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Wood Flooring From Rapidly-Renewable Species

Durable wood flooring from fast-growing forests and fields

Bamboo flooring.Now there are affordable, durable, and rich-looking flooring options made from grasses and trees that mature in roughly half of the time (or less!) that it takes hardwoods to reach market size. Bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus flooring products are a sustainable alternative to traditional hardwoods.

Bamboo
Bamboo flooring is an attractive alternative to laminate or other flooring that matures into a merchantable size in three to five years. The appearance of bamboo is similar to wood flooring. It comes in vertical and flat-grain patterns and generally is offered in a light, honey or natural color and a darker, amber "carbonized" color.

Bamboo used for flooring is harvested from bamboo forests mostly in the Hunan province in China.  After harvest, the round, hollow bamboo stems are sliced into strips, boiled in water with a preservative, pressed flat, and processed into laminated boards. To achieve the dark amber color, the bamboo is pressure steamed and undergoes carbonization. The adhesive used to laminate the flooring is a urea-formaldehyde resin. Bamboo flooring can be dyed and stained on site if the natural or carbonized color options are not desired. Bamboo flooring comes unfinished or prefinished. Bamboo flooring is similar to oak in dent resistance and dimensional stability.

Cork
Eucalyptus flooring. Photo credit: Weyerhaeuser Cork is actually the bark that is scraped off the Cork Oak tree, native to the Mediterranean basin.  The tree is not harmed by the removal of the outer layer of bark and the layer renews for harvesting every nine years.  In addition, most of the cork that is used in flooring is the waste from the cork wine bottle stopper industry, so this fast growing material is also recycled from use by another industry when it goes into flooring.
Cork’s specialized cell structure – honeycomb hexagonal cells comprised of 90% gas -  gives the material its light weight and low density.  These properties make cork flooring soft and resilient underfoot and dampen sound while providing insulation. 

Eucalyptus
Originally native to Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and nearby islands, eucalyptus is now being cultivated in South America as well as California.  Globally over 500 species of eucalyptus exist.  The tree can be harvested within 14-16 years due to the longer growing season of the climates where eucalyptus grows.


Affordability

Bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus flooring can be cost competitive with hardwood flooring.

Environmental Performance

Because the resources grow twice as fast as traditional hardwood forests, bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus renew more quickly than hardwoods like cherry, oak, and maple and softwoods like pine.

Quality and Durability

Properly installed and maintained floors made of sustainable species will last as long as hardwood flooring. Some types can be sanded and sealed, like the ¾” hardwood installations.


Medium

Bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus are available in traditional flooring thicknesses and lengths for installation as tongue-and-groove planks either fastened to the subfloor or floating above padding.


Costs of wood flooring made from rapidly renewing species are comparable with the costs for other wood flooring selections.


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Flooring made from sustainable species is available in various thicknesses, widths and profiles, much like hardwood choices. Its strength and dimensional stability compare very well with traditional wood flooring, so the same preparation that an installer would take with hardwoods should be employed with bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus.

Installations require the same level of skill and tools as hardwoods and are sequenced similarly.


Flooring limited warranties vary in duration and coverage. Review each product’s warranty for a description of applicable features and maintenance obligations.


Selecting floor finishes that are harvested from fast growing, renewable sources is an environmentally responsible choice. Costs, finishes, and maintenance requirements vary among flooring types so review manufacturers’ installation instructions and warranties, as well as maintenance guidelines.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.