Both reclaimed hardwood flooring and strand woven bamboo flooring are popular examples of sustainable flooring. Reclaimed hardwood flooring is ‘recycled flooring’ in the sense it is made from pieces of wood that have been found, kiln dried and cut into new flooring planks. Strand woven bamboo flooring is made from bamboo a renewable resource. Bamboo is the quickest growing plant on the planet and so is an ideal material for commercial use.
There are a number of issues relating to both these types of sustainable flooring that give a potential buyer pause for thought.
Firstly, there is the overall carbon expenditure for the two types of flooring. Strand woven bamboo is made by an industrial process whereby strands of bamboo are compressed together under heat with a low VOC adhesive. The strand woven bamboo is then cut into flooring planks. The vast majority of strand woven bamboo flooring is made in China and so it needs to be shipped to its main markets in Europe and the USA. The industrial process involved in making strand woven bamboo flooring and then the cost of shipping the flooring expends a lot of petrol. This greatly adds to the overall carbon cost of strand woven bamboo flooring.
In contrast reclaimed hardwood needs minimal work to be turned into reclaimed hardwood flooring. As i mentioned before, it is just kiln dried and then cut into flooring planks. Also reclaimed hardwood can normally be sourced, made and sold locally thus greatly reducing the carbon input needed to make, transport and sell the flooring.
Another disadvantage of strand woven bamboo flooring is that it as yet not made from a water based adhesive. All adhesives used to make strand woven bamboo flooring contain some traces of VOCs such as formaldehyde. This is in some way balanced out by the fact that bamboo is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antimicrobial.
Reclaimed hardwood flooring and antique hardwood flooring has long since lost all its VOC which have off-gassed over the years. And like strand woven bamboo flooring it is anti-allergenic because its hard surfaces are easy to keep free of dust mites.
In terms of price strand woven bamboo flooring is often cheaper than reclaimed hardwood flooring. The ad hoc nature of finding wood suitable to reclaim and turn into flooring keeps the price of reclaimed hardwood flooring relatively high. Also in terms of installation, strand woven bamboo flooring which can be put down in a floating installation or in a glue down or nail down installation is much easier than DIY installations of reclaimed hardwood flooring.
Lastly, there is the issue of look. Bamboo has a grain and looks like hardwood. It comes in a variety of carbonized shades. Reclaimed hardwood flooring of course varies greatly depending on the type of wood used from darker reclaimed walnut to lighter reclaimed ash. However, a lot of reclaimed hardwood has blemishes from nail holes and saw kerns. This is called ‘rustic’. You either find the rustic look unique and charming or flawed. It is a matter of taste.
As you can see there are a number of points to consider before deciding what type of sustainable flooring to buy.