Bamboo flooring and woodworking company thrives in Reno
Some species of bamboo can grow about three feet in one day, making it the fastest growing plant in the world. This helps to make bamboo an extremely sustainable resource, although transportation of it, particularly if it’s grown in Asia, remains problematic.
“You can only harvest a forest every 30 to 50 years on your traditional types of woods, and that’s a long time to wait for trees to grow,” said Renew Bamboo sales representative Cason Gongaware. “The bamboo that we use is called moso bamboo, and it can be grown and then harvested every five years. And what’s cool is that you can cut it off from the bottom of the stalk, and it will just re-grow from the stalk, and it’s actually good for the plant to do that. It’s a grass, and it just grows continuously.”
Because of the sustainability of bamboo, Nate McVay decided it would make for a great building product, and back in 2009, he started Renew Bamboo out of his garage. It has grown ever since, with business based mostly on referrals. The company works primarily locally, but will work with clients elsewhere as well. It originally was meant to be a custom furniture and cabinetry business, but flooring has taken over most of the business.
“[Our distributor Cali Bamboo] send[s] us all the products we use to build the custom woodworking products, and they started selling flooring by the masses, so we started carrying flooring product lines and that has taken over 10 times more than what we do for custom furniture and cabinetry,” Gongaware said. “Flooring is our big ticket item, but we still pretty much do anything woodworking as long as it involves bamboo. We’ll use other woods that customers might want, but we focus on bamboo.”
Bamboo also produces 30 percent more oxygen than trees do and can produce 20 times more timber than trees on the same area, according to When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein. Stein also said that bamboo has a “10 to 30 percent annual increase in biomass versus 2 to 5 percent for trees.” Bamboo is also great for erosion control.
“And if you have it anywhere where there are large earthquakes, you can actually walk into a bamboo forest during an earthquake and you’re more protected there than in most places because it’s such a dense, strong material,” Gongaware said. “And that kind of goes into why we sell the flooring and the woodworking that we do—bamboo is the strongest wood product that you can buy. It’s as strong, like on a compression rating, as strong as most alloy steels or even stronger than some.” The strength of bamboo makes it much more difficult to damage than other kinds of wood flooring, he said.
One of the issues with using bamboo in woodworking, though, is that it doesn’t do well in our dry climate here in Reno, but the Cali Bamboo products used by Renew Bamboo don’t really have that problem, they say. The method used to make their wood flooring planks—shredding the stalks, gluing, coloring and pressing them under high pressure—creates an extremely dense material and has a 10-layer finish. This flooring has a Janka hardness rating of 5,000 plus pounds-force.
“The bamboo we sell is the hardest wood flooring in the world, so it’s such a dense floor that it doesn’t really allow for a lot of room to retain moisture or any sort of humidity,” Gongaware said. “So it doesn’t move, swell, split or break like it used to.”