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Wood: Mythbusters set the record straight on bamboo

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Reginald Tucker

 

When it comes to selling bamboo, a big draw is the category’s well-known environmental, aesthetic and performance attributes. But achieving consistent success in retailing the product also requires educating the consumer or end user about the product’s attributes, advantages and limitations.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.13.19 AMFCNews recently rounded up several bamboo experts—including David Keegan, president and CEO, Bamboo Hardwoods; Philippe Erramuzpe, COO of USFloors; and Laura Nieto, communications and marketing specialist for Cali Bamboo—to get their advice on dispelling popular myths and misperceptions about the category.

1. All bamboo is the same.
Keegan:
Not all bamboo is manufactured with the same high-quality standards that veteran companies like ours insist on. Secondly, bamboo is a natural material just like oak, hickory, etc. Not every board will be identical in tone. A consumer who desires homogenous, zero-tone-variation flooring should be steered toward carpet, tile, laminate or WPC. With any natural material like wood and bamboo part of the beauty is the natural tone variation and infinite uniqueness of every plank. Like any hardwood, a good installer will rack out the wood from several boxes at once to create the best aesthetic result. Enjoy the beauty of natural bamboo produced by reputable, quality companies.

Nieto: When you think of bamboo floors, chances are the image in your head is of light-colored planks with uniformly cut strips and visible nodes. But that’s the bamboo of yesteryear. With Cali Bamboo’s fossilized process, flooring is not only much stronger but it’s also able to take on a huge variety of styles. Planks come in every color from intensely dark ebony browns to rich coffees and even grays and whites. Planks can also be distressed using hand-scraping, antiquing and French bleeds to give them a more weathered, rustic look. With the variety of looks available in bamboo flooring today, it’s difficult to determine whether you’re looking at bamboo or traditional hardwood.

2. Bamboo is not stable.
Erramuzpe:
While many manufacturers have been taking shortcuts in the manufacturing process—mainly by reducing the density and therefore the amount of bamboo used to produce a beam, or by using inferior adhesives or reducing the immersion time in the adhesive just to save money—the majority of these factories are out of business today. Bamboo flooring expands and contracts, but no more than any other wood floor when manufactured properly.

Nieto: This may have been a valid concern years ago—or even today if you go with the wrong manufacturer—but the production process has now been perfected to the point that, in the case of Cali Bamboo’s fossilized flooring, these are the world’s hardest floors. According to the Janka hardness test, Cali Bamboo scores upwards of 5000—well above Brazilian ipe and four times harder than oak.

The bamboo flooring of yesterday was made by slicing poles into uniform strips which were then boiled, dried, coated in adhesive and pressed together in horizontal or vertical rows. The resulting planks bore a distinct bamboo look but were not much harder than oak. Today, strand bamboo flooring presents a much harder product by shredding the bamboo into fibers which are then pressed into planks. The Cali Bamboo fossilized process takes this one step further by shredding the raw material even finer and compressing 30% more into blocks using increased pressure. The result is a much harder floor that is better protected against dents and damage.

3. Bamboo scratches too easily.
Erramupze:
Some bamboo flooring scratches easily, but that’s due to manufacturers using inferior finishes to sell at a low price. There’s another misperception that a scratch on a bamboo floor leaves a white mark, when in fact there might be a flaw in the coating system.

Nieto: A bamboo floor’s ability to resist scratches depends on the quality of the manufacturer’s finish. Not all bamboo flooring is created equal, and many producers cut costs by opting for a thinner or weaker top wear layer. This makes the flooring susceptible to scratching from high heels, furniture and pet claws. Cali Bamboo avoids this by using a 10-coat aluminum oxide sealing system on all solid bamboo flooring, and 13 coats on the Engineered bamboo flooring line.

If two floors appear similar, but one is significantly cheaper, there may have been corners cut that you can’t see—often affecting the finish and the adhesives used to bind the bamboo fibers. The flooring may look fine now, but after years of use you can bet it will show its age and require far more upkeep. A good way to ensure a floor will hold up under everyday wear and tear is to use a key or other hard tool to scratch test a variety of samples from several different companies.

4. Bamboo can’t be installed in extreme climates.
Nieto:
Homeowners who experience harsh seasons, very dry climates or high humidity are often hesitant to install bamboo, thinking it will warp or buckle. However, thousands of Cali Bamboo floors have been installed successfully everywhere from Florida and Hawaii to Arizona and Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.13.31 AMWith bamboo—like all hardwood flooring products—it’s all about controlling a space’s temperature and relative humidity. This is especially important during acclimation, when the environment should be set to typical ambient living conditions. Flooring should acclimate until its moisture content reaches an equilibrium with the home’s environment and no longer increases or decreases. In most cases, if a space can maintain 40%-60% humidity indoors, then bamboo flooring will work.

5. There are high claims rates with bamboo.
Keegan:
Less than half of 1% of our sales have claims, and most of those turn out to be installation or maintenance errors. When manufactured properly and installed following manufacturing or NWFA guidelines, bamboo performs extremely well both in terms of dimensional stability, finish and durability.

When bamboo was first becoming popular, everybody opened a factory in China as the Chinese government was giving out capital loans like candy on Halloween. The result was that for a period of time, the industry was flooded with poor-quality materials made by factories that didn’t have a clue. We have always vetted our sources extremely carefully. Nowadays most of those fly-by-night factories have gone out of business leaving a core of quality producers. There are some long-standing reputable manufacturers like ourselves that have always been producing fantastic high-quality bamboo flooring. Bamboo is an amazing quality resource.

6. Bamboo harvesting depletes the primary food source forpandas.
Keegan:
The bamboo we harvest comes from the temperate zones of China, not Sichuan and Shaanxi where the pandas are.   Furthermore, the bamboo flooring industry preserves bamboo forests, not eliminates them. A sea of mountains covered by indigenous bamboo groves survive and thrive all across Zhejiang and other regions of China most popular for bamboo production. If there was no industry revolving around this resource they would likely be removed.

But in bamboo regions, skies are blue and air is clean. Bamboo is never clear-cut. Every year new shoots reach their full height in one growth season of several months. When the culm is 5 years old, they are harvested. This means that the harvesting practice pulls out one of every five poles leaving the natural groves flush with leafy bamboo culms and an incredible rhizome system interconnected underground. It is truly a [prolific] plant in that it turns sunlight into biomass more efficiently than any other plant, it requires no pesticides to maintain. Plus, it is never clear-cut, it is evergreen and therefore constantly producing oxygen while sequestering carbon. It is a sustainable material that produces some of the most durable and beautiful hardwood floors available today.

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Resilient: LVT finds a home across major contract end-use sectors

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26
By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.11.16 AMLuxury vinyl tile has clearly found a home in the commercial flooring market where its footprint is exhibited in all settings and applications. And with the advent of WPC and rigid core offerings flooding the market, specifiers have more options than ever to complete their projects.

Prior to taking over as Tarkett’s director of product management and marketing for LVT, Jeremy Salomon spent seven years on the commercial side overseeing sheet goods and VCT. He saw firsthand how the market was transitioning to LVT. “What we found is while there is a lot of application for sheet vinyl in commercial the quality of installers is dwindling,” he explained. “Sheet is a different skill trade; many installers haven’t been working with sheet goods and don’t have the skill to master it. And the ones who do know sheet are nearing retirement. In contrast, anyone can install tile or plank.”

Salomon said that while VCT is less expensive to install than LVT, there is a cost to maintain VCT that makes LVT the more cost-effective solution for the long term. “You have LVT costs coming down and you also have all the aesthetics that VCT couldn’t provide. LVT is so much easier to work with.”

Commercial clients are looking for a durable product that can withstand heavy foot traffic and rolling load environments and still provide an aesthetically pleasing design. “Like the residential market, there is a need for realistic visuals in wood and stone, but commercial clients are also looking for alternative designs that include woven, textile or wood and stone blends that can function as transitional elements in a space,” said Amanda O’Neil, product manager for Armstrong.

Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business for Mannington Commercial, added that this “aesthetic freedom” comes with the security of a product that performs in even the toughest commercial applications. “High-performance wear layers, balanced constructions and a huge variety of installation options complete the package to make LVT an easy choice in any application.”

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.13.18 AMThe competition within the LVT category has pushed manufacturers to improve print designs, color offerings, in-register embossings, wear layers and larger sizes. Gary Keeble, director of marketing for Metroflor, said manufacturers are adding new platforms “above and beyond traditional glue-down products. Floating platforms can be either loose lay or commercial resilient vinyl click, which offer speed of installation and reduced cost without the costly floor prep required with glue-down products.”

Christy Schofield, director of commercial hard surface for Mohawk, said the overall value of LVT, the flexibility of the visuals, performance and ease of maintenance combine to make it a natural fit for the commercial market. “It has opened doors and allowed us to provide the entire flooring solution for commercial and hospitality projects.”

Sector strength
LVT/LVP wasn’t always the product de jour for the commercial segment. However, concern over constant maintenance, scratches and moisture have—in some cases—dissuaded some commercial establishments away from real wood, observers say. “As wood imagery becomes more authentic, faux wood alternatives have become more attractive,” said Laura Nieto, communications and marketing specialist for Cali Bamboo. “The high-end LVP options today are more beautiful than the vinyl of years past, which was typically seen as the run-of-the-mill industrial option. Today’s LVP also carries improved durability and waterproof properties—an absolute must for many commercial spaces like restaurants, grocery stores, gyms and medical centers. That extreme durability translates to very little upkeep and no sanding, refinishing or polishing.”

Mannington’s Boulogne said LVT “is in play” in virtually every commercial segment today. “Traditionally, we’ve seen LVT in retail, healthcare and education but now the category is breaking new ground in hospitality, multifamily and corporate. Because of the features and benefits there are compelling attributes of LVT that can drive the product through each one of the main commercial sectors.”

Cost and time spent on a project are key factors when specifying products. LVT and its iterations provide a significant savings compared with other products and save time on the installation end. “The product itself often comes at a lower price point than hardwood, and is lightweight and easy to install with less underlayment prep,” Nieto said. “Businesses see a faster, less-expensive turnaround and they save money on labor. They also don’t have to shut down for too long a period to accommodate lengthy acclimations or installations. Due to vinyl flooring’s dimensional stability, expansion is not a major concern and therefore requires fewer transition pieces. Depending on the product’s construction, indoor air quality is not compromised—a common concern with laminates and lower quality products.”

New rollouts
Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.12.00 AMUSFloors’ COREtec is on the road to becoming a consumer brand, but the many variations of COREtec expand into the commercial space. Its 2017 introduction, Plus XL Enhanced, for example, is offered in 18 hardwood decors with an embossed grain pattern, an attached cork underlayment and a four-sided enhanced bevel edge that works well in light commercial environments. The patented COREtec technology allows easy handling and installation, making COREtec Plus XL Enhanced an alternative to glue-down LVT, locking LVT or laminate flooring. The company said the rigid core platform—which is constructed of recycled wood, bamboo dust, limestone and virgin PVC—provides a 100% waterproof floor that can be installed in wet areas and will not swell when exposed to moisture or excessive amounts of water.

Metroflor took a major step forward in the rigid core category with the introduction of its proprietary Isocore technology in Aspecta Ten and Engage Genesis. Isocore’s solid PVC cellular core gives it strength and rigidity, along with an LVT top layer and an attached pad to help mitigate sound transmission, according to the company. Aspecta Ten and Engage Genesis are specified for most commercial segments including retail, hospitality, assisted living, education and corporate.

Karndean’s glue-down products, which include Kaleidoscope—a collection of modular designs custom cut in compatible geometric formats—offer a variety of designs, sizes and technical specifications to address the needs of any commercial sector. Larry Browder, CEO of Karndean, said the company’s components system allows designers to create wayfinding and zoning to make the best use of the space, no matter the commercial specification. “Whether it’s a hospital looking to facilitate patient flow, highlight key areas or walkways in educational environments or separate areas of an open office plan, we can meet each of these requirements.”

Novalis Innovative Flooring continues to make a big push in commercial. The company is touting its two newest AVA collections—SMPL and SPRK. SMPL is floating floor with a click locking system and an attached cork underlayment for improved acoustical performance. AVA SPRK is available in 18 x 18 tiles in a variety of brights and neutrals with built-in antimicrobial properties.

Mannington launched more than 200 visuals into the market in 2016 and continued that trend in 2017. Featured are bold colors in its new Color Anchor line, along with a relaunch of Mannington Select premium LVT and rigid core products seen in City Park and Crown collections for commercial applications.

In May Johnsonite unveiled Transcend with SureSet technology. Salomon said the product is unique in that it is a loose-lay design but includes a pressure-sensitive adhesive that allows the floor to remain steadily in place. “Most of the market is glue-down because of rolling traffic. This product is exceeding expectations. There is no wait time for the glue to dry and all acoustics are intact.”

Specifiers have cited Raskin Industries’ Elevations loose lay because of its weight and stability, citing the ability to loose lay a vinyl floor without having to deal with either gluing the strips together or clicking boards together. In addition, Elevations offers environmental benefits (no adhesives or VOCs). Elevations comes with an anti-skid rubber Gravity Grip backing system and double-sided perimeter fastening tape that firmly secures it to the subfloor without any additional tools or materials.

Cali Bamboo’s operations team spent months fine-tuning custom HiFi imaging technology to precisely capture the authentic look and feel of real hardwood grains. The result was Cali Vinyl. The collection includes imagery for three of Cali Bamboo’s most popular solid bamboo floors—Java, Antique Java and Natural. A specialized quality control process ensures all Cali Vinyl styles include twice the number of unique planks.

Lineate by Durkan, one of Mohawk’s latest enhanced resilient tile collections, drew inspiration from two of the hottest trends in surface visuals: ombre/gradient and striated textile looks. “The color ebbs and flows across the plank to give the illusion of depth on a flat surface,” Mohawk’s Schofield said. “Lineate’s loose-lay construction allows for quick installation and immediate occupancy.”

Schofield said the designation of LVT as a product category is falling away at Mohawk and being replaced by ERT (enhanced resilient tile) “because we believe that all Mohawk products are all enhanced in some way.”

Armstrong’s newest commercial LVT collection, Natural Creations with Diamond 10 technology, promises a longer life cycle that translates to fewer replacement costs thanks to its scuff and stain resistance. New Natural Creations offerings for 2017 include Spettro and Mixer. Spettro captures the textural and visual softness of carpet, while Mixer offers a palette of colors. Both feature Diamond 10 technology.

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Bamboo, cork intros offer flair for the dramatic

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

As sub-segments of the hardwood flooring category, cork and bamboo are heralded for their eco-friendly attributes. Beyond their notable green characteristics, however, new cork and bamboo products are also renowned for their stunning visuals, durability, comfort underfoot and water-resistant properties.

Following is an overview of some of the latest products cork and bamboo suppliers have to offer.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.16 AMBamboo Hardwoods
Bamboo Hardwoods’ Manor Clove flooring (pictured) features engineered strand woven bamboo with a multi-ply core. Strand woven bamboo ranks over 3000 on the Janka Hardness Scale and is a great option for both residential and commercial installations. Each plank of Manor Clove has a unique appearance due to its handscraping. The product is FloorScore certified.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.21 AMCali Bamboo (cork)
Cali Bamboo offers GreenClaimed cork flooring, which is comforting to the body and warm to the touch underfoot. Its visuals range from Shoreline (natural) to products made to resemble more natural wood looks (Silverwood and Driftwood). Pictured is Sandalwood, an engineered cork. A total of eight colors are available.

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.26 AMCali Bamboo (bamboo)
Cali Bamboo offers a complete line of solid and engineered bamboo offerings. Cali Bamboo is ultra-low VOC with no added urea formaldehyde and features the company’s proprietary Fossilized manufacturing process that boasts twice the density of typical hardwood flooring products. Twenty colors encompassing unfinished, distressed natural, to cognac and vintage java (pictured) are available.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.32 AMUSFloors (bamboo)
Muse Strand (pictured) from USFloors is the ideal strand bamboo floor for homes located in a wide range of climates. Muse Strand’s cutting-edge design features distressed and chiseled surfaces, hand sculpted scraping and wire-brushed enhanced grains. Fashion-forward stains and washes evoke a sense of artistry and inspiration. These bamboo floors are Greenguard Gold-certified for indoor air quality.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.38 AMUSFloors (cork)
Natural Cork (pictured) floors from USFloors are made from the bark of the Portuguese cork oak. No trees are cut down to harvest the bark and cork trees produce new cork for re-harvest every nine years making cork a sustainable, environmentally friendly and rapidly renewable resource. Cork floors are quiet, warm and comfortable underfoot, durable and resilient. Natural Cork floors naturally resist mold and mildew, fire and pests.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.46 AMWE Cork
Sunset Acacia, from the Serenity collection of digital print on cork, provides comfort, thermal and sound insulation from the sustainable cork base. This cork base is then cloaked with wood or stone visuals that extend the design options beyond the regular cork visuals in the Serenity collection stocking line. It is finished using a hot coat finish with an AC rating that the company said exceeds LVT in wearability.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.51 AM

Wellmade
Wellmade’s Strata composite bamboo plank couples the performance features of rigid core HDPC (high-density plastic composite) technology with the natural warmth and character of eco-friendly bamboo. Featuring a solid strand bamboo top layer, Strata (pictured) bamboo outperforms traditional engineered flooring while remaining stable and extremely water resistant in the most demanding environments. Quality performance features include HDPC rigid core, HardMax nano finish and Uniclic floating installation system.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.54.58 AMWicanders
Wicanders’ Hydrocork offers a low thickness floating solution with the benefits of floors with Corktech, a technology that helped create the innovative core board made of composite cork. Hydrocork is water resistant and stable while maintaining the resilient properties and comfort rendered by cork. Wicanders’ Hydrocork comes in 10 wood look visuals, including Arcadian Rye Pine (pictured).

 

 

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Cali Bamboo looks to raise the bar

By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 12.15.38 PMSan Diego-based Cali Bamboo is not content just being regarded as a quality-minded, eco-conscious supplier of green building products—although those are clearly desirable attributes. Ultimately, the company wants to be thought of as the experts in the bamboo category and the go-to source for these and other sustainable, renewable flooring products.

“We grew up as a bamboo company, which is different from, say, a flooring company that makes a couple of bamboo flooring products or imports them or resells them,” said vice president of business development Tanner Haigwood, who, along with his business partner, Jeff Goldberg, president and CEO, co-founded the company in 2004. “Our main goal is to continuously improve and expand on what we’re doing in in terms of the styles and breadth of products and colors we offer.”

If past performance is an indicator, then Cali Bamboo is well on its way to achieving those goals. While its specialty remains bamboo, the company has evolved over time to provide a wide range of products such as eucalyptus, vinyl flooring, fencing, composite decking, plywood, cork wall tiles, poles and paneling, to name a few. “Eucalyptus—one of the fastest growing trees available—has been a very exciting product for us,” Haigwood said. “It offers great styles and it also fits within our mission of creating high-quality, sustainable building products and floors. Also, it’s not a solid plank like you see with other hardwoods such as oak; it actually goes through a very similar strand-woven process as bamboo. It’s very durable.”

Cali Bamboo has had similar success with cork, another product known for its renewable qualities. “Cork is an amazing solution,” Haigwood said. “It’s one of the softest products you can find; it’s very comforting to the body and warm to the touch underfoot.”

More recently the company launched Cali Vinyl, a resilient flooring line it spent two and a half years researching. “We had a specific idea in mind in terms of how the product should be manufactured, and we wanted to be sure it followed suit in terms of the products we offer,” Haigwood explained.

But it’s Cali Bamboo’s long association and track record with its namesake product that has generated the most buzz. “We started with bamboo 12 years ago and it is by and large still the core of our business today,” Haigwood said. “We are the industry experts in the field.”

Clients who have specified or installed the product tend to agree. Greg Maddox, president of Great American Flooring, Ashland, Ky., is one of them. In addition to the bamboo, he likes the distressed mocha, antique java and eucalyptus offerings. He’s seeing high usage in upscale residential applications. “Our installers love it, our customers love it and we love it. We haven’t had to replace a board in years.”

Greg Savage, owner and CEO of The Plano Floor Source, Texas, shared a similarly positive experience. “Cali Bamboo is the best thing to happen under an aluminum oxide finish—ever. Most prefinished solids can’t hold a candle to these products. And most of these products don’t even look like bamboo as we know it.”

One reason why Cali Bamboo’s products are such a hit with customers, according to Haigwood, is the fact that feedback from those customers is heavily weighted whenever the company is considering product line expansions. It’s an integral part of the new product introduction process. “Being a true omni-channel company, we’re on the phone with all our customers directly, so we’re able to have a base of flooring dealers we use as consulting partners. We rely on them to give us updated trends. We also have a base of architects and homeowners that we rely on as well.”

Another reason for its success is the laser focus on continuous improvement, which is built into the company’s culture. More importantly, Cali Bamboo holds its suppliers to the same high standards. “We have our own manufacturing partners and we’re heavily invested in ensuring quality control,” Haigwood said. “We have a full team on the ground, not only in China but also Portugal. Along with each shipment we receive a 17-page quality control report that we check off on in addition to our quality-control partners. And in some circumstances our end users will have the opportunity to check off on the report.”

This stringent approach to quality control is especially critical when it comes to products like bamboo, which requires special handling, care and attention during the production process. As Haigwood explains: “We’ve instituted a three-party check system to ensure things like moisture content—which is very important in bamboo—is right. So we’re measuring and controlling that moisture before it gets loaded on a shipment. We have what we believe is a very robust system in place and is world class.”

Cali Bamboo also excels when it comes to service and logistics. According to Haigwood, the company boasts a 99% fulfillment rate, which means 99% of the time it ships next-day from the time of order. With three distribution facilities—one in Los Angeles, another in the Northeast and one in the Southeast—Cali Bamboo is able to service clients nationwide within two to three days—max.

It’s a benefit that’s not overlooked by its customers. As The Plano Floor Source’s Savage stated: “Cali Bamboo company has been a pleasure to work with and has an excellent, well-trained staff for support.”

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Cali Bamboo introduces DreamFloors room visualizer service

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 10.52.15 AMSan Diego–Cali Bamboo, a manufacturer of green building materials made primarily from bamboo, has introduced Cali DreamFloors, a new service that helps homeowners decide between multiple flooring colors for their home.

The service works by virtually swapping out different Cali Bamboo flooring styles in photos of a room, allowing the homeowner to see how the different options would look before they commit to installation.

“Cali DreamFloors was designed for customers who are torn between multiple flooring colors, or who simply need help visualizing the transformation in their own home,” said Jeff Goldberg, founder and CEO of Cali Bamboo. “We are thrilled to offer this new service so we can work with homeowners to help them confidently choose a floor they’ll love.”

To take advantage of the service, homeowners must talk to a Cali Bamboo Green Building Expert by calling 1-888-788-2254 or emailing sales@calibamboo.com. Then, they will be asked to email five high-resolution photos that show different angles of their room, and specify which Cali Bamboo flooring colors they are considering. Cali Bamboo will then provide up to two Cali DreamFloors images for each flooring color to help the homeowner decide which one they like best for their space. Cali DreamFloors is a free service with a flooring deposit on orders over $2,500.