The History Of Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo Has Been Around for Ages!
Most people think of bamboo flooring as a new commodity, but hardwood bamboo floors have actually been around since 1995! This proves that they stand the test of time, both in terms of actual durability in people's houses and as a trendy material to use for home decor.
But the history of bamboo as a building material actually goes back much further. People have been making use of this tall grass' almost magical properties for millennia now, even using it to make basic floors as far back as the 1300s. Let's take a quick look, shall we?
Modern Bamboo Flooring
Further down this page we'll discuss how the Chinese have been using bamboo as flooring for close to 700 years (!). But the truth is that bamboo flooring didn't become commercially available until the early 1990s.
Unfortunately, bamboo flooring didn't catch on at first as people reluctant were to give it a try. This sometimes happens with revolutionary products - remember Who Killed The Electric Car? Not so dead anymore!
Bamboo Pioneers - The First Bamboo Flooring Brands
By the late '90s, bamboo flooring had begun to gain popularity - which lasts to this day! The first 10 years (1996-2006) were the formative years of bamboo flooring, when some of today's best loved brands were formed.
As people recognized the huge benefits of bamboo floors, many new companies started selling bamboo flooring.
There are now more than a dozen bamboo flooring brands on the market (and maybe more?) but there can be widely varying quality and pricing among them.
Why Bamboo Flooring Became So Popular - It's Many Advantages
The green building movement led to greatly increased demand for materials that were rapidly-renewable, which was a contributing factor to the growth of the bamboo flooring industry. Since bamboo flooring is designated a "Rapidly Renewable Material" by the U.S. Green Building council, and thus qualifies for LEED Credits for architects, it is often used in "green" construction. Here are just a few more of the advantages of bamboo flooring:
1. Eco-Friendliness. With Al Gore as VP and Lisa Simpson turning vegetarian, most people in the US were becoming more aware of environmental issues, thus a flooring material that was "earth-kind" was in high demand. (bamboo biomass regenerates about 8-15x faster than hardwoods used for flooring)
2. Durability / Hardness. While solid "flat grain" and "edge grain" bamboo floors always ranked alongside traditional hardwoods in terms of strength, it was the breakthrough of strand woven bamboo flooring (2-3 times harder than oak flooring) that drove the explosive popularity of bamboo flooring.
Strand woven bamboo flooring, which is made by weaving bamboo strips and fusing them together using heat and pressure, ranks as the hardest of hardwoods on the Janka Scale - the definitive floor hardness rating for the wood (or grass) flooring industry. Did you know that bamboo also has the tensile strength of steel!? This means that the flooring can withstand decades of regular family use - even if you do have a big, energetic dog - and will add value to your home.
3. Affordability. While the '90s was a time of great economic prosperity in the US, many wise people still saw the benefits of installing floors that were much cheaper than the traditional hardwoods.
4. Attractiveness. Bamboo flooring is one of the most beautiful floors that you can buy and it's easily customizable to your desired decor through stains, varnishes, and textures.
The unbeatable value, beauty and toughness of bamboo flooring is now known across the world and enjoyed by homeowners, architects and designers by the millions!
Bamboo Use as a Building Material: A History
The story of bamboo begins roughly 30-40 million years ago, but don't worry we're not going back that far. Originally, it served as a food source for herbivores (like pandas) and humans alike, before humans started using it to improve their lives in other ways.
Important Bamboo Factoid: Don't worry, no pandas were starved in the creation of beautiful bamboo flooring. Bamboo flooring is only ever made from the Moso bamboo, which pandas don't eat.
What Products Was Bamboo Made Into?
Most experts agree that bamboo originally came from China, where it is still widely grown today, and was used by the people there to create many items to improve their everyday lives, including, but not limited to:
Paper and Books (during the Han Dynasty, 206-221 BCE)
Water pipes for Irrigation
Floors (during the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644 CE)
Musical Instruments, including flutes and drums
There are records - probably on bamboo paper - from as far back as 5000 BCE that mention the creation of these items using bamboo. It seems that the ancient Chinese used bamboo in much the same way that the early Europeans would have used trees, which is understandable because you have to use what's around you, but it also probably did a lot to benefit China's environment, given what we know about the eco-friendly benefits of bamboo now.
As people from other countries travelled to China, they no doubt saw the benefits of using bamboo to create these items as opposed to trees - after all bamboo plants can reach full maturity in just five years, compared with 50+ for trees - and so took the plants back with them in an attempt to grow and benefit from them elsewhere.
Now, bamboo is grown in all but the coldest countries on earth - your neighbor might even have a plant in their garden.
Building With Bamboo
Bamboo was commonly used to build houses in places like Polynesia and the Philippines because it was able to withstand moisture well - ideal in those humid regions. Notably Polynesian natives have even used it to protect their houses from hurricanes to great effect and at little expense. It worked because bamboo is an elastic material that would sway in the wind without breaking.
Originally, most people would leave the bamboo whole and tie it together to make bundles that would form walls, roofs, and floors, but the native people in both the Philippines and Polynesia would do something a little differently when creating their Nipa huts; splitting the bamboo and weaving it together to create a stronger material.
Today, bamboo houses exist all over the world, from temporary huts to massive bamboo houses.
They even inspired a song by Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian which made it to number 30 in the UK charts and have been the subject of several Ted Talks, like the one below- can any hardwoods boast that?
Earlier, we noted that bamboo was primarily a food source until humans found ways to utilize its magical properties, but did you know that it is still used for food today?
Many animals, including pandas, continue to eat bamboo, but so do a lot of people. This will be obvious to you if you've ever eaten at an authentic Chinese restaurant, but bamboo shoots are frequently used in Chinese cuisine because it's so rich in potassium and fiber. It also tastes delish!
For Adults Only (at least over 21)!: Bamboo is also used to make vodka and wine. Bamboo leaves are turned into a very strong vodka (Chu Yeh Ching), and you can now even purchase liqueur that is matured inside living bamboo trunks!.