Bamboo flooring performance is much like that of a hardwood floor. Like wood, bamboo flooring performance will not be the same with every installation.
You could install the same product from the same shipment in two houses sitting side-by-side with different performance results. Bamboo flooring performance is based on many factors from the product to installation, site related and maintenance related conditions.
Bamboo Flooring Performance Creation of Issues
Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers
Most bamboo products are manufactured in China. Quality control conditions vary considerably from one manufacturing plant to another and often within the same manufacturers plant. As a result bamboo flooring performance will also differ from one manufacturer to the other.
In the United States we have a lot of excellent distributors of flooring products. We also have a number of distributors that are more concerned with profit than they are with quality. The majority of distributors are going to import the products of the most reliable manufacturers. Fewer less reliable distributors, purchase products from whomever offers the best price. Poor quality bamboo flooring creates performance issues.
Installers and Property Owners
Most professional bamboo flooring installers are going to take the steps required to perform a proper installation. There are also flooring installers that will take short cuts every chance they get. Short cutting the acclimation of a bamboo product creates problems. Not making sure the structure is ready for the flooring. Not following the manufacturers installation standards increases the opportunity for flooring failure.
Most property owners are going to take proper care of their bamboo flooring. Failing to read and follow the manufacturers requirements for proper care results in problems. Failing to control relative humidity per the requirements of the flooring, there are additional opportunities for bamboo flooring failure.
Why Will Bamboo Flooring Performance Differ on Different Installations?
As a bamboo flooring inspector for the Weinheimer Group, it is not unusual to have a home developer or builder ask, ” I have installed this same product in other houses without problems, why am I having a problem here?”
As flooring inspectors we gather a lot of information. We perform required onsite testing, this enables us to knowledgably answer questions.
There are many reasons why bamboo flooring performance may differ between two structures. True, even if the structures built by the same builder. The identical product purchased at the same time and the floor installed by the same installer may see different results.
Why Two Similar Houses May Differ
- While two houses are sitting side-by-side, one can have a high water table below it and the other house not.
- One house can be built below grade while the other is above grade.
- Perhaps the roof was on one house at a different time. The interior structure of one house experienced heavy rain.
- Perhaps the houses built or the floor installed at different times of year.
- Not all houses are landscaped the same.
- Not all occupants of a house set the HVAC controls identically.
- There are differences in air change as a result of doors open, doors closed.
- Acclimation of flooring to expected living conditions. A floor acclimated for a spec house, the actual living conditions may differ.
- A spec house may have the floor installed for a month to several months before it is sold. During that time it has acclimated to a different condition than the house will be once it has occupants.
- Not everyone cleans their floor the same way. Some people may steam or mop a floor while others maintain it on the dry side.
- Some people have pets or active children while others do not.
- At one house, doors and windows regularly left open. The identical house normally sealed. The two houses will also react differently.
The above are but a few of the many differences that take place between structures even when built side-by-side. All of these reasons and many more can cause a bamboo flooring performance issue.
How Moisture Effects Bamboo Flooring Performance
Changes in Temperature and Humidity
Changes in temperature and relative humidity are not based on the structure alone. Not every person lives in identical living conditions. Temperature and humidity affect people differently so they regulate their living quarters differently. Temperature and relative humidity that are too great or two low can affect the performance of a floor. Both can cause movement and separation in a floor. Too little moisture will result in contraction of a floor. Too much moisture will result in expansion of a floor. Moisture levels change with changes in relative humidity. These changes can result in bamboo flooring performance issues.
Bamboo is Hygroscopic
Bamboo flooring is a hygroscopic material subject to dimensional change. Variations in moisture absorption, temperature and humidity within the surrounding environment result in change.
Wood and bamboo flooring need to reach a moisture content level in equilibrium with the surrounding environment (EMC). Should be installed – at or near normal living conditions. Temperature and relative humidity range may vary somewhat by product.
Most bamboo flooring manufacturers want the temperature range to be within 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-50 percent relative humidity. This is the range that these types of products usually perform best. Fortunately these levels are where humans are generally the most comfortable. Failure to maintain a floor in equilibrium often results in a bamboo flooring performance problem.
Solutions for Bamboo Flooring Issues
Solutions for a floor that has become damaged due to environment conditions, vary with different types of floors and different properties.
- The first recommended solution is almost always to control the environment. Control within the temperature and relative humidity range specified by the flooring manufacturer.
- Once a floor is damaged it may never go back to the point of perfection. When unable to obtain a satisfactory correction of a floor through properly maintaining relative humidity, a floor may need to be filled and refinished. It may need to be replaced in whole or in part depending upon the type of floor.
- Filling and refinishing, generally not an option for strand bamboo, where on a solid wood floor it may be.
- A floating floor can sometimes be taken apart and rejoined.
For information on how to best control an environment, best to contact the flooring manufacturer or distributor directly.