If you’re searching for the right material for your bathroom floor, you might be considering bamboo. After all, it looks great and there’s an increasing number of bamboo products on the market.
But if you’re new to bamboo flooring, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. That’s where we can help! We’re going to look at everything you need to know about bamboo floors in bathrooms. We’ll explore their advantages, as well as a few issues you need to be aware of.
So if you’re ready to find out more, let’s get started!
How is bamboo flooring made?
Bamboo flooring can take several different forms.
In South East Asia, it stays closest to its natural condition. Bamboo stems are cut and in thin strips and laid out as near to flat as they can get. The strips are then attached to either a larger piece of bamboo, or to larger pieces of timber.
It’s a technique that works well in this part of the world, where it’s often used in stilted houses. The gaps between the pieces of bamboo allow the air to circulate. And that can help keep interiors cool when the weather is at its hottest.
But in North America, the kind of bamboo flooring you’ll find is quite different. Here, the bamboo is sliced into strips and trimmed to size. The outer skin is removed, and the bamboo is boiled to remove the plant sugars it contains. It’s then dried and planed so it’s flat.
The appearance varies, depending on whether the bamboo is laid horizontally or vertically. In vertical configurations, you’ll get an almost uniform color and grain. When it’s laid horizontally, you’ll see more variation in color where the nodes have been cut off.
The final shade will also vary according to whether the bamboo has been carbonized. Carbonization will make the bamboo darker, giving it a color similar to red oak.
In the final stages, the bamboo is laminated, then heat pressed. The boards are left to cure, before getting another planing and sanding. A last layer of lacquer is then applied for extra protection.
Is bamboo really a sustainable flooring option?
One of the most often cited selling points of bamboo flooring is that it’s environmentally sustainable. So is that really true?
Well, bamboo certainly has some advantages over wooden flooring. Unlike wood, it can be harvested without damaging the plant.
And it grows very quickly, without requiring pesticides or herbicides. Depending on the species, the plant is mature enough for harvesting after between 3 and 7 years. And harvested growth can be replenished in as little three months.
This rapid growth means you can get about 20 times the amount of timber from a bamboo plantation as from trees on the same area. And it will release around 35 per cent more oxygen than the trees too.
And there’s good news if you’re worried that harvesting bamboo is taking food from the mouths of pandas. The species of bamboo that’s used for flooring and furniture is both bigger and woodier than that eaten by pandas. And it’s usually found in different areas too.
But that doesn’t mean to say that all bamboo flooring is automatically environmentally sustainable. Harvesting it too frequently can mean the plants don’t have time to recover. And valuable ecosystems can be cleared to make way for bamboo plantations.
Look for products that have independent accreditation to be sure of their environmental credentials. Organisations like the Forest Stewardship Council certify products that have sourced their bamboo from well-managed plantations. Look for their logo to be sure you’re buying an ethically produced product.
Is it safe?
One of the other factors to consider when buying flooring is the chemicals it can release. Bear in mind that whatever you use will take up a large surface area in your home. Any product that emits chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, can have a significant impact on air quality.
While bamboo is a natural product, chemicals are often to used to laminate it. One of those is urea-formaldehyde, which is also used in other forms of flooring. And it can lead to floors that off-gas VOCs.
Look for flooring that is free of formaldehydes. Cali Bamboo, for example, provides information on the VOC levels of its flooring on its website. And some of its products actually have lower VOC levels than those found naturally in the air. Details of specific products can be supplied on request.
This is another case where independent verification is available. Look for packaging that carries the FloorScore label to know that the flooring has been certified as low in VOCs.
Is it waterproof?
Flooring in the bathroom has to be able to tolerate certain conditions. It will need to cope with higher levels of humidity. And it’s more likely to get splashed.
So how does bamboo stand up to those demands?
There are different views on this question. It’s certainly true that bamboo isn’t completely waterproof in the way that, say, sheet vinyl is. If you’re clicking bamboo planks into place as a floating floor, there will be small gaps between them.
That means that if standing water isn’t cleaned up promptly, it can penetrate to the core and the sub-floor. That can lead to the bamboo becoming warped and discolored.
But that’s no different to any wooden floor. And in fact, bamboo is more water-resistant than most hardwoods.
Some manufacturers are more bullish than others about their products’ ability to stand up to use in bathrooms. Simply Bamboo, for example, state that their bamboo flooring has been used in bathrooms for 25 years.
But check the terms of the warranty before you make your choice. In some cases, it will be voided if the product is used in a bathroom. And even Simply Bamboo’s warranty won’t cover damage from “excessive moisture”.
As well as being prone to splashing water, bathrooms are often very humid environments. That’s another consideration to bear in mind when deciding whether bamboo is the right choice for your bathroom.
If the air is too dry, the bamboo can crack. But if its too moist, it can swell and become distorted. In order to keep it in good condition, you should be aiming for a humidity level of between 30 and 50 per cent.
That’s also a good range for your own health. Humidity levels higher than this can encourage microbial growth, and cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
Maintaining those levels in a bathroom can, however, be a challenge. An extractor fan or dehumidifier will help. But if you love long, steaming showers or baths, bamboo flooring may not be the best choice.
Installing in a bathroom
If you’ve decided on bamboo flooring for your bathroom, there are steps you can take to give it more protection.
When you’re installing the planks, don’t rely on the click-and-lock method alone. That will leave those tiny gaps for water to seep into. Instead, add some PVA glue around the edges before tapping each board into place.
As long as you apply it carefully, the glue will ensure there’s a watertight seam between the boards. But be sure to add it to all four sides. The short side of the plank, where it’s been cut to length, is likely to be unlaminated. So if you skip the glue there, you’ll leave a weakness.
This does mean the installation process takes longer. But if you want more confidence in your floor’s ability to cope with the occasional puddle, it’s time well spent.
How do you maintain it?
Once your bamboo flooring is installed, you want to keep it in good condition. It’s a good idea to invest in a humidity monitor. Make sure you switch on the extractor fan or dehumidifier when the room gets steamy. And hanging wet towels outside until they’re dry will help too.
Mop up splashes as soon as possible. If your floor is installed well, you won’t need to jump out of the shower to do it! But make sure the water doesn’t hang around for hours. And use a bathmat or duck board to protect the floor from dripping bodies.
When it comes to cleaning, you won’t want to get the floor too wet either. As we’ve already seen, that can cause the bamboo to lift and warp. So avoid all but the most completely wrung out mop. And steer clear of steam mops too. The moisture from the steam will have the same effect as water.
It can also be a good idea to avoid using a vacuum cleaner. It’s all too easy to scratch the bamboo, especially if your cleaner has a rotating brush bar. But if it has a setting especially for hard floors, it should be fine.
The safest option is regular sweeping with a soft-bristled brush. That will remove dirt and debris on the surface of the floor, and prevent it from scratching the bamboo.
Then once a week, give the floor a clean with a soft, damp mop – one made of microfiber is ideal. Steer clear of soapy water. And don’t be tempted by floor waxes or polishes – they’ll leave behind a residue. Instead use a pH neutral floor cleaner specially designed for wood floors.
If you can get hold of one, a spray mop is a great option. These have a holster into which you insert your cylinder of cleaning fluid. You pull a trigger as you mop, and a fine mist of fluid is sprayed over the floor. You can then mop it up immediately, getting excellent results without overly wetting your floor.
Whatever mop you use, be sure to always work in the direction of the bamboo grain.
What about scratches?
Bamboo is pretty scratch resistant – tougher, in fact, than hardwood flooring. And the type of flooring known as strand-woven bamboo is tougher still.
And whilst bathrooms offer lots of challenges in terms of moisture and humidity, they’re less prone to other damage. It shouldn’t be too difficult to keep the door closed on pets. And get guests to kick off their shoes in your home, and you won’t have to worry about stiletto heels either.
But even so, accidents do happen. The good news is, if your floor gets scratched, there are ways to fix it. And you won’t need to call on a professional to help.
If the scratch is only light, you may be able to get rid of it with nothing more than bamboo flooring cleaner. Rub it over the surface, use a white cloth to remove the residue, then buff with a dry cloth.
But if the scratch is deeper, you may need to use a putty stick designed for wood flooring. These are made in lots of different colors, so you should be able to get a good match. If you can’t get it exactly the same, going for a shade darker is the better option. It will be less conspicuous than a lighter shade.
Putty sticks are very easy to use. Just clean the floor with your regular bamboo cleaner, and make sure it’s completely dry. Then rub the stick along the scratch. The putty will come off and fill it up. Use the edge of a plastic card to get rid of any excess around the edges. Then buff with a white cloth.
Ready to choose your bathroom flooring?
That brings us to the end of our round-up of everything you need to know about bamboo floors in bathrooms! We hope it’s helped you decide whether it’s the right option for you.
The wet and humid environment in bathrooms undoubtedly presents some challenges. But if you’re prepared to go the extra mile, it’s possible to keep a bamboo bathroom floor looking great.
Keeping an eye on humidity levels is very important. An extractor fan or dehumidifier are almost essential. And if a steam-filled room is part of the bathing experience for you, other flooring will be a better fit.
But install and seal your floor carefully, and clean it gently, and bamboo can be a winner. And few materials are so effective at creating a spa-like feel.
So if you love bamboo, we say go for it! We hope you enjoy your beautiful bathroom floor!