Bamboo: Providers aim to bolster reputation at Surfaces 2015
March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18
By Amanda Haskin
One could say bamboo has had something of an identity crisis over the years, flipping between retail categories as consumers still don’t quite understand it. In addition, a number of questionable manufacturers have given it a bad name by selling low-grade products.
“I know the product is great,” said David Keegan, COO of Bamboo Hardwoods. “My mission has been to get people to stop blaming the category and start blaming the manufacturer. If someone has a problem with a hickory floor, no one flips out and says, ‘We put hickory in—hickory must be bad.’”
The goal for today’s bamboo manufacturers across the board is to clean up bamboo’s reputation by creating stylish, high-quality products that are comparable to any hardwood in the market. To attract the majority, manufacturers want bamboo to be chosen not only because it’s a green product, but also because of its aesthetics. Bamboo’s sustainable story will then become an added benefit.
Bamboo Hardwoods introduced its Manor line of engineered, strand-woven bamboo flooring that features a wire-brushed, handscraped texture to give it an Old World aesthetic. It is available in six designs, distressed with beveled edges and 5-inch wide by 6-foot long planks.
The company is pushing the boundaries of style and design in an effort to take its products out of the niche sustainable category and put them up against the best hardwoods on the market.
“People don’t have to come into a store thinking they want to buy bamboo,” Keegan said. “It’s more about aesthetics now—what’s going to match their countertops, paint color or whatever design they’re looking to accomplish. Then you can tell them, ‘Oh and by the way, the floor you chose is twice as hard as oak and happens to also be sustainable.’”
Expanding its innovative collection of flooring made from bamboo and recycled hardwood scraps, EcoFusion is now including other raw materials in its products, including sandalwood, eucalyptus and acacia.
“I’m most excited about this because we can carve out our identity with something visually and stylistically different,” said Doug Foucault, managing director. “There’s that certain prejudice against bamboo, so adding other species to the collection will bring more awareness to the category and open up its possibilities.”
Foucault is optimistic that the future of bamboo holds an increased level of knowledge and understanding of the product, and the flooring industry as a whole will catch on.
“What you’ll find is the reputable manufacturers will up their game to create higher standards that the U.S. market can understand and also increase the level of education. As that happens, you’ll probably see others fall away. This will be a year of education and outreach.”
EcoTimber presented two new proprietary processes invented by China’s Dasso Group. The first is called Unfurled Bamboo, which is bamboo’s “third coming” according to William Jopling, CEO of TW Flooring Group, parent company of EcoTimber.
In this process, the bamboo stalk is slit and then unfurled into a sheet, leaving a panel with the knuckle running all the way across. This process also allows for the skin to be left on, which acts as a natural finish and eliminates the need for a top coat. Alternatively, the skin can be partially removed in order to use a traditional UV finish.
Dasso Group has also created Fused Bamboo for Exterior Use that includes decking, siding and deck tiles. The technology has been around for more than five years, but this is the first introduction in the U.S.
In short, this process fuses the lignins together, removing the sugars and carbohydrates that cause mold and fungi to grow. Jopling emphasized the fact that other companies that offer bamboo for outdoor use typically inject the material with chemicals to make it resistant to fungus, whereas Dasso uses a natural chemical process.
Vantage II is Teragren’s newest product, drawing plenty of attention as it was installed on the floor in the company’s booth. Vantage II is an FSC-certified classic engineered bamboo with a plywood core that uses an oil finish instead of polyurethane, opening it up to use in a wider range of climates.
The company is also redesigning its retail bamboo displays in another attempt to make the bamboo category clearer and more accessible. Teragren’s booth showcased several prototypes but one that stood out was a swing-rack display organized by collection, with 12-inch, easily replenished cut samples.
Another feature of the new display is that it is on wheels. “The green section of retail stores is getting phased out,” said Caitlyn Kari, director of marketing. “But if there is one, bamboo lives over in the corner near the cobwebs. With this new rack, salespeople can move it around the showroom to see where it gets the most traffic.”
Teragren was also prototyping four new colors with the hope of rolling out new designs in the second half of the year. It showed whitewashes over both light and dark bases, as well as a denim that got a lot of attention.
USFloors continues to push its Muse collection of engineered, locking, strand-woven bamboo on an HDF core, dubbed the “ideal strand floor for any climate.”
Gary Keeble, product and marketing manager, explained, “Over the past few years there has been a huge influx in strand from everyone and it has gotten a bit of a bad name. One of the reasons we came up with the Muse collection is because it’s ideal for any climate. Putting it on an engineered format with HDF stabilizes it tremendously and gives those people who have had a bad experience with it a reason to try it again.”
Wellmade brought fashion to the table with new 15¾ x 15¾ engineered, strand-woven bamboo modular tiles. They come in 12 classic parquet designs and geometric patterns that combine carbonized honey-colored bamboo and natural, lighter options. The tiles can be used across an entire space or integrated seamlessly with Wellmade’s 9⁄16-inch engineered flooring to create inlays, perimeter borders and even offset borders.
The company also added a new design called Acacia to its Old Growth collection. This series features printed visuals on a bamboo substrate, replicating the look of reclaimed and vintage hardwood.
Wellmade also tested out a new product line called Villa Grand, which is an oak texture embossed onto the bamboo substrate, giving it an oiled, European look.