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29 / 03 / 2016

Bamboo

Properties and Maintenance

Bamboo is very durable, correct use, treatment and maintenance can ensure a very long life for bamboo, as there are bamboo constructions that are over 200 years old, but it is important that the end user is properly informed in order to enjoy his/her bamboo products optimally.

What is Bamboo?

Bamboo belongs to the grass family and therefore does not have the same properties as ordinary wood. There are 130 herbaceous and approximately 1450 woody bamboo species known worldwide.

Bamboo is anatomically and morphologically very different from normal trees. A bamboo plant has a stem, branches and leaves, but that is where the comparison with normal trees ends. Bamboo is hollow, has no bark or annual rings, for example, and does not become thicker in diameter as the trunk ages.

harvesting bamboo stems
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Bamboo stems grow at an average rate of 25 cm per day and reach their maximum height in just 6-7 months (some tropical bamboo species reach heights of 30-40 m).

After 3-5 years in the field, bamboo stems are mature and are harvested, after which new bamboo shoots appear. Because bamboo grows so quickly, it 1001 different applications and does not need to be replanted after harvesting, bamboo is thus described as a very sustainable material.

Is Bamboo Sustainable?

Bamboo does not possess any natural toxic substances that help it resist biodegradation, as some wood species do (e.g. teak). The natural durability of not impregnated Therefore, the lifespan of bamboo canes is less than 2 years for most species, and under ideal conditions 4-7 years (without exposure to rain or sun). Preserving (impregnating) bamboo canes is therefore essential in order to drastically increase their lifespan.

The large amounts of starch present in bamboo make the material very attractive to fungi, termites and beetles. These can cause a lot of damage during drying, storage and later use. Bamboos also contains small amounts of waxes, resins and tannins, but none of these are toxic enough to increase its natural durability.

bamboo treatment
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Because the natural durability of bamboo canes is low, it is It is necessary to impregnate the bamboo canes immediately after harvesting.. A mixture of minerals, such as borax and boric acid, is usually used for this purpose, in order to make our bamboo poles treat with it.

Once the bamboo fibres have been stripped of their natural sugars and impregnated with salts, they become immune to insects, which immediately increases the lifespan of the bamboo stems. up to 50 years and more. This is on condition that they are not used in direct contact with the sun, rain or soil.

However, in order to use bamboo canes in a sustainable way for outdoor applications, additional maintenance is required by the end user. This is discussed in the last part of this article.

Why does Bamboo crack?

An important characteristic of bamboo is the way the material reacts to large temperature or humidity differences. This is because bamboo poles can crack or split. To understand why bamboo cracks, we need to take a look at its anatomy.

1. Anatomy of Bamboo

Bamboo is an anisotropic material, which means that its longitudinal properties are completely different from its transverse properties. Lengthwise, bamboo consists of cellulose fibres that are strong and rigid. In the transverse direction, bamboo mainly consists of lignin, which is soft and brittle. Therefore, bamboo is a unidirectionally reinforced composite with relatively little tangential capacity.

Also, the shrinkage rate of the node is four times higher than the shrinkage rate of the internode (the hollow stem section between two nodes). This may be due to a larger amount of reinforced fibres, which are common in the internodes but less so in the knots.

Due to the differences in anatomical structure and density, there is a large variation in tangential shrinkage from the inner (10%) to the outer part (15%) of the cervical wall. Tangential shrinkage is thus higher in the outer parts of the wall than in the inner parts, which can lead to cracking.

bamboo under microscope
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2. Equilibrium moisture content of Bamboo

Bamboo is a hygroscopic material, which means that it will absorb moisture from its surroundings and release it until an equilibrium is reached. The moisture content therefore varies according to the characteristics of the surrounding air.

Water is retained in bamboo in two ways; free water that is retained in the cell cavities, and bound water that is retained in the cell walls themselves. The moisture content of the culm wall is higher in the inner part than in the outer part. The nodes have lower values than the internodes. These differences can be up to 25%.

During drying, bamboo loses water freely until the moisture content is about 15%. The bamboo will shrink as the remaining water is expelled, but it can swell again after drying when moisture is regained from the relative humidity of the surrounding air.

Bamboo will therefore shrink and swell with changes in relative humidity. Cracks and spalling can then occur as a result of stresses caused by sudden drying and direct exposure to the sun.

Why Ageing Bamboo?

Like all wood products used for outdoor applications, bamboo will eventually weather / grey.

bamboo ageing
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Weathering of exposed bamboo occurs as a result of the interaction between different climatic conditions, such as fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity.

Repeated drying and humidification of exposed bamboo leads to tiny cracks in the surface of the bamboo. UV rays in turn cause the breakdown of the cellulose layer. Finally, wind and dust particles have a sand-blasting effect on the bamboo surface. The combination of all these factors causes bamboo to weather.

How to maintain bamboo for outdoor use

Before protecting bamboo from greying and cracking, it is important to observe some rules of thumb when installing bamboo materials:

1. Avoid contact with the ground

To prevent rotting, it is important to ensure that bamboo is not in direct contact with the ground. Make sure that a bamboo garden fence At least 2 cm from the ground. Burying bamboo poles is not recommended unless they are well coated with special bitumen paint or tar.

2. Does not use nails

Due to the anatomical structure of the bamboo fibres, which all run in the same length direction, nailing bamboo will lead to cracks. Screws can be done if pre-drilled.

3. Installing with care

Harsh treatment of bamboo by dropping it to the ground, hitting it with a hammer and so on can cause cracks. Bamboo should therefore be handled and installed with care, preferably by experienced installers.

bamboo tears
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Protecting Bamboo Fences

In order to prevent bamboo from turning grey, two coats of special stain should be applied immediately upon installation (this also greatly helps to prevent bamboo from cracking).

A bamboo stain must be of high quality with high resistance to moisture and ultraviolet radiation. Such stain or lacquer contains water-repellent preservatives such as wax, paraffin or resin, and a binding agent that minimises weathering, shrinkage and swelling. Bamboo Protector is a stain that we have developed especially for protecting your bamboo materials.

Bamboo Protector must be applied to the bamboo surface but also to the nodes at the top of a bamboo screen. This creates a seal that prevents the bamboo fibres from absorbing moisture and reduces the ratio and speed of moisture exchange.

bamboo staining
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For optimal protection, apply Bamboo Protector annually or bi-annually (depending on climate conditions). This will guarantee the lifespan of your bamboo products. Provided that proper maintenance and installation is carried out, the lifespan of a bamboo fence can be on average 15-20 years.

Dark Attack

In autumn, everything outside becomes a little damp and grey. This is also the case with bamboo, even if you have treated the bamboo with Booster or Bamboo Protector That chance remains. This natural characteristic cannot be avoided, and just like the rest of the garden, bamboo needs cleaning in the spring.

Clean the bamboo with a pressure washer. In case of a lot of deposits, you can first spray the screens with Grey-Go After which, you spray it thoroughly with water. After cleaning, the bamboo will look much better. With yellow (natural) bamboo, some dark orange-like spots may appear. These dark spots are caused by moisture and will dry out automatically when the temperature rises or the sun shines on it. Once the bamboo is dry, you can apply a new layer on a nice day. Booster or Protector apply.

Bamboo Fence De-graying

If you have a bamboo fence that is already aged, you can also restore it. First clean the bamboo with Grey-Go bamboo degreaserThen spray it with the garden hose or pressure washer. Once clean, allow to dry and then apply Bamboo Protector as described above.

More information on our special bamboo care products can be found in the description of each product.

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