why is bamboo plywood so expensive?

Why is Bamboo Plywood so Expensive? (Is It Better?)

With the increasing demand for environmentally sustainable construction materials, bamboo plywood is becoming more and more popular with interior designers and home builders. Its versatility and strength make it ideal for a variety of housing applications including cabinetry, countertops, flooring, furniture, wall paneling, and window blinds. You may be curious as to why bamboo plywood is so expensive? 

The process of making Bamboo Plywood is harder to make than traditional plywood. Shipping also adds to the cost, as most of it is made in Asia. It is also a harder more dense building material, in general, the thicker and harder the building material, the more expensive it is.

Now that you know the reason why bamboo plywood is so expensive, let us explore this topic further and in more detail below. We will discuss what bamboo plywood is exactly and why it is often preferred over traditional hardwood. We will also explore the pros and cons of using bamboo plywood for flooring.

What is Bamboo Plywood?

Bamboo plywood is made from fine strips of bamboo that are laid in parallel order, dried, sanded, and then laminated from edge-to-edge to create a single-ply panel. These panels are often laminated a second time to create multi-ply bamboo plywood. Best of all, this process is done without the use of formaldehyde making it safer for both you and the environment.

Is Bamboo Plywood Better than Hardwood?

There are 3 main reasons why bamboo plywood is better than hardwood:

It is Environmentally Sustainable

Bamboo plywood is now being used by interior designers and home builders as an environmentally conscious alternative to hardwood timber. This helps reduce the devastating effects of deforestation while taking only a fraction of the time to grow compared to wood.

Unlike traditional hardwood, bamboo can be harvested annually without destroying the grove. This is due to the plant’s ability to sprout new shoots at a rapid rate. Where it takes decades or even centuries for some trees to reach full maturity, bamboo can grow in as little as 4 to 6 six years!

It is Strong and Durable

Bamboo plywood is stronger and denser than most hardwoods. In fact, the tensile strength of bamboo is greater than that of even steel! It is 12% harder than North American Maple and 25% harder (with 50% less expansion/contraction) than Red Oak. 

Bamboo plywood is multi-layered, cross-laminated, and heat-pressed together for added strength and stability. This also helps prevent the material from warping, making it up to 3times more durable than traditional hardwood.

It Provides Design Flexibility

Bamboo plywood provides excellent dimensional stability and can be cut, nailed, plugged, sanded, and screwed using conventional woodworking equipment. It also comes in a variety of sizes (from 0.6 mm to 40 mm in thickness) and grain types (including narrow, wide, and strand woven) for increased versatility. 

The design possibilities using bamboo plywood are endless – from furniture to flooring, cabinetry to countertops. It also provides home and business owners with the ability to connect the indoors with the outdoors, creating a soothing ambiance reminiscent of nature.

Bamboo flooring samples are shown in this image.  Bamboo is incredibly strong material.
Even bamboo plywood color samples are incredibly strong.

How Strong is Bamboo Plywood?

Bamboo plywood is extremely strong. It has a tensile strength that rivals that of even steel. Where steel clocks in at 23,000 per square inch, bamboo measures a whopping 28,000 per square inch! Therefore, it can be used for any almost building application typically applied to hardwood.

Why is Bamboo Flooring so Expensive?

Typically, when it comes to wood, the thicker and harder it is, the more it costs. And, although bamboo is not a type of wood at all (but rather a grass), it is often classified as a hardwood. It is much stronger and denser than oak, for example, adding to its building value and thus increasing its purchase price. 

Solid bamboo floors can cost as much as $10 per square foot! Adding to the value is its amazingly scratch-resistant ability. On the other hand, however, bamboo flooring (if not the strand-woven type) can be quite affordable and even cheaper than most hardwood flooring options available on the market.

What are the Pros and Cons of Bamboo Flooring?

The pros and cons often associated with bamboo flooring include the following:

PROS:

  • it is stronger than traditional hardwood
  • it has a clean, contemporary look for those who prefer a more modern-looking décor
  • it is easy to clean and maintain
  • it is durable and scratch-resistant
  • it can be easily refinished, if necessary, depending on the thickness of the planks
  • it is DIY-friendly and easy to install
  • it is environmentally sustainable

CONS:

  • the cheaper versions are more susceptible to scratches, dents, and dings
  • it can be expensive to install, especially if it is the strand-woven type
  • as it is made from a type of plant or grass, it attracts moisture, making it vulnerable to water damage and excessive humidity.
  • the contemporary look of bamboo may become outdated over time
  • it is only available in a limited number of color tones

Based on the information above, it appears that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to bamboo flooring. Whether you choose to use it in your home (or not) depends upon your style and budget as well as your environmental standpoint.

How Long Do Bamboo Floors Last?

Bamboo floors can last up to 50 years or more if properly maintained. The average lifespan, however, is 20 to 25 years. This is based mainly on how much traffic the floor receives. Many factors will affect its longevity including the quality of the bamboo itself, where it is located, and the indoor humidity levels. 

If you take care of your bamboo flooring by spot cleaning or dry mopping it whenever possible (as opposed to all-over wet mopping) and installing it upstairs rather than downstairs where ground moisture can affect humidity levels, then it should last you for decades!

Is Bamboo Plywood Stronger than Wood?

Bamboo is at least 3 times stronger than the average hardwood. Maple, for example, is considered one of the strongest and densest in the world yet bamboo is even stronger! As mentioned above, in terms of tensile strength, bamboo is tougher than steel yet is remarkably lightweight and flexible.

Is Bamboo Plywood Water Resistant?

Bamboo is a type of grass or plant. Therefore, it will naturally attract moisture. However, when it is treated with natural borate and hydrogen peroxide, as in the case of bamboo plywood, it becomes less prone to the effects of humidity, such as mold and mildew.

And, while bamboo plywood is considered more water-resistant than hardwood, that does not mean it is not susceptible to water damage. While it is okay to install bamboo plywood in places where humidity fluctuates, it is not recommended in areas of excessive moisture like bathrooms or basements.

Conclusion

To sum things up, bamboo plywood can be expensive depending on the type and quality of the material. On average, the thicker and harder it is, the more it will cost. Because bamboo plywood is up to 3 times stronger than traditional hardwood, it can be very pricey to use in the home and building applications. 

A ¼” thick sheet of bamboo plywood can cost as much as $150 while a ½” thick sheet can cost even more – up to $180! For this reason alone, designers and builders often steer clear of bamboo. However, if you can get past the ‘sticker shock’, you will find it to be an extremely durable and esthetically pleasing addition to any home or office.

I hope this article has been of help. Thanks for reading and good luck with your future home building and improvement projects!

Sources

  1. 3 reasons why bamboo plywood is better than hardwood” Architecture & Design, https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/suppliers/plywood-plastics/3-reasons-why-bamboo-plywood-is-better-than-hardwo, Accessed June 22, 2020.
  2. Vyas, Kashyap, “Bamboo as a Replacement to Steel” https://interestingengineering.com/bamboo-as-a-replacement-to-steel, Accessed June 22, 2020.
  3. “Bamboo” The Wood Database, https://www.wood-database.com/bamboo/, Accessed June 22, 2020.

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Hey, this is Brian and Gene Luoma. Since the two of us have pretty much been self-employed our entire lives, we have a lot of experience designing and creating all sorts of DIY projects for businesses and homes—projects that have helped us make money or save money through the years!

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