What is Unfurled Bamboo?
First there was traditional bamboo flooring, which became available in the early 1990s, then there was strand woven bamboo, introduced in the early 2000s. Now the latest big innovation in bamboo flooring is unfurled bamboo. Introduced to the flooring market around 2011-2012 this format creates a single sheet, approximately 6″ to 8″ wide by 1/4″ thick, from one bamboo stalk. A single slit is cut up the length of a bamboo stalk and then the stalk is carefully “unfurled” and flattened, forming a sheet whose width is equal to the circumference of the round stalk and whose thickness equals the thickness of the stalk. Now wide bamboo sheets can be made that have the knuckle running across the full width. This sheet can be used as is as a wear layer or three sheets may be laminated together in thickness prior to turning it into flooring.
Because of the way a single bamboo stalk is unfurled to create the sheet it is possible to leave the natural skin of the bamboo stalk intact. This means that there is no need for adding a man-made finish on top of the bamboo. However, if a tint or topcoat is desired, the natural skin can be partially removed and a traditional UV finish applied. Unique to unfurled bamboo being finished with UV finishes is the one-piece face with the knuckles running fully across the face. Bamboo’s unique cellular and fiber structure, whereby the outer skin is by far the hardest and most impact resistant part of the bamboo stalk, means that unfurled bamboo is extremely hard. Initial ball drop impact tests on the natural skinned, unfurled bamboo (which better replicate walking in high heels on the flooring than a lab Janka hardness test) amazingly show less denting than even on the densified stand woven format. And this we believe is the result of both the hardness of the natural bamboo skin coupled with the bamboo stringy fibers, which are largely concentrated in the bamboo stalk’s wall just under the skin, acting much like steel rebar used for tensioning and reinforcing concrete for strength. Or simply think of skin and underlying fibers in unfurled bamboo’s outer surface as a trampoline, whereby high-heel impact/ball -drop impact springs back as a result of the skin/fiber tension, producing little to no denting.
Given unfurled bamboo’s newness, it will be interesting to see how it performs in the market and whether it can match the excitement that strand woven bamboo generated when it was first introduced over a decade ago.