It almost sounds too good to be true: a material that is strong, stylish, sustainable and doesn’t break the bank. Bamboo is the real deal, known as the millennium’s new “wood,” and it may just be a climate change warrior, too.
Bamboo grows at an incredible rate; it regenerates and can be selectively harvested every few years without damaging ecosystems. It is also harder and more dense than most hardwoods. While bamboo flooring and smaller items like cutting boards and trays are familiar, bamboo as a building material is not in your common Canadian home.
Anagram Homes’ new-build on Crane Crescent in Regina showcases distinctive bamboo features like countertops, a kitchen island with waterfalls, a built-in desk and a ‘wow’ mantlepiece. Smart, sustainable and attainable is the name of the game at Anagram, and bamboo certainly fits the bill.
Using bamboo materials is just the start of the culture of creating sustainable buildings that defines Anagram Homes. They construct their homes using sustainable materials like ultra-low VOC ecological paints, energy efficient LED lighting, James Hardy panels and environmentally-friendly composite decking. They use spray foam for its laundry list of benefits like reduced energy costs and eco-efficiency.
Anagram Homes’ bamboo features are made by Teragren, specializes in bamboo building products like flooring, panels, veneer and countertops. They use moso bamboo that is harvested by hand and carried from the forest by foot. When harvested, the plant’s root system remains intact, leaving the soil as it was. Before six years are up, another culm will be ready to harvest.
Countertops generally come in three styles: parquet, tradition and strand. Parquet butcher block is end-grain bamboo made with a formaldehyde-free adhesive. The tradition style shows bamboo at its most natural state, while strand offers a detailed grain. All of these come finished or unfinished, and in natural shade or the darker carmelized.
Included in the bamboo brag book are installations at the Environmental Protection Agency Regional Headquarters in Denver, CO and the Key Tower, a City of Seattle LEED Project in Seattle, WA. Many of the 1,200-plus skyscrapers in the world’s tallest city, Hong Kong, were made with the use of bamboo scaffolding.
It looks good, stands for a great value system and it’s not going to break the bank. But, really, what’s it like to live with? Read on for the inside scoop on cleaning, protecting and maintaining bamboo.
Like a hardwood, bamboo countertops need to be sealed. There are all manner of food-grade mineral oils available, often labelled as ‘Butcher Block Finish’ or ‘Butcher Block Cleaner.’ Properly-applied, these finishes protect from moisture loss and cracking, natural reactions to use. A new countertop, or one that has become quite dry, may need five to 10 coats. After this initial conditioning, the surface needs another application every one or two months.
Hint: Using olive oil, vegetable or other food-based oils is not recommended. Stick with the food-grade oils described above for the best results.
Optional beeswax top coats can act as a natural moisture barrier. The wax will rest atop the oil finish and fill pores that the oil can’t bridge. Beeswax is food safe and even edible.
Whatever your regular cleaning process is, test a small and concealed area to make sure it doesn’t react badly with the finish. Some solutions that work well are good old-fashioned hot water and soap, diluted bleach, diluted vinegar or a three per cent hydrogen peroxide solution.
Combat any lingering odours with a coarse salt rub, baking soda, lemon juice or straight vinegar. A re-season may be needed after these treatments.
Monthly mineral oil applications are recommended, and the optional beeswax finish can follow. If this sounds a bit onerous, remember that the initial conditioning makes for easy maintenance with far less time, effort and materials.
If the countertop needs a proper perking up, refinishing bamboo is just like wood. Remove those old stains and marks by sanding evenly and repeating the conditioning process.
Originally published in the Regina & Regina Home Builder’s Association’s YOU’RE HOME MAGAZINE Summer 2015.