While hardwood floors are very popular in homes right now, bamboo flooring is an alternative that is quickly gaining ground. It has many of the same features of hardwood with a unique "bamboo" look. But why would anyone prefer bamboo as a flooring material? How do you turn a grass (bamboo) into a floor anyway? And does it look and wear as well as a hardwood floor? Well, let's take a look at some of these questions.

Why Bamboo Flooring?

There's a great emphasis right now on environmentally friendly housing materials (and it's about time!). Hardwood floors obviously come from trees, and trees take a long time to grow to maturity. Bamboo, on the other hand, is a grass, and it only takes a few years to grow to maturity. For this reason, it's considered a sustainable product, making it much more eco-friendly. Many of the people who are choosing bamboo floors like feeling that they are using a material that won't make a big impact on the environment.

How Bamboo Is Turned into a Floor

Since bamboo is technically a grass, you might be wondering how it can be made into a flooring material. The first thing to remember is that bamboo grows very big. Some species reach more than 100 feet tall with diameters of up to a foot in thickness. This definitely isn't your typical grass!

As far as the actual flooring process goes, boards are created when the hollow round shoots of bamboo are sliced into strips. The strips are boiled to remove the starch, then dried and laminated into solid boards. The boards are milled to create workable flooring profiles.

In order to ensure long life, the bamboo strips are treated with a preservative (this can be done before or after the strips are laminated), which brings out the rich color of the flooring for installation. Typically you can get bamboo in either a light, natural color or a darker, amber hue. (The amber comes about when the flooring is pressure steamed; this darkens the surface through the process of carbonization.)

Is Bamboo as Good as Hardwood Flooring?

We can talk all day about the eco-friendliness of bamboo and how it's created, but in the end, most homeowners want to know if it looks as nice as hardwoods. They also want to know if it's as durable and easy to maintain.

The short answer is yes.

Though bamboo doesn't look exactly the same as a wood floor (boards are comprised of thin strips instead of the swirling grains of wood), many people prefer the clean, modern look. Its coloring is warm and inviting. It requires little more than sweeping and an occasional mopping to clean, and if treated well, bamboo flooring can last for decades.

Though the price of bamboo flooring used to be more expensive than domestic hardwoods, today it is very comparable. It's also much easier to find installers for bamboo today, due to its increase in popularity. All the major home improvement centers can supply the material for you, usually in both the natural color and the rich amber hue.