Question

I want to put in bamboo but don't know if i can. I am seeing things such as humidity, rh levels?

Asked by kara mccabe
Miami, FL

I am moving into new home and don't have any idea how to put in wood floors we really really love the idea of sustainable items such as floors but we have a dog and don't know if this is the best choice. RIght now the house has tile and I don't even know if wood floors is an option. We live in miami FL, which is hot. Please help. I am also seeing things such as radiant heat, rh levels, slabs that go underneath??? what is cheapest& best place to buy? I am brand new at this. Thanks

Answer

Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Answered by Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Los Angeles, CA

Polly Osborne Architects

July 23, 2012

In my opinion, bamboo floors are a good way to go, barring a few issues.

  • The arguments against it are bamboo floors are made in China and must be shipped and also that people have had warping issues.
  • On the other hand, it is a fast growing grass that saves us using hardwoods.

Shipping vs trucking

There are people that argue shipping in containers is more sustainable than trucking. But shipping harms the environment through pollution from ballast & bilge water (ships dumping water they acquired elsewhere, and also from exhaust, solid waste and oil spills.

The subject of transportation’s impact on the environment is too complex to respond to in this letter and I think the industry as a whole needs to work on it, because I don’t see shipping being reduced anytime soon.

Warping

As to the warping, I am pretty sure that comes from poor installation techniques or a bad manufacturer, and isn’t inherent to the product itself.

  • I say this because I have been specifying bamboo flooring for twelve years and have never had a problem.
  • I specify “Plyboo” floors, by Smith & Fong.
  • They have been around a long time and are very responsive when asked for installation guidance. They have a beautiful assortment of color and patterns.

Raised vs slab floor

You did not mention whether your home had a raised floor or was built on a slab. This is very important. If it is raised, then applying bamboo or any kind of wood floor is no problem and any good local installer will know what to do. 

If it is on a slab, you must be careful how you do it and you must be sure the product used can be done on that substrate. 

  • You must be meticulous in following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Usually, if I am specifying a wood floor on a concrete slab, I first make very sure that slab is 100% waterproofed. (Concrete and wood both absorb moisture, and wood must be able to dry out.)
  • Next I lay a layer of waterproofing, just in case. Then I will sometimes put sleepers (pieces of framing wood laid flat) so the floor and its subfloor is raised and air can circulate under it.
  • If everything else seems dry and secure enough when measuring moisture content, I can sometimes skip the sleepers, if I am using an engineered wood that the manufacturer has verified can be laid over a slab. An engineered wood is wood that has been laminated to plywood, making it very stable.
  • Because much of Florida is very humid, you will need to point this out to the manufacturer when speaking to them.

Other options

Besides bamboo flooring, there are other options for a sustainable floor.

Some beautiful floors have been engineered out of pieces of salvaged wood laid on plywood. There are also products milled from wood salvaged or sustainably grown locally. Florida is a known producer of sustainably grown wood.

Good Luck with your new home!

 

For more information:

Read Joel Hirshberg's Q&A "I'd like to put in hardwood floors and I'm considering bamboo. What do I need to consider?"

Tagged In: bamboo flooring, Green Flooring

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