How Green is Bamboo Flooring?

June 30, 2011 in Bamboo Forestry Series, FAQ series, How Green is Bamboo?

To understand why bamboo flooring is a “green” choice, one must first understand a bit about the bamboo from which it is made.  Smith&Fong Co. makes its bamboo flooring, plywood, and veneers from Moso bamboo (Pyllostachys hedrocycla pubescens).

There are well over a thousand species of bamboo.  Each of varying heights, thicknesses, and applicable uses.  Out of all of the types of bamboo, bamboo flooring, veneers, and plywood are all made out of Moso.  It’s thickness in diameter, overall hardness, widespread availability and extreme height make it one of the most commercially viable species for construction. Moso bamboo, didn’t get the nickname “timber bamboo” without reason!

Interesting fact – bamboo isn’t actually a wood, it’s a grass.

Moso is an excellent candidate for building materials.  It grows quickly (as in 70 feet in 3 months!), and is fully mature and ready to harvest in 5 years.  Compare that to 20 to 120 years for various hardwoods.* Moso bamboo, when at maturity is incredibly strong.  Because it is such a hefty species – very tall, hard, and quite thick, it is, hands down, a great choice for flooring.

Because Moso grows so quickly, 20% of the bamboo forest canopy can be harvested annually leaving behind 80%.  Over a five year period, 100% of the forest can be sustainably harvested. An added assurance that the canopy will be left intact — only mature bamboo culms (poles) are heavy enough to get a good price at market.  It isn’t advantageous to cut too often or too young, which benefits the farmer and the environment. An extra advantage to this system is that bamboo does not need to be replanted once harvested.  It regenerates annually.

So we know that Moso bamboo is rapidly renewable and super strong, let’s consider other factors that make this a superb choice as your current or future floor.

In its native environment, Moso bamboo doesn’t need irrigation or fertilizers. Since this particular species (and so many others) is naturally resistant to pests, it doesn’t need pesticides.  That means no pesticide run off or other chemicals are involved in the growth process.

Interesting fact – According to the World Wildlife Fund, Bamboo can sequester up to 70% more carbon per year than a hardwood forest.

Rapidly renewable bamboo is one of many reasons Smith&Fong Co.’s Plyboo brand bamboo flooring is a great choice for your home.  Check back next time to learn about FSC® Certified flooring and why Formaldehyde Free matters as we continue the exploration about “How green is bamboo flooring?”

Interview with Joel Scilley of Audio Wood

June 28, 2011 in Interview, Uncategorized

Smith & Fong Co.: So Joel, could you tell us how you got started?

Joel Scilley: Well, I started designing things like the aerodynamic truck in kindergarten, but I’ve been a designer/builder with wood for about 15 years now.  And then about 4 years ago I built my first wooden turntable, just for fun.  It was pretty popular with friends and neighbors, so I went with it, and started Audiowood.

S&F: I noticed a lot of what looks like found wood pieces, how’d you transition into using Plyboo, or simply, what drew you to the product?

J.S.:Plyboo really opens up design possibilities for me, as I’m a big fan of using solid hardwood for my designs, but have been limited by warping, expansion and other issues associated with the use of conventional lumber.  Plus, sustainable production is a central concern of mine.  I love being able to buy what is essentially a super-uniform sheet of “hardwood” that is ready to go.

S&F: What inspires your designs?

J.S.: Hard question to answer.  I think I’m most inspired by raw materials.  I suppose I’m lucky that I can actually make things out of twigs and stumps!  In the case of Plyboo, I’m inclined to make things that are very modern, but that have the warmth of wood.

S&F: Do you find it simpler to get consistent designs with the Plyboo product versus wood?

J.S.: Absolutely.  You’ll never catch me saying much against wood, but the consistency of Plyboo is unparalleled.  It’s not that I couldn’t do similar things in solid wood, but for doing things in numbers, Plyboo seems indispensable at this point.  Also, I love to integrate curves into designs at times, and having a multi-ply solid-material sheet makes this simple, with no edge-bands, grain issues, etc.

S&F: How long does it typically take you to build a system?

J.S.: Well, I wish I was plagued with this problem more often!  Usually, I’m building single pieces for people.  Some of my new designs, including most of the Plyboo things, are CNC machined by Woodlane Cabinet Co. in Tallahassee, and then hand-assembled and finished.  This process saves a little time for some things, but the minimum for a turntable is still about 4-5 hours to get it ship-ready.  On the other hand, I’ve spent 100 hours on a single piece of furniture.  If I were to build a stereo system with amp, speakers, and turntable, I imagine about a week would do it.

S&F: I see that you’ve taken a bit of a departure with your new line.  What directed you towards complete media centers, iPad mounts, etc.?

J.F.: I figure I’m making things the world can’t live without!  I guess we’ll see about that, but I’m trying to make some things that haven’t been seen before, and make them properly, with quality, sustainable materials, and domestic production.  In the case of the Aerie home theater console, I feel that there are no modern consoles out there that have integrated quality speakers, much less that wall-mount, allow for wire-free aesthetics, and are constructed out of green materials.
Similarly, with the iPad2 shelf, I don’t think there is anything out there that allows for wall and tabletop use, improves the sound of the iPad, and that doesn’t look like a Battleship “Goplastica” device.

S&F: The iPhone nest is very cute.  Would you say that it’s a good holiday gift?  Who do you feel responds best to it (what type of customer)?

J.S.: Hey thanks.  I guess if someone doesn’t want an entire audio system, then the iPhone Nest is a great alternative!  I imagine most of my things in very modern environments, where they are either integral pieces or accents.  In the case of the Nest, I imagine it will appeal most to the person who wants something handmade instead of a generic piece of plastic.

S&F: Tell me more about Glow Audio.  How did you come together to work on the bamboo stands?

J.S.: I’m a retailer for a few lines of audio equipment in addition to making my own stuff, and Glow is one of these lines.  I’m interested in audio stuff that is fun or beautiful to look at and environmentally friendly, in addition to sounding good.  Glow hits on all these points: their little tube amp sounds awesome and uses only 38 watts of power, and their Voice One speakers, made out of recycled scrap wood, are a genuinely brilliant design, inside and out.
The limitation of the Voice One orbs was that they could only be used as tabletop speakers in their stock form.  So, Glow contracted me to design several stands that would allow for more flexibility.  Again, with the help of Woodlane Cabinet Co. and their fantastic CNC, I was able to make desk, floor, and subwoofer stands that allow these great budget speakers to be used almost anywhere.  I’m especially pleased with the floor stands that are a nice blend of organic and modern, and have a cable-hiding channel up the spine (made possible by using 3-ply Plyboo for this piece).

S&F: Do you have any upcoming plans with Plyboo products?
To be honest, I’ve expended a huge amount of energy getting together this little line of bamboo things, so I’m happy for the time being.  However, I’m a tinkerer by nature, so you never know.  I would love to do some variations on these pieces, but I have to see how the initial designs do and whether the marketplace will allow me to take on other things.

J.S.: Where are you sold?
I have a few small retailers, mostly in the Southeast, and Anthropologie sells a couple of my designs.  I also have a Paypal webstore linked to my website which has most of my non-custom things listed, plus a few thing by other manufacturers.  But much of my business is still based on people calling me up, telling me what they want, and making things to order.

S&F: Which markets would you be interested in doing retail?

J.S.: I would love to have stores that are genuine fans of what I do in the major metro areas of the US and some spots abroad.  It’s a little tricky, as many of the things I do are hybrids of audio tech or just plain tech and decorative home accessory.  But I hold out hope that folks in the design world will take notice of technology that is fun to look at and use, and that audio/techy folks will realize that metal and plastic black boxes are not the only way to go.  Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, SF, and LA would be great starts!  Today Grand Ridge, tomorrow the world!

Special thanks to Joel Scilley for making this interview possible!
*All photos by Joel Scilley

PlybooSquared Media Center, Dwell on Design

June 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Here’s a sneak peak at the Dwell On Design Modern Living house by EcoFabulous.  Why that material looks very familiar!


How to Build Bamboo Stairs

June 24, 2011 in Bamboo Flooring Trim and Accessories Tutorial

If you do a Wikipedia search on stairs, you’ll get all kinds of information. Things like an escalator and even a ladder are types of stairs or that stairs are constructed in practically every conceivable way.  Of course, our concern today isn’t about the history of stairs or their philosophical contexts, but how to complete the look of your palm or bamboo floor between floors.

Useful Facts about Stair Contruction

The stairs pictured here have both treads and risers made out of Neopolitan.

Stairs are constructed of a series of steps. Steps consist of a tread and a riser. The tread is the portion of the stair that you stand and walk on. The riser is what makes ascending possible and is the vertical portion of the stair. Sometimes these are left out like in the photo below. Typically, though, in single family homes they are used.

These stairs do not have risers, so they’re considered to be a floating staircase. Floating staircases are usually supported by one or more stringers, which structurally support the treads (and risers when used).

Giving your stairway the Plyboo Touch

Now that you’re armed with knowledge about what makes a stair step, let’s apply that knowledge to continuing the look and feel of your Plyboo or Durapalm floor on the stairway.  There are several options to build a stairway that’s right for your needs.  The first option is to custom build the stair out of palm or bamboo plywood.

Although the most expensive option, it offers complete versatility as you can build the step into whatever you desire. Floating stairways, spirals, any option that there’s a full view stairway can utilize this method.  Work with a professional to design the stairway of your choice.  This way you have full control over the look and feel of the tread, the visual effect and thickness of the whole step, and complete design freedom of what your step will look like.

Smith&Fong Co. offers both bamboo plywood and palm plywood in addition to flooring.  Contact our main office to find your local distributor if you’d like to know how to customize your staircase.

A second, albeit, more common and less expensive option, is to buy a stair step to meet the riser.  Stair steps are yet another solution to completing the look and feel of your flooring choice up the stairway.  They’re simple to install and they have the rounded nose that extends beyond the tread in one easy piece.  Just purchase as many as you have steps and install.

The third and least expensive option is to use stair nosing with any additional flooring you may have ordered.  Smith&Fong Co.’s stair nosing is different from its stair steps.  While both extend beyond the rising, the stair nosing is an economical solution to offer the continuity of a flooring look. You merely lay the flooring down as your tread and clip the nosing piece onto the tongue of the palm or bamboo flooring.

Stair nosing is implemented for both aesthetic and practical reasons. It extends beyond the tread and rounds off the edge of the step finishing it off and giving a traditional (or in the case of Neopolitan non-traditional), yet polished look. The photo below uses Durapalm flooring and stair nosing to finish off the steps. It makes the tread extend beyond the riser beneath much like the stair step.

As you can see, there are many possibilities with bamboo and with palm as a building material.  Each offers a great deal of versatility and  there is a solution for every price range. If you’d like to know more ways to use bamboo, feel free to contact us at sales@plyboo.com.

Photo credits in order of appearance: Patrick J. Killen, Margot Harford (Courtesy of Hershon Hartley), Kotaro Mick Miyake (Courtesy of Boora Architects) , and Benny Chan

How to Clean and Maintain Your Bamboo Floor

June 16, 2011 in Maintenance Series

In our last Maintenance Series, we discussed how to avoid cupping. One of the mentioned ways was to avoid wet mopping the floor, which of course leads to the question: How do I clean and maintain my bamboo floor?

First, if you have a prefinished floor, be sure to follow the maintenance instructions included with your installation and warranty paperwork. Be warned, if you do not follow the instructions to the letter, you risk voiding the manufacturer’s warranty! If you have an unfinished floor, follow the instructions from the floor finish manufacturer. If you don’t know whether or not the floor was purchased prefinshed or unfinished, or even who the manufacturer is, then keep reading. This article will outline several alternatives given a few general guidelines.

Nip it in the bud!
Spills on the floor, tracked in dirt, food debris – clean it up immediately! Dirt and debris on the floor can cause scratching. Regular sweeping or vacuuming is highly recommended. If there is a wet or sticky spill, wipe it up when it happens. Hard-to-remove spots can be removed with a damp (not wet) cloth and a little elbow grease. Of course, follow with a dry cloth if there’s any remaining moisture or with cleaning product. You can use a generic wood floor cleaner directly on the stain.

Bust the dust
Using a dust mop, dry Swiffer or a similar dry cloth product, can work wonders at keeping your floor in tip-top shape. If using a dust mop, use an untreated mop. Water-based or petroleum-based treated mops are never recommended. Don’t use spray dust cleaners. Spray cleaners can have incompatible chemicals or oils that can leave a film on your floor. Also, they tend to dull the sheen of the floor and even make recoating difficult if not impossible!

Leave it at the door
Using a mat at the door is a great way to keep from tracking dirt onto your floor. Also, check that the taps on your shoes and high heels are well maintained to avoid scratching or impressions on the floor.

Cover up
Have you been eyeing a fancy imported rug? Well consider protecting your floor a good reason to invest. Using area rugs, throws, and floor protectors on furniture prevent scratching and help protect your floor from surface damage.

Get a system
Find a non-harmful cleaning routine. As previously mentioned, wet mopping is not recommended. You should also avoid using ammonia and products with ammonia on it’s ingredients list. Sweeping, cleaning, and polishing, is a possibility. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Although this isn’t a direct endorsement, products by Bona tend to work well on Smith&Fong flooring. There are some natural products on the market, but check with your manufacturer first to see if it will work with their product. For example, some oil based cleaners work on wood, but are horrible on surfaces with a polyurethane finish. In lay-person’s language: ask first because flooring is not created equal and each can respond differently to the same product.

Recoat? Call in a pro
Your floor’s original shine will eventually fade, even with proper maintenance. This is natural and to be expected. You will need to recoat your floor periodically to revive it’s luster. It’s a good idea to call in a flooring professional to help with this.

Photo credit:
Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net