Monday, 13 December 2010

How Safe is Aluminum Oxide Finish?

Friedrich Klumpp Gmbh is a company that makes the best aluminum oxide finishes for flooring. It is not currently available to the DIY enthusiast wishing to finish their flooring by his or herself. Instead Klumpp aluminum oxide is applied to a wide range of hardwood and bamboo flooring at the Klumpp factory.

The question is whether this type of finish is safe. There are alternatives that use a water based solvent. These appear more environmentally friendly but many people complain that these water based finishes aren’t as hard and don’t protect the flooring as well in high traffic situations.

There is also a growing body of anecdotal evidence on the internet talking about the toxicity of aluminum oxide. Aluminum is a heavy metal and can build up like mercury in the body until it reaches levels that could cause medical problems.

However, the scientific community does not endorse the health risks of aluminum. Most notably research in the 1960s found a link between exposure to aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. However, since that early trial scientists have been unable to replicate the results of the original 1960s experiments and the speaks for the mainstream when it rejects the connection of aluminum with the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. To quote from

"Public health bodies sharing this conviction include the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Health Canada."

This would make sense because much of the Earth’s crust contains aluminum oxide. It is found in many products including sandpaper. As long as fine particles of aluminum oxide are not inhaled it is hard to see how aluminum oxide can be inimical to human health.

It must be noted, however, that science is an on-going process and that any scientific assertion is only based on current empirical evidence. New tests could result in new understanding about the long term effects of aluminum on human health.

For those people interested in buying a flooring finish containing aluminum oxide try ‘Trek Plus’ by Absolute Coatings or look for finishes made by Fuhr International.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bamboo Types

There are 1,450 different species of bamboo varying greatly in size, leaf shape and other characteristics. Bamboo is an amazingly hardy plant that can survive scorching heat and frozen winters. Indigenous bamboo can be found in a wide belt from 50 degrees North in Sakhalin (just North of Hokkaido, Japan) to 47 degrees South in Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly there are no species of bamboo indigenous to Europe.

There are two types of bamboo – running (monopodial) and clumping (sympodial). Running bamboo is native to the colder parts of China, Korea and Japan. And clumping bamboos are common to hot South Asian countries. Running bamboo is so called because it sends out roots called rhizomes with joints. From each of the joints a new bamboo can grow. Thus, running bamboo can spread quickly over distances and is therefore not recommended for suburban and urban gardens where the neighbors’ boundaries are nearby. In contrast clumping bamboo is so called because each rhizome only produces a single Culm (hollow jointed stem). As a result they don’t spread as much and instead clump into thicker and thicker patches of bamboo. Thus clumping bamboo is much more commonly used for home gardening.

Here are a few types of bamboo

Bambusa Multiplex is a popular clumping bamboo that grows to about 30 feet in height and is golden with thin green stripes. The bambusa multiplex or Alphonse Karr bamboo can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit and is a good potted bamboo or a bamboo to create privacy because it clumps tightly.

Bambusa Textilis or Weaver's Bamboo is an attractive clumping bamboo that has nodding tops and leafless lower Culms. The bamboo from this variety is frequently used for hand weaving, hence the name.

Gigancochola Atter is a clumping bamboo that grows an incredible 50 feet and has wide Culms. The young edible shoots taste sweet and have purple hairs. This type of bamboo is found in Indonesia.

Perhaps the most famous type of running bamboo is ‘moso’ bamboo or Phyllostachys Edulis. It is predominately grown in Southern China in huge forests. It is the backdrop for many a Kung Fu movie scene. Moso bamboo grows in long straight Culms that are very hard. Moso bamboo is the ideal species for making flooring. All of the bamboo plant can be cut into strands, boiled and then compressed under heat to make strand woven bamboo flooring.

Finally, there is Sinobambusa Tootsik or temple bamboo. It is another running bamboo. It grows thickly as well as runs and is thus great for creating privacy for a large space. Perhaps that is the reason it can be found in many temples in China. The flowers from temple bamboo bear a passing resemblance to hemp, another great renewable resource.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Bamboo Blinds

Bamboo blinds are traditional wall coverings in Japan and China. They are still made using traditional methods and tools. They make a great alternative to curtains or traditional blinds.

Roll up bamboo blinds are made from bamboo that is cut into very fine strips. These strips or slats are stripped of their outer skin and joints and then whittled down to a matchstick thickness. The slats are held together with a cord. Depending on the weave style bamboo blinds give different amounts of light and privacy.

You can clean bamboo blinds easily by simply wiping them down with a wet cloth. And despite being made of thin pieces of bamboo they are long lasting.

Bamboo blinds are now available in a variety of styles. They come with horizontal and vertical slats. They are also available in light bamboo shades as well as darker and more rustic colors.
Roman bamboo blinds are similar to roll up blinds but are opened by folding the bamboo slats.

And of course like all bamboo products, bamboo blinds are antimicrobial and anti-fungal. They are ideal for those people who suffer from allergies and asthma and who want to create a healthy indoor environment.

Finally to buy bamboo blinds is cheap. They add a touch of the orient into a room decor and the dappled light they cast in a room is most relaxing.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Consumer Advantages of Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

There are a number of consumer benefits in buying strand woven bamboo flooring. Judged purely as flooring (thus putting aside the environmental benefits for a moment) strand woven bamboo flooring comes out favorably when compared with other traditional flooring types such as hardwood flooring.

The first consideration for many consumers is price. Strand woven bamboo flooring is usually cheaper than hardwood flooring; it can be up to 50% cheaper than some 'exotic' hardwood flooring. 
At the same time there is no sacrifice to quality because of cost. If properly maintained strand woven bamboo flooring will last just as long as oak, maple, black locust and other types of hardwood flooring. It is just as hard and durable as hardwood flooring. Indeed strand woven bamboo flooring has a higher Janka Hardness than most traditional hardwood floors. Furthermore strand woven bamboo flooring is capable of withstanding high traffic and heavy furniture.

And in terms of aesthetics or appearance, strand woven bamboo flooring is as beautiful as hardwood flooring. It comes in a variety of carbonized colors, has a pleasing grain and soothing natural look that suits many interior decorating styles.

Another consumer benefit is that strand woven bamboo flooring is not only easy to install, but it is also easy to maintain. Unlike many hardwood floors, the color of strand woven bamboo comes from the carbonization process. This means the color is throughout the flooring plank. This means that after serious maintenance such as sanding it is not necessary to re-stain the flooring. This saves the consumer time and money. Strand woven bamboo flooring does not require any unusual or complicated maintenance. In many ways bamboo behaves like a wood and can be maintained as such.

Finally, it would be disingenuous not to mention the environment. Old style economics that normally measured GDP, inflation etc. when considering growth and progress have recently become viewed as willfully simplistic. Without an environment there would be no consumer. What benefits the environment also indirectly benefits the consumer. Strand woven bamboo flooring helps stop deforestation and loss of bio-diversity by offering people the advantages of hardwood flooring without the need for cutting down trees. There is no easy way to put a price on such a benefit for the consumer.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Comparison between Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring and Coconut Flooring

Coconut flooring and strand woven bamboo flooring share many similarities. Both are made from renewable resources and both are great alternatives to hardwood flooring. Both coconut flooring and strand woven bamboo flooring are examples of sustainable flooring.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Comparison between Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring and Cork Flooring

Both strand woven bamboo flooring and cork flooring are typers of sustainable flooring. This means that they are made from renewable resources. Both types of flooring are excellent alternatives to hardwood flooring because they both have a low carbon footprint, look natural and beautiful and are healthy for people and pets.

Monday, 2 August 2010

A Comparison of Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring and Hardwood Flooring

In many ways strand woven bamboo flooring and hardwood flooring are similar. Both flooring types are beautiful, natural, strong, hard and long lasting. Both flooring types are both allergen free. However there are some key differences between strand woven bamboo flooring and hardwood flooring that could affect which type of flooring you choose to buy.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Allergen Free Bamboo Flooring

There is some confusion about the terms commonly used. Often people use the terms anti-allergenic, allergen free and hypoallergenic as interchangeable terms. The terms anti-allergenic and allergen free when applied to a product means that product in question has no allergy inducing substances or characteristics. Whereas the term hypoallergenic was developed by the cosmetics industry to refer to products that were 'below normal' or 'slightly' allergenic (see Wikipedia). Thus, a product that is allergen free or anti-allergenic is much better from an allergy sufferer's point of view than one that is merely hypoallergenic.

Scientists are still in much confusion about allergies. They are unsure about the exact cause of allergies. One commonly held theory to explain why there is a much higher incidence rate of allergy among people in the developed world is that since industrialization human environments have become too sterile and whereas the immune system used to ignore foreign bodies such as pollen and dust mite excretion now the immune system has little experience of these substances for people growing up in developed urban centers and reacts to these foreign bodies as a threat. The result is hypersensitivity with the body producing antibodies that release histamine that swells the upper respiratory tract leading commonly to sneezing, runny noses, irritated eyes and itchy skin.

In America 55% of the population tests positive for 1 or more allergy. Food allergies account for only 2% of that figure.

The most common triggers for allergic reaction are: mold, pollen, animal danders and dust mite excretion.

Obviously, if you are prone to allergic reactions it is foolish to keep a pet. There are some dog breeds that are hypoallergenic but not allergen free. The fact that people in the developed world live 90% of their lives indoors is a key one. The way to reduce allergic responses is to improve indoor air quality. This means not only putting allergen free furniture and flooring in your house but also removing items containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are believed to also trigger allergic symptoms such as formaldehyde. This is one of the key purposes of Green Interior Design.

Strand woven bamboo flooring is allergen free in the sense that it allows no where for dust mites to live. Dust mites are microscopic animals that feed on dead human skin and love hot and humid conditions. They are found mostly in bedding, furniture and carpets. By removing your carpet and installing strand woven bamboo flooring you take away a major breeding ground for dust mites whose excrement aggravates allergies.

Another benefit of strand woven bamboo flooring is that it is mold resistant. Mold spores are a common cause of allergic reaction so to have a mold resistant flooring is a vital way to lower your chances of suffering from an allergic reaction or asthmatic attack. The same is true for hay fever.

To sum up, installing strand woven bamboo flooring in conjunction with regularly changing your bedding and making sure your indoor spaces are free of VOCs will greatly improve the quality of your life if you suffer from hay fever, asthma or other common forms of allergic reaction.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Bamboo - Areas of Concern

The biggest reason to be concerned about a bamboo product stems from the fact that more than likely it was made in the People's Republic of China. Bamboo in itself is great and one of the most remarkable plants on the planet; but, sadly, everything has a political context. The context here is that it is very unclear how sincerely the authorities in Beijing are committed to green issues. They effectively scuttled the Copenhagen climate change talks when President Obama insisted on some independent way of monitoring how the Chinese were carrying out their promises.

So when a Chinese company making bamboo furniture or bamboo flooring claims that the bamboo was grown in an environmentally friendly fashion can you believe that company? Maybe not. However, if the bamboo product you buy is from a company with FSC (forest stewardship council) accreditation then you have more reason to give credence to the green credentials of the bamboo product. For a list of FSC accredited companies selling strand woven bamboo flooring follow the link.

It is not only a matter of not clear cutting forest to grow bamboo. It is important from a green interior design perspective that any bamboo furniture that you buy has not been covered in toxic pesticides. Check before you buy any bamboo product to see if the bamboo is organic.

Finally, there is the matter of human exploitation. The communist authorities having set up a workers state feel it unnecessary to have fair trade programs whereby farmers are fairly paid for their efforts. So when you buy bamboo from China you never know if the farm workers were paid fairly for their efforts or whether they were provided with the basics of sanitation, health care and access to other amenities while they worked the bamboo forests of the Zhujiang river delta in Guangdong Province.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Tiger Strand

Tiger strand woven bamboo flooring is made by combining natural strand woven bamboo with carbonized strand woven bamboo. Natural strand woven bamboo is a light honey colour and carbonized is a rich brown colour. The blend and the finish can produce a variety of looks for strand woven bamboo flooring. The right mix and finish can make a perfect a compliment to the decor and feel of your room.

Below are two examples of tiger strand. The carbonized bamboo is kept to a minimum which produces a striking effect. Sometimes less is more. And as far as flooring strength goes this is definitely true because the darker carbonized strand woven bamboo is 30% weaker than natural strand woven bamboo. These floors are available at Hilo Bamboo Flooring

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Other Eco-Alternative

Perhaps the main premise of this blog could be stated baldly as:

Although hardwood floors are elegant and allergen free our use of hardwoods for flooring is wreaking havoc with our efforts to preserve the forests of the world.

That the forests of the world are being reduced every day is not in doubt and that man's consumption of wood products is one of the main reasons for this destruction is also beyond doubt.

So, the logic of the argument goes if we can find an alternative flooring that fulfills the purpose of being elegant and allergen free then that must be the best flooring.

In strand woven bamboo flooring we have such a commodity. It comes from a renewable resource; it has the hardness, strength and durability of hardwood and it also is an allergen free flooring material.

However, there is another alternative and that is reclaimed hardwood flooring. It is hardwood that has been taken from buildings slated for demolition. It is also wood from condemned barns, schools and hospitals. It is cut wood from city parks. It is wood recovered from the bottom of a lake or river. It is wood found in landfill sites and industrial skips. In short, reclaimed hardwood is man's trash being recycled. Sometimes it is an old hardwood floor that has been taken out of a gutted room - this is called antique hardwood flooring.

The reclaimed hardwood is kiln dried and milled into new flooring.

This is brilliant because the wood has been sourced nationally, if not locally. And the process of processing the reclaimed hardwood into a flooring material is much lower in carbon input than growing bamboo, turning it into strand woven bamboo planks and then shipping those planks to the USA and the UK.

Reclaimed hardwood floors are more stable dimensionally than new growth hardwood floors and look incredible AND they are even more environmentally friendly than strand woven bamboo flooring because it is recycling and locally sourced. That is food for thought.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Can You Install Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring Over Under Floor Heating Systems?

The short answer to this question is yes you can have both underfloor heating systems and strand woven bamboo flooring. However, you should first consult the dealer who sold you your strand woven bamboo flooring to find out the best way to combine the bamboo flooring with underfloor heating. The main issue is that strand woven bamboo flooring like hardwood flooring can dry out and crack if it is subjected to continual direct heat.

Panda Flooring has one solution. They have a cross-ply high density strand woven bamboo flooring range that is tough enough to withstand underfloor heating.

It is important to not use a floating installation over UFH (under floor heating) systems. It is necessary to first lay a plywood subfloor with certain modifications to make it suitable to deal with the heat rising up from the UFH system.

American flooring companies have more experience in this area because underfloor heating has been more popular there for longer than in the UK.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Effects of Humidity on Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

I often read on the internet that the ideal range of relative humidity for a strand woven bamboo floor is between 30% and 60%. This advice is not very useful because it ignores the fact that relative humidity refers to what percentage of water vapor air contains compared to the maximum it can contain. This maximum value is measured in grams per cubic meter and is called absolute humidity. Thus at 15 degrees centigrade the absolute humidity is 13 grams of water per cubic meter. So if relative humidity is 100% that means the air contains 13 grams of water per cubic meter. However, if the temperature is 30 degrees centigrade the absolute humidity is 30.4 grams per cubic meter. Thus, if the relative humidity is only 50% the amount of water in the air is 15.2 grams per cubic meter.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The Danger of Particles Ruining Your Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

Strand woven bamboo flooring is no different to other hardwood floors in that it is susceptible to scratching and marking by small particles.

Despite strand woven bamboo being nearly twice as hard as regular vertical or horizontal bamboo flooring it can still be scratched, dented and marked. And the most common reason for a damaged wood or bamboo floor is particles. And by particles I mean small hard pieces of stone, gravel, glass, plastic, grit and dirt. If you live in a culture where it is not customary to take off your shoes before you enter someone's house then it is more than likely that someone will have a particle wedged into the tread of their shoe which is going to scratch and damage your strand woven bamboo flooring.

Thus, the most effective way to prevent your strand woven bamboo flooring from getting damaged is to insist that everyone removes their shoes before walking on your strand woven bamboo flooring.

It is also a good idea to leave a rug or mat by every exterior exit to catch the fall of particles from outside. It is important to shake out these door rugs or mats at least twice a week to keep particles away from your strand woven bamboo flooring.

Another important thing to consider about particles is how you are cleaning your strand woven bamboo flooring. Don't use a hard brush attachment on a vacuum because it will drag the particles present on the floor hard enough to damage the floor. It is best to clean your strand woven bamboo flooring with a dust mop. If you have a soft brush attachment then you can use that to clean the floor. Regular cleaning is important to prevent the build up of particles that will tread on a dragged around the floor.

Never wax your strand woven bamboo flooring because particles will get imbedded into a new wax coating. The wax will set hard with the particles in it and when pressure is applied on that piece of waxed strand woven bamboo flooring the particles in the wax will cause damage.

Lastly, check your furniture protectors at least once a year to make sure that particles haven't collected under the furniture protectors otherwise when you drag a chair etc. across your strand woven bamboo flooring you will scratch it.

If you follow these simple precautions regarding particles you will avoid a lot of unnecessary and preventable scratching  to your strand woven bamboo flooring.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Repairing Scratches in Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

All wooden and bamboo flooring will over time collect scratches, dents and little nicks. This is just an inevitable part of life, especially if you have a family and the flooring is subjected to high traffic. Strand woven bamboo flooring is harder than most hardwood floors and so will scratch, mark and dent less, but nevertheless, is not immune from the occasional clumsiness of people who drag furniture or a pet with uncut nails.

There three possible ways to repair a scratched strand woven bamboo floor. Firstly you can use a 'miracle scratch remover'; secondly, you can use use a scratch repair kit purchased from the manufacturer where you bought the strand woven bamboo flooring; and thirdly, you can use a stain pen and wood putty if necessary.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Pets and Strand Woven Bamboo Flooring

The first thing people usually consider when looking at the problem of pets and flooring is whether or not the flooring is hard enough to deal with the high traffic and paws of pets coming and going. People are especially concerned that heavy dogs will scratch hardwood floors.

Are strand woven bamboo floors going to scratch less? Well, the first thing to consider is hardness. Naturalized strand woven bamboo flooring is harder than oak and maple, the two most commonly used hardwoods for flooring in the USA. Regardless of what some uninformed hubpages may tell you, even the weaker carbonized strand woven bamboo flooring is stronger than oak and maple. This means that strand woven bamboo flooring is better for your pets then oak and maple flooring.

However, that is not so say that the strand woven flooring won't get dented and scratched over time. This is an unrealistic expectation. All wood and bamboo floors get marks, dents and scratches over time caused by adults, kids and pets.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Formaldehyde Free Adhesive

Formaldehyde is an important compound with several industrial applications. For years formaldehyde has been used in the textile and automobile industries. It is also commonly used to make adhesives, paint and explosives.

Like with many chemical compounds that we once used with impunity, we are now waking up to the toxicity issue. Formaldehyde easily turns into a gas at room temperature. This gas is linked with respiratory and allergy problems, especially for children.

Formaldehyde is such a pervasive toxin in the home and in factories that Massachusetts State Senate is considering a bill to ban the use of formaldehyde in the production of adhesives for furniture, carpeting and wood flooring.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

What is the Janka Hardness Scale?

Even the briefest examination of the topic of bamboo flooring will bring you across the mysterious thing called 'the janka hardness scale'. As with many things on the internet it is accepted as an article of faith.

The Janka Hardness Scale is a way of measuring the strength of wood. The number refers to the pressure needed to push a 11.28mm steel ball into a piece of wood so it makes an indentation which is 100mm. The force is applied perpendicular to the grain. Unfortunately, there is no standard way of expressing the Janka Scale. Americans, who are still hung up with imperial measurements, express Janka as pounds force (lbf or PSI), the Swedes measure Janka in Kilograms force and the Australians in newtons or kilonewtons force. This is irritating because a lot of web pages just give a Janka rating without telling you what system of measurement it refers to.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Vertical and Horizontal

There is a common misconception that vertical bamboo flooring is flooring that is laid length-ways on a floor and that horizontal bamboo flooring is flooring that is laid across the width of a room.

This is incorrect. The terms 'vertical' and 'horizontal' refer to how the bamboo planks are made.

It must be stressed that vertical and horizontal flooring are different from strand woven bamboo flooring. They look different and are typically half the density of strand woven bamboo

Horizontal bamboo flooring

Horizontal bamboo is created by aligning and laminating 3 layers of  bamboo strips which are bonded together with environmentally friendly bonding agents. The bamboo strips are placed wider edge face up. The result is a wider view of the growth ring of the bamboo. It is durable and strong and suitable for commercial and residential settings. Horizontal bamboo flooring can be installed directly over a concrete subfloor providing the subfloor meets moisture level requirements - namely that the concrete is not damp at all.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

How to Clean a Strand Woven Bamboo Floor

It is very easy to clean a strand woven bamboo floor. Bamboo has a natural resistance to water so if something is spilled on the floor it is not quickly soaked up by the bamboo. Rather it remains on the surface and can be mopped up.

Friday, 12 March 2010

What's So Great About Bamboo?

Only a Westerner could ask this question because people living in Asia have known for centuries just how incredible bamboo is. So for all you bamboo novitiates here's a list of why it is worth talking and blogging about bamboo: