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???

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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.


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Is bamboo flooring hard or is bamboo flooring soft?