Bamboo is a pretty remarkable material and bamboo countertops are just one example of this material's versatility. If you've been trying to find an alternative countertop material that looks unique but still offers good functionality, bamboo might be a good choice.
The key to success with bamboo countertops however is understanding that they're not made from a homogeneous slab of bamboo but rather, an "assembly" of sorts of pieces of bamboo, much like plywood is a fusion of several layers of wood. It's also important to know that bamboo material has different characteristics based on how it's constructed.
There are other points to consider about bamboo like matching the right finish to the intended purpose and making sure it's installed properly.
Bamboo has a lot of great attributes and while it makes for a good countertop choice, it's not just an 'install-and-forget' kind of material.
Take a few moments to become familiar with bamboo and how it's used to make countertops. That will help you make an informed decision about whether it's the right choice in the first place and which type and style suits you best.
What You Should Know About Bamboo Countertops
To understand whether bamboo is good choice for a countertop material you first need to first understand something about the material itself. It's versatile, strong and beautiful but it also has some unique characteristics that govern how it's "put together" into a countertop surface.
Important Facts About Bamboo's Construction
Bamboo material, particularly in the form that's used for countertops, looks, feels and responds like wood. To be technically correct however, it's not wood but a form of grass.
The key point to understand about most things made from bamboo is that as a building material, bamboo is an "engineered" product. It's an 'assembly' of sorts of many pieces of bamboo that are glued together to form boards and panels, similar to how plywood is made.
The reason for this is because the bamboo plant's "trunk" (actually known as the "culm") is hollow. There's no way to extract wide or thick boards of bamboo like you can with large trees. Instead, the walls of the culm are sliced into strips and then glued together in various configurations to make the boards and panels used for things like countertops, cabinets and flooring.
Bamboo material, and as a result, bamboo countertops, are made using four different configurations of bamboo construction:
• Vertical Grain - strips of bamboo are glued together in a vertical orientation.
• Horizontal ("Flat" or "Face") Grain - the bamboo strips are laid together with their side edges touching each other and the wider "face" on the visible surface.
• End Grain - the ends of the bamboo strips are cut off and positioned so that the ends are face-up/down much like an end-grain butcherblock.
• Strand Woven - this construction method uses strands of bamboo (rather than cut strips) combined with adhesive that are pressed together under high pressure.
The significance of grain orientation is that it affects the overall look and hardness of the resultant product. Vertical grain, end grain and strand bamboo are usually the hardest forms. Horizontal grain bamboo shows the "knuckle" or node that is typical of a bamboo stalk. When you shop for bamboo countertops you'll see that they're offered in one of these grain orientations or perhaps a combination.
If you like the look of butcherblock countertops then choosing an end grain bamboo will be your best option. If you prefer the look of wood grain and all the natural but irregular characteristics that come along with it, choose horizontal grain bamboo or strand bamboo.
For the record, strand bamboo looks more like the grain of real wood whereas horizontal (or face/flat) grain bamboo shows off the characteristic linear grain that's periodically interrupted by the nodes.