usually from China), bamboo, more than any other hardwood varies TREMENDOUSLY in quality. It’s important which brand you buy, moreso than other types of flooring. Personally, I love Natural Bamboo (made by US Floors) and Teragren. These are outstanding brands with outstanding reputations. Their products come with a 25 year warranty.   Regardless, most agree that bamboo is a bit stronger than oak, and more importantly, it looks beautiful. It’s exotic and peaceful looking – it can really give the place a zen feeling and give it a clean and modern feel. And, it’s a green product, so you’re doing what’s right for the environment. Oh, and bonus, it costs a bit less than oak.   The funny thing is that most people that have seen dents/scratches in their bamboo floors generally got them from one of the big box stores. And, I’m not surprised at all. I buy my products directly from the manufacturer and I know I’m extremely cost competitive. When I see some of the big box stores advertising bamboo for less than what I pay the manufacturers, I know there is something suspicious. I especially know this since I’m usually less expensive than these same places on oak, so red flag here.

The reason these big box bamboos tend to dent is for several reasons.

1.  The bamboo in big box stores is harvested too early and hasn’t had enough time for proper growth.

2.  The products are usually air dried rather than oven dried so they are softer.

3.  They often harvest the softer part of the bamboo.

 

So, if you are in the market for bamboo, please buy from a reputable flooring store and buy a reputable brand. This is one place you definitely do not want to buy on-line, esp since it’s imported.

 

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your floors


 

Is bamboo flooring hard or is bamboo flooring soft?

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16 Response Comments

  • Mr. Wood Blinds Expert  August 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks For Providing This Wisdom. I find it helpful and it advances my appreciation, Thanks again for sharing this info and look forward to your future posts.

    Reply
  • Anh  March 20, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for the information.
    I love bamboo and would like to replace our living room carpet with it. We have 350sf and would like to replace part of our stairs up to the landing (5 steps, landing of ~ 4’X4′).
    I don’t want China made product and would like to have a small dog. According to your recommendation we should go with light color. I do like to look of the bamboo strand.
    Please give me an approximate cost of the bamboo. We live in Houston, Texas, what is the best way to install glued or nailed?
    Thank you so much.
    Anh

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  March 20, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Anh – If you are going to get a dog, I’d recommend staying away from bamboo as it doesn’t hold up very well. But, if you are set on bamboo, natural strand woven will hold up best. Be sure not to get any made in China. You can try US Floors. If you have a plywood subfloor, it’s better to nail. You’ll need to speak to someone locally about prices and best way to install for your particular situation.

      Reply
  • Lisal  November 28, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    What have you heard about Cali bamboo? Supposed to have a great janco rating and be one of the hardest out there. Have read great reviews and awful all at the same time!

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  November 29, 2016 at 7:32 am

      Cali tends to be one of the better bamboos, but I’m still not a big fan of this. I have also heard mixed things about them.

      Reply
  • char  December 19, 2016 at 11:36 am

    need a good and nice looking hardwood floor that hold up to dent and high traffic area. what do you suggest? I also have a dog

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  December 21, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I have a whole blog post on wood that is best for dogs. I’d probably recommend oak, especially white oak, as it holds up well, is more resistant to water (vs red oak) and is reasonably priced.

      Reply
  • LISA EVANS  January 3, 2017 at 6:46 am

    Thank you for sharing. Your knowledge is much appreciated.

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  January 4, 2017 at 4:41 am

      Lisa – Oh good. I’m so glad it was helpful.

      Reply
  • Ryan M  January 11, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Hi,
    I have a son with asthma and severe allergies. We are looking to get a wood installed to replace carpet in our new home that would be both strong for raising two kids (from ages 3 and 5) as well as low toxin. Do you recommend a particular wood floor for this? Is bamboo strong enough to weather small kids? Do recommend anything in particular for low toxicity? Thank you!

    Reply
    • TheFlooringGirl  January 11, 2017 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Ryan. No, bamboo would be lower on my list. First, it doesn’t hold up as well. Second, it has a lot of adhesive and resins (and cheaper ones have even more) and those that have asthma or allergies tend to be more sensitive to this. I would do solid hardwood. And, honestly almost any solid wood would be fine. Oak is most common and most popular and reasonably priced. It also hides scratches more. I would avoid all engineered woods and bamboos.

      Reply

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