One of the foremost concerns that anyone building anything will want to address very quickly is the longevity of their construction. How long will it last, what sort of maintenance needs to be performed, what does it take to repair what breaks? Many construction materials may initially seem to hold the advantage over bamboo- after all, a steel and concrete bus stop will be there long after the bus stops coming. But there are certain practices we can put into place to maximize the durability and longevity of the bamboo that we use in construction.
Strongest grass in the world
Without any treatment at all, and left out in the open, bamboo timber can still last for up to two entire years. This gives us an excellent starting point from which we can build off of- even without any preservative treatment or varnish, bamboo can still last some 7 years if kept covered and dry. Seven years is certainly long enough for many temporary structures or structures that are planned to be replaced or remodeled, but we aren’t limited to temporary construction with bamboo if we keep in mind the advanced and professional techniques and information available to us.
Properly treated bamboo can last a lifetime
The composition of bamboo itself plays a sizable role in how best to care for it. First of all, one must always be conscious of the high starch content of bamboo- this starch is notorious for attracting mold and rot, as well as termites. One quick and easy method of reducing the spread of mold is to simply dry the bamboo for a few days immediately after harvesting, making sure that the entire shoot is not in contact with the ground, even if it’s only leaned up against a wall with a rock placed underneath.
Simple treatments Solutions are now ready
Luckily, starch is one of the few component chemicals in bamboo which causes problems. Many hardwood trees, such as teak, have high levels of toxic minerals and chemicals which can build up and cause structural weakness and decay. Bamboo does have trace amounts of various other resins, however these are not present in sufficient quantities to adversely affect the material’s durability.
Treat Bamboo 100% naturally
Natural Borax and Boric Acid treatment of bamboo stocks is the single most effective way to ensure that your material is not only long-lasting, but retains its strength and integrity consistently as well. Because different species of bamboo have different uses, different environments, and even different chemical properties, using the correct type, amount, and even method of treatment is critically important to ensure that your bamboo remains healthy. Bamboo meant for use indoors can be treated relatively easily without the use of toxic chemicals, allowing for safe construction of furniture or even eating utensils. Outdoor bamboo used in heavy construction, however, requires more potent treatments, and as some of these chemicals are toxic, must be done with the utmost care to prevent environmental harm. All chemical bamboo treatments require an exact mix of ingredients which perform separate functions, whether it’s fighting insects, fighting mold, or simply making sure the treatment adheres to the wood.
It’s just a matter of time
Unfortunately, the education and expertise needed to treat and preserve bamboo properly are often absent in the rural communities where it is used most. Because of this, much of the bamboo currently in use decays quickly, leading many to question whether or not bamboo is a viable alternative to more established and conventional building materials. This inefficient use of the resource also causes a drain on the supply of bamboo overall, as bamboo decays and is replaced much faster than it need be. Not only does this tie up bamboo plantations and prevent new construction from being done, but it also raises the price of bamboo and undoubtedly costs farmers or other rural laborers money that they don’t have to spend frivolously in the first place.
So how long does it last?
Treated properly, used in the correct context, and maintained properly, bamboo used in construction can last for over 50 years. In some environments and with some species of bamboo, the wood will last a lifetime. Compare that with replacing your bamboo every two years and the numbers quickly add up, both on the micro- scale and on the macro-. Cheaper, more plentiful, more durable bamboo that can compete even with hardwood in terms of effective durability and lifespan.