Will bamboo flooring splinter under a wheelchair?


Will bamboo flooring splinter under a wheelchair?

Asked by G. Grimbley, Fort Worth, TX

I am thinking of installing hardwood or bamboo flooring in my home. However, we live in Texas, where heat can be extreme, and someone in the household uses a wheelchair. Which type of flooring would be better? I love the look of bamboo but I am afraid that it would splinter.

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Mari Strain's picture

Once a bamboo floor is installed and properly sealed, it should not be prone to splintering.

  • However, bamboo that has been "carbonized" (heated to darken it) may be a little more brittle-and definitely more prone to denting-than natural or stained bamboo.
  • As with any other material, when selecting the brand you'll need to consider the quality of the flooring, how it was milled, what glues were used, and how it was finished. You'll also need to take the warranty into account.
  • Two manufacturers to consider are GreenWood Products and Bamboo Hardwoods; each of these companies has more than a decade of experience producing excellent bamboo flooring.

The major concern about wheelchairs and wood or bamboo floors is that dirt and gravel tracked in on the wheels could cause dents and scratches under the pressure of the chair.

  • To minimize this, you could use mats at entrances.
  • Beyond that, it is a judgment call. You could select extra-hard wood that will mar less often, but that may draw attention to the occasional gouge.
  • Or you could choose bamboo or a moderately hard wood such as oak, either of which will develop an even distribution of "character marks" over time. By this standard, a typical red oak with its grain and tone variations might fare better than either Brazilian cherry, which is very hard, or horizontal-grain natural bamboo, which is light with a clear grain.
  • I suggest that you procure a sample of the flooring you're considering and grind a piece of gravel into it to see if you could live with the results.

If you decide on hardwood, you'll want to seek out FSC-certified flooring and manufacturers that support responsible forestry, like WFI and EcoTimber. This is particularly important with tropical woods like Patagonian cherry or machiche.

In extreme climates, an engineered floor (either wood or bamboo) generally provides more stability than solid wood. "Engineered" in this case means cross-laminated, with the center layer running perpendicular to the top and bottom layers. This greatly reduces expansion and contraction, particularly if the material is installed as a floating floor rather than glued or nailed down. In a floating floor, the planks are attached to each other at the joints (either clicked together or glued in) with no attachment to the substrate. This makes the planks form a unified surface that expands and contracts as one piece. Check the manufacturer's installation instructions to ensure that the flooring can be floated.

Strand bamboo may be the best choice for your application. This fairly new innovation uses postindustrial recycled bamboo strands and a urea-formaldehyde-free wood resin. The strands are pressed and heated to produce a material that is about twice as hard as bamboo strip flooring. Natural Cork and Bamboo Hardwoods produce engineered strand bamboo flooring that gives you the best of both worlds.

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