Part of the appeal of Bamboo flooring is that it is like wooden flooring. Bamboo is actually a grass, but like different woods it can vary greatly in its characteristics. Finding the right type of bamboo for flooring is like finding the right type of wood. Flooring should be durable and attractive, something which is achievable with the right type of material.
The cost of the various types of bamboo flooring varies, mostly because of the manufacturing process. The chemical treatments and glue used to manufacture bamboo planks strongly affects the quality and price of the final product. Good bamboo planks use quality chemicals and glue, and are compressed in a manner that increases their strength and durability. They also use Bamboo that has been allowed to mature for several years; if harvested too early the bamboo is not sufficiently strong. Cheaper quality bamboo has cut corners on these processes, and the result is soft wood that scratches easily.
Bamboos ill deserved reputation for scratching and softness is twofold. First, cheaper bamboo is prone to scratching, but the same can be said for cheaper wood; we don’t dismiss all wood because some cheaper varieties exhibit problems. Likewise, we should stick to durable Bamboo when we install flooring. A strong Bamboo floor it cheaper than a strong wooden floor. As flooring is always expensive we should be prepared for some initial expense; in the long term the expense is worth it.
Another reason for Bamboo’s reputation for scratching it the durability of the polished finish. Again, this is a problem also experienced with hardwoods. Surfaces will scratch with furniture legs or some types of shoes (like high heels). This can be all but eliminated with pads on furniture legs and removal of footwear. After 5 years or so the surface will need to be recoated, depending on how heavy the traffic has been. All but the most serious scratches will disappear when the polish surface is redone. Deep scratches require the surface to be sanded.
It is a myth that bamboo flooring cannot be sanded and resurfaced. Soft bamboo, which it not really suitable for flooring anyway, can only be sanded and refinished a few times. It is much better to use hard bamboo flooring that, when sanded and resurfaced every 10 years or so, is capable of lasting many decades.
Health issues are an issue with some forms of Bamboo. Bamboo is glued together particles rather than solid planks of material; if the bonding material is toxic the resulting bamboo can cause health problems. Formaldehyde is used in some forms of Bamboo. Sometimes the formaldehyde is only used in the manufacturing stage and is not present in the final product, with other products the formaldehyde remains and slowly leaks into the surrounding air. Formaldehyde, which is also used in some carpets, rugs, mattresses, wooden planks and other flooring material, should be strictly avoided.
The environmental impact of Bamboo has been questioned. As the areas used to grow bamboo are set aside specifically for harvesting, and as the type of Bamboo used for manufacturing is quite different from the type of bamboo eaten by Panda bears and other wildlife, so the environmental impact does not seem to be an issue. This matter is still subject to change and future practices may vary to improve the situation.