Whenever you’re planning on moving forward with a new flooring installation for your space, you’re likely to first think of the the colors, textures, brands, and the material itself. While these are certainly important factors to think through when making such an important decision, nearly all flooring materials can be purchased in different types and forms; bamboo is no different.
In general, there are four primary types of bamboo floors: solid horizontal, solid vertical, strand-woven, and engineered; the unique manufacturing process for each of these is the primary difference. In addition to the different types of bamboo flooring, there are also two primary forms: tongue and groove, and click-lock.
In order to best tell the difference between the different types and forms of bamboo floors, we’ll look to both illustrate each type and give a general overview of the manufacturing process, we’ll speak to the pros and cons associated with each, and we’ll create a brief summary that should help tie everything together.
Our hope is that by the end of this article, you are well aware for the differences between the different bamboo flooring types, and that you ultimately feel armed with the most valuable information needed to make a decision.
The 4 primary types of bamboo floors
Before we get started, we sorted this list in terms of how often the flooring types are used. By no means is this meant to be a ranking. One should consider the pros and cons that we list below along with the space and setting where you intend to install your bamboo floors in order to truly understand which flooring type will be a perfect or near perfect fit.
Solid – Horizontal
How it’s made
One of the most widely manufactured types of bamboo flooring, horizontal bamboo is made by drying out large strips of bamboo, cutting and slicing these larger pieces down in to smaller, thinner strips, and gluing these thin strips together into planks (you can see an illustration of this above). In order to ensure that the planks are secure, pressure and heat are applied to the planks.
Because bamboo naturally has a lighter color and shade, the strips are sometimes stained, and some go through a process of carbonization. While carbonized bamboo will likely have a lower hardness than normal, it will help to get to a darker color if that is what is desired.
It is common with horizontal bamboo floors that you will still see the traces of the bamboo nodes. This type of bamboo floor will likely have the closest appearance to what bamboo looks like in its natural state.
- Tons of options – Most bamboo floor manufacturers are bound to have at least a handful of horizontal bamboo options to choose from. This is likely due to the fact that this form of bamboo floor manufacturing has been in place much longer than some of the other types we’ll discuss. This type of bamboo flooring is actually often referred to as “classic” bamboo flooring.
- Natural look – What attracts many consumers to bamboo floors when compared to other flooring options is the fact that is tends to have a more “natural” look when compared to other flooring types. As mentioned above, you can still see node marks on many horizontal bamboo floors, so this should align with the desire for natural-looking floors.
- Ability to refinish – Most bamboo floors are finished with an aluminum oxide coat that helps to ensure that scratches are kept to a minimum. In the event that your horizontal bamboo floors do get scratched, in general, this type of bamboo flooring is able to be refinished multiple times to get close to the original look.
- Close to natural state – Because of the relative simplicity of the production process, when compared to other bamboo flooring types, horizontal bamboo is the closest to its “roots” (especially when it isn’t stained or carbonized).
- Visible nodes – While a more natural look may be attractive to some, not everyone wants to see visible signs of what the bamboo floors came from. You may still be able to find horizontal bamboo floors where the nodes are not as visible, but it is much more common with this bamboo flooring type versus others.
- Weakened hardness – Even though carbonized bamboo floors can help get to the desired bamboo color and shade you’re looking for, this process can actually break down bamboo and cause for your floors not to have the same strength and durability that exist in other bamboo floors and even other hardwoods.
- Refinishing limitations – With the added benefit of being able to refinish horizontal bamboo floors, you may be quick to move forward with this type of bamboo floor if it checks off your other boxes. The only concern here is that, since this type of bamboo floor is much softer than others, you will potentially have to perform multiple rounds of refinishing. Depending on the quality of your floors, there may be limitations in the number of times you can refinish before you’re out of bamboo material.
Ultimately, solid horizontal bamboo floors may be a good option for someone who is really attracted to bamboo flooring because of its natural look, and also knows that their space will see less activity. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding horizontal bamboo floors in the shade and color that fits your space.
While is may be easier to scratch horizontal bamboo, the added benefit of being able to refinish may make up for it.
Solid – Vertical
How it’s made
Before getting into the manufacturing process of vertical bamboo floors, you may notice that this type of bamboo flooring has a lot of similarities to horizontal bamboo floors. The reason for this is that the initial process of cutting larger stalks of bamboo into thinner strips is essentially the same.
The primary difference is that instead of stacking and gluing the strips in a horizontal direction, as the name suggests, this type of bamboo flooring is produced by gluing the strips vertically. Because of the vertical orientation, you will find that the nodes common with the horizontal type of bamboo floors are nearly non-existent when it comes to vertical bamboo.
- “Minimalist” look – Vertical bamboo floors have a more “minimalist” look when compared to its horizontal counterpart. For those looking for a floor that will give you a clean and simple look, this may be a great option.
- Ability to refinish – As with horizontal bamboo floors, most vertical bamboo floors can be refinished multiple times if damaged by deep scratches.
- Natural color – If going with an option that has not been stained or carbonized during manufacturing, vertical bamboo floors still have a nice, light natural look.
- Bamboo in its natural state – Although not the same look as horizontal floors, in many cases, you still get the benefit of this bamboo flooring type closely resembling the bamboo grass where it came from.
- Weakened hardness – Similar to horizontal bamboo floors, if this flooring type is carbonized during production, this will likely lead to weaker floors that are more susceptible to scratches and other types of damage.
- Not for fans of the bamboo “look” – While still getting many of the same benefits of horizontal bamboo floors, if what you’re looking for are floors that look like bamboo, you will lose some of that with vertical bamboo floors.
Vertical bamboo floors are great for individuals who want to have the luxury of refinishing their floors and are not necessarily tied to the floors looking similar to the grass where they came from. If you are in a space that needs a lighter touch and are looking for a type of bamboo flooring that has a minimalist appeal, vertical bamboo floors may work well for you.
How it’s made
One of the more interesting processes when it comes to the manufacturing of bamboo floors, strand woven bamboo is made by grinding or shredding bamboo to pull out the fibers. Once the material is down to a pulp, the bamboo material is typically combined with some form of adhesive. As the name suggests, the material is then woven and pressed together under high heat.
Usually, strand woven bamboo is made from the bamboo strips that remain after the production of horizontal and vertical bamboo. This feature may be attractive to the eco-conscious consumer, as this helps to ensure that every part of the bamboo stalk is being utilized and produces very little waste.
This manufacturing process actually creates a type of flooring that is many times harder than other hardwood options. In fact, when articles refer to the hardness and durability of bamboo floors, they are almost always referring to strand woven bamboo.
- Strength and durability – As we mentioned previously, the manufacturing process for strand woven bamboo actually creates a type of bamboo floor that is much more dense and therefore much more durable.
- Scratch resistance – Because of the aforementioned hardness and durability of strand woven bamboo floors, you will find that this flooring type holds up well to materials that may easily scratch horizontal and vertical bamboo floors.
- Bamboo floors without the bamboo look – While strand woven bamboo is almost completely made up of only bamboo, you will get a floor that can be manufactured in many shades and colors and can closely resemble other types of hardwood floors. You’ll get the many benefits of bamboo floors without having to sacrifice on the look you’re going for.
- Broad application – Strand woven bamboo floors are one of the more popular types of bamboo flooring because it is able to be used in homes with pets and children, as well as in areas like your kitchen.
- Formaldehyde use – In another article we’ve written, we spend time going over one of the primary points of concern when it comes to bamboo floor safety: the use of formaldehyde during the manufacturing process. Many times, the adhesive used to combine the pulp in strand woven bamboo contains formaldehyde. However, many manufacturers have been able to produce strand woven bamboo floors that contain levels of formaldehyde that are nearly untraceable.
As you can see in our list of pros and cons, strand woven bamboo floors have a lot to offer in terms of durability, options, flexibility, and eco-friendliness. This type of bamboo flooring is perfect for consumers looking for the most versatile option that still gives you the benefits of bamboo as a flooring material.
How it’s made
Of all of the bamboo flooring options, engineered bamboo floors actually contain the least amount of bamboo when compared to other options. During the manufacturing process, a thin layer of bamboo is adhered to a thicker layer of mixed woods.
This process allows for a bamboo feel on the top layer, while providing some added durability in the base or foundational layer. In many cases, the top layer (also referred to as the wear layer) is made from strand woven bamboo.
- Added durability – Especially when compared to horizontal and vertical bamboo floors, engineered bamboo floors are generally more durable because of the mix of materials that make up the base layer.
- Durable top layer – Because the top layer is still made from strand woven bamboo, you are still likely to get many of the added benefits like scratch resistance that come with this flooring type.
- Flexible placement – While engineered bamboo floors can go in many of the common areas of your home, such as bedrooms and living rooms, it is also the flooring type that is most recommended for areas like the basement.
- Least amount of bamboo – Because the base layer of made of materials other than bamboo, it is hard to consider this a true form of bamboo floors. This flooring type was created to satisfy the needs of those individuals who want the feel of bamboo floors, but are not too concerned with the make up of the materials that go into them.
- Limited refinishing – Since the wear layer is only made up of a thin layer of bamboo, engineered bamboo floors are only able to be refinished a handful of times. There may also be options where the wear layer is so thin that it can only be refinished once.
Engineered bamboo floors offer a unique opportunity for those individuals who are looking for an option that gives you some of the benefits of bamboo floors while also adding a foundational layer of durability. Because of the thin layer, this type of bamboo flooring is not recommended for individuals are planning on installing their floors in areas with high activity that will be susceptible to scratching.
While the wear layer of strand woven bamboo should help with scratches, with enough activity, it is nearly inevitable that these floors will see some scratching. However, because of the mixed wood base layer, this type of bamboo flooring defends against the effects of humidity when compared to other options.
The two primary forms of bamboo flooring
In addition to the different types of bamboo flooring options, each of these flooring types can come in different forms that will help determine some of the work that has to go into the installation process.
Tongue and groove
The most popular form of bamboo flooring (and the form we’ve used in all of our illustrations), tongue and groove bamboo floors have a tongue or segment of the bamboo floors that is fitted into a receiving groove. With this form of bamboo flooring, you can choose to either glue down your bamboo floors or nail them down to the subfloor.
Though used less frequently, the click-lock form of bamboo flooring has seen a rise in popularity due to the ease of installation. As the name suggests, click-lock bamboo floors contain a side of the plank that is meant to click and lock into the receiving side of the next bamboo plank.
Because it is secured via the click and lock, this form of bamboo flooring is often used when looking to install your floors using the floating method.
Wrapping things up
When looking to install bamboo floors, there are a number of considerations that must be kept in mind. Knowing the location of where your floors will be installed, the level of activity in the space, the sustained temperature and humidity of the space, and the look you’re going for will help to determine which type and form of bamboo floors work best for you.
Our hope is that we’ve provided the most relevant information in order to help you make the most educated decision for your space.