By Louis Iannaco
In recent years, the bamboo segment has been one of the industry’s most dynamic, growing exponentially in popularity. Whether it’s the idea of bringing the outdoors inside, an increasing sense of environmental responsibility or designers using a myriad of new applications, flooring manufacturers have answered the call with more options.
Dasso is a bamboo manufacturer based in China and EcoTimber is offering its products in North America. New is the flattened bamboo format.
“In the evolution of bamboo flooring, the first iteration was what we now call ‘traditional’ where you take the bamboo stalk, rip it up into small strips, then re-glue them into either the face glued vertical look or edge-glued for the horizontal look,” explained William Jopling, CEO, TW Flooring Group, owner of EcoTimber. “Then came strand, in which the bamboo is shredded and, along with added resins, is pressed under high pressure to create the dense, strand woven format. The newest bamboo format is flattened, where we take the bamboo stalk and make one small incision along the length, then take the round culm and straighten it out and flatten it so now the face is one single wide piece without added resins or glue lines. For added thickness we then laminate two or three pieces depending on need.”
The company’s most unique offering in this new format is its Forest Collection, “whereby we keep the natural bamboo skin on the face,” he said. “Now you have a natural faced/finished product we call ‘finished by nature.”
Additionally, the Vintage Collection has a worn look with some skin left on, while the New World Collection is without the skin.
The mill continues to focus on developing its strand woven platform, as this type of bamboo offers many benefits, particularly its strength, according to Tammy Perez, senior brand manager, hard surface. “Mohawk’s strand woven manufacturing process utilizes parts of the bamboo stalk not traditionally used. This achieves optimum green benefits and as a result of this unique process, our strand woven bamboo is as hard as domestic oak.”
Currently, Mohawk offers two strand woven collections: Hilea and Kahala. Both feature a dramatic depth and breadth of color. In 2012 the company expanded Hilea with Warm Chocolate, Warm Cherry and Butterscotch. “Hilea has a glossy appeal, and it is one of our top-performing smooth-finish hard surface collections,” she said.
Kahala features handscraping and character visuals not typically seen in strand woven, Perez said. The line is available in five variations: Warm Chocolate, Rustic Baked Natural, Warm Cherry, Chestnut and Light Ebony.
“Consumers love the sleek, polished aesthetic that Hilea delivers; however, we continue to see our Kahala line growing in popularity,” she said. “It features a warm, rich color palette, which is the current trend, and darker variations have demonstrated their selling power this year. We continue to see a growing consumer preference for character products that feature unique handscraping, chatter and more. Kahala has proven to be the perfect fit for consumers seeking a character visual in a highly renewable and sustainable product.”
Mohawk’s strand woven bamboo utilizes its patented Clic and Press Uniclic technology for a glueless installation. “There are no fumes at the time of installation, as well as lower VOC emissions,” Perez said. “All this appeals to consumers who want a healthy home environment for their families.”
Most of the company’s recent product development has gone into its Xcora strand bamboo line, noted Mike Boshart, president. “Since they are 160% harder than red oak, they are in high demand. Our newest Portfolio line was launched in 2010 as a solid wide-width, long-plank, drop and lock product. The line was so popular that at Surfaces 2012 we debuted four additional finishes through our Portfolio Naturals line.”
Boshart noted the best selling colors for Teragren are on the darker side. “We’ve had great response from designers on Midnight Black, which is a great fit for a contemporary look. The rich black can offset a room and make other finishes pop—designers like that.”
The drop and lock profile is very popular with retailers, installers and do-it-yourselfers, she noted, because it allows the product to be installed below-grade. “We’ve seen many homeowners who, based on the economy, have decided to stay put for a while and upgrade their living spaces,” Boshart said. “Investment into additional living spaces such as basements seems to be on the rise. Also, we have seen a surge in our bamboo being installed in upscale, multi-family properties as well.”
Teragren currently offers 38 options in bamboo flooring. “We are also experimenting with some new looks, lighter tones and a wider variety of finishes. We want to give designers the look they want on a platform we know performs.”
The company has had great success since introducing its Natural Bamboo Expressions line, a collection of ½ x 5¼-inch solid locking strand woven products that include a variety of stains, handscrapes, an antiqued handscrape and a multi-width with a French bleed technique.
“We’re strengthening our position in solid locking strand woven,” said Gary Keeble, marketing manager. “We’re expanding our multi-width offerings in this category based on success we had with our initial introduction in 2011. This is a unique look and we’re offering an additional stain and a handscraped stained product.
“Installers love our solid locking, strand woven bamboo because of the difficulties of installing a traditional tongue-and-groove solid strand due to its hardness,” he explained. “Retailers also love it. The whitewashed looks have been popular over the last year. Strand woven, with its more mainstream, wood-looking visual, is being installed anywhere a wood floor is used.”
There is always a call for unique, innovative looks, Keeble said. “USFloors prides itself on being the type of supplier that is pushing the envelope on unique looks in sustainable products like bamboo and cork.”
Wellmade has been instrumental in driving the recent surge in the popularity of engineered strand woven, according to Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing. Available in standard tongue-and-groove or the Uniclic floating system, Wellmade engineered strand features its commercially rated HardMax finish and offers “the ultimate variety of installation options, including nail-down, glue-down and floating. Add to that a wide variety of colors and surface textures, from natural and carbonized to mahogany and walnut available in smooth, hand-scraped or distressed.”
The engineered strand is dimensionally stable and will perform in the most demanding arid or humid conditions, he explained. “Consumers and flooring professionals have embraced the product for its natural beauty while recognizing quality features like its 4mm thick-sawn wear layer. Our carbonized strand remains a popular option with its character-driven color variations and stranding that to-gether mimic the look of exotic wood. Other popular colors are mahogany and dark walnut handscraped with our French bleeds.”
According to Wagner, bamboo’s applications are definitely growing. “We’ve seen our engineered strand used throughout residential projects, from family rooms, bedrooms and kitchens to below-grade. On the commercial side, offices and lobbies are popular along with multi-family housing units.”