For bamboo decking board, the early products were insufficiently resilient to moisture and, even more so, to insects.
Manufacturers concluded they had to remove the pests’ food source and replace it with resin or plastic, creating some form of composite.
There have been basically two different approaches. The first is similar to traditional wood-plastic composite decking, only using bamboo for the fiber component instead of wood.
To make composite bamboo decking, the manufacturer uses the reclaimed bamboo fibers left over from the manufacture of its solid bamboo products. These fibers are mixed with recycled HDPE plastic (mostly drink cartons and laundry detergent containers) to form a mixture that is then moulded into decking planks of various sizes and colors.
Using bamboo makes for a stronger composite. According to the professional, the composite decking products have strong resistance to bending and sagging, which is especially important if the deck is going to bear a lot of weight like outdoor furniture, a grill, a hot tub, or heavy snowfall. Those bamboo fibers make for a composite that’s at least 3.6 times as strong as (traditional WPC decking).”
Bamboo has big advantages over wood. It is much denser. It has high compressed strength, greater than wood, brick or concrete, and the same tensile strength as steel. And it has less oils than wood. It installs exactly the same as wood-plastic composites, but with WPC, if somebody picks up a 20-ft. board, it’s like a wet noodle. While the bamboo board is a little heavier, but denser and stiffer, so it can be carried long lengths without bowing.
The second approach to effectively incorporating bamboo into decking is to cook the sugars out, impregnate the strips with phenolic resin, and fuse them together. The binder is the same resin used to produce bowling balls, so the decking is, in effect, 87% bamboo and 13% bowling ball.
The final product looks more like an exotic hardwood. It also offers a Class A fire rating. Like wood, it can be left to weather to a natural gray or recoated every 12 to 18 months to maintain its darker, wood tones.
There is another challenge in bringing their products to market: they’re available only in 6-ft. lengths, unlike the 12- to 20-ft. lengths most other composites are sold in. The idea is to emulate hardwood flooring, with 6-ft. lengths and end-matched joints.
Certainly, acceptance has not come easy. Bamboo has yet to crack even 1% of the overall North American deck market. And while some manufacturers are enjoying explosive growth, others have given up on the U.S.
But the remaining players are confident. This is a great industry, but it’s slow to change. We just have to be persistent.”
Post time: Mar-03-2021