How to Build With Bamboo for A Lasting Structure

Whether you live in an area with lots of bamboo or are curious about bamboo construction, you've come to the right place. We'll look at how to build with bamboo along with all the other tips and tricks you'll need.

Bamboo enthusiasts may tell you that bamboo structures are some of the most underrated building structures around. The good thing about bamboo is that it grows abundantly in many parts of the world.

If you are in such a part of the world, you'll love the information we have for you today. We cover the best bamboo to use, how to treat bamboo, the joints to use, and more. Let's begin.

Determine the Best Bamboo for Building

There are various types of bamboo, and knowing which ones to use in bamboo construction will aid your cause. For example, some bamboos are great for creating walls while others are super for structural poles.

Therefore, knowing which one to use for what will allow you to build a strong bamboo structure that will last for long. If you're in doubt about what a specific bamboo can do, you can carry out engineering tests to see how much load it can handle.

Here are a few of the popular bamboo types you're likely to come across.

1. Dendrocalamus Asper

Starting us off is a popular bamboo type that is great for building the structural parts of your bamboo house. Left to grow, this bamboo can reach impressive diameters of 8 inches.

This bamboo species is popular throughout Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. You can use it to build bamboo houses, bridges, and other bamboo buildings. You can also use it to make bamboo houseware and good musical instruments.

You can also eat the young shoots as they are very nutritious. The Dendrocalamus Asper f. Niger is just like this Dendrocalamus Asper except that it's black.

2. Gigantochloa Apus

This bamboo is perfect for rafters and scaffolding. Just like with the Dendrocalamus above, this genus also has a black option. This is the Gigantochloa Atroviolacea.

3. Bambusa Blumeana

The Bambusa Blumeana is extremely strong and super for bamboo building activities. The only disadvantage is that it doesn't grow straight.

In Hawai’i, this bamboo plant is often attacked by powder post beetles.

4. Bambusa Oldhamii

This local bamboo grows to be about 4-5 inches in diameter and grows long and straight. If you want bamboo poles that are very thick-walled, this is the one for you.

You can use it to make rafters and other parts of your bamboo building that don't carry that much weight.

5. Bambusa Vulgaris

The Bambusa Vulgaris is common and grows in many parts of Hawai'i. Unlike our previous option, this bamboo plant is great for load-bearing bamboo poles.

Nonetheless, if you want large non-load-bearing bamboo poles, you can still use this bamboo type.

6. Phyllostachys Aurea

If you are in the United States and want to use bamboo as a building material, you'll find that the Phyllostachys Aurea is a popular option.

This bamboo plant is great for interior design and for non-load-bearing lumber use. Therefore, if you want to go into the bamboo interior designing world, this is a good place to start.

7. Thyrsostachys Siamensis

The Thyrsostachys Siamensis is also good for non-load-bearing use. You can use it for interior works.

Set Your Bamboo Building Budget

Just like a "normal" construction process, you have to start with a budget. The last incident you want is to run out of materials when building your bamboo home.

The good thing is that bamboo is pretty cheap to come by. One reason for this is that it is a renewable resource. However, just because the materials are easy to come by doesn't mean that the bamboo building process is cheap.

If you live in the US, there are various strict building codes and regulations that you'll need to comply with. This means that you may have to hire an engineer and an architect to do the work for you.

You'll also need to get specialized hardware to use to connect the corners and seal any gaps. Nonetheless, if your aim is to reduce your home's carbon footprint, you'll be able to get through all these.

If you don't live in the US, ensure that you check if there are regulations that you need to abide by. Let's now look at the other aspects of constructing your bamboo house or structure.

Get Your Bamboo Building Tools

What tools do You need to build with bamboo?

Using the proper tools will speed up the bamboo construction process. The good thing is that you don't need sophisticated tools to get the job done. A mallet, hand saw, chisel, and other few tools should be enough to get you going.

Here are some common tools you'll need to get the job done.

  • ChopSaw

  • Power Drill (either corded or cordless)

  • Bamboo splitting knife

  • Hand saw or circular saw

  • 6x bamboo splitter

  • 4x bamboo splitter

  • Chisel

  • Orbital sander

  • Bamboo carving knife

  • Drill bit

Consider the Foundation for Your Bamboo Construction

Having a good and strong foundation is a must and will ensure that your bamboo structure remains stable. A concrete pilling footing is a good foundation. Also, ensure that you have a piece of rebar sticking out of the foundation.

This is because you'll need to open up the bottom nodes of your bamboo and place them over the rebar. About 2 nodes should do the trick for a stable bamboo structure.

If you're building a bamboo house, drill two holes into the sides of these bottom nodes and pour liquid concrete into them. Once this concrete hardens, it will ensure that your bamboo structure stays intact.

Now that we've looked at the foundation let's look at some joints that you can use while making your bamboo structures.

What Joints Should You Use When Building with Bamboo?

Unfortunately, you just can't nail two pieces of bamboo together and create a joint. Because of its round nature, you'll need to create special joints when constructing with bamboo.

We'll look at a few of these joints in more detail.

1. Angle Joint

This form of joint gets its name from a triangle. If you're looking to make a bamboo structure with lots of shear strength, this is the joint.

This angle joint ensures that your bamboo building doesn't feel shaky or wobbly. So, how do you make it? First, make a 90-degree joint using a horizontal and vertical bamboo pole. Then, add another piece of bamboo at a 45-degree angle between these pieces.

If you don't want anything moving around in your bamboo building, consider using many of these joints.

2. Fish Mouth Joint

The fish mount joint gets its name because the vertical member "bites" into the horizontal member. Although it can seem slightly daunting at first to make it, you'll get the hang of it after a few tries.

What tools do you need?

A round chisel, hand saw, and a good carving knife. Feel free to play around with the tools until you find what works for you. For example, you can use the saw to make various holes and then finish up by carving the opening with the knife.

Once you've completed the mouth, let it rest under the horizontal piece.

You can use a wooden dowel to peg the horizontal and vertical bamboo poles together. If you feel like you can't make this joint, you can opt for the modified joint below.

3. Modified Fish Mouth Joint

This joint is similar to the previous joint. You choose a bamboo piece with a smaller diameter and fit it into the vertical piece with a bigger diameter. Put in the vertical piece inside the horizontal piece through the hole drilled into it.

Use bamboo pegs to secure the pieces once they fit well together. If you want to make the fish mouth joints, but you don't want to, consider using this modified fish joint instead.

Treat the Bamboo to Make it Last Ages

Even as you execute your incredible bamboo design, you want to create a structure that will last for decades. To do that, you'll need to properly treat it.

If you've heard people say that bamboo doesn't last long as a building material, you can be sure that these are likely people who don't know about treating bamboo. There are various ways to treat bamboo.

These include pressure-treating, heat treating, soaking, and vertical soak diffusion. The latter uses a mix of borax and boric acid. This treatment replaces the edible starch on the bamboo with an inedible concoction that is poisonous to insects and bugs that feed on bamboo.

This method of treating bamboo is great for round bamboo poles, and it's very cost-effective. The most effective way of treating your bamboo poles is right after harvesting them. This is because the more they remain untreated, the more likely they are to be infested.

Once you've treated your bamboo, ensure that it dries well before you start using it for the construction process.

Design Your Bamboo Building

What are the characteristics of your bamboo design?

As you construct your bamboo house, there are some requirements to keep in mind. Some of these include regulating the moisture levels and sunlight. The truth is that bamboo poles don't do very well when it comes to moisture.

Moisture can actually make your bamboo poles rot. Therefore, you want to ensure that your design incorporates a roof that will protect your bamboo poles from direct sunlight and moisture.

a). Have A Raised Foundation

The foundation should also keep any groundwater at bay. Therefore, ensure that the foundation is strong and offers maximum protection. Raised foundations are a great way to go when building a bamboo house.

About 40cm from the ground should offer enough protection by acting as a moisture barrier. You want to ensure that your overhangs are large enough to protect your building from sunlight.

b). Use Large Overhangs for Protection from Sunlight

Sunlight can cause your poles to weather. About 60-140cm should be sufficient enough to protect your bamboo structures. If the height of your bamboo home is high, this estimate will increase.

c). Have A Durable Roofing System

The roof pitch should ensure that your bamboo buildings last for long. If you are using flattened bamboo, consider a minimum pitch of 40 degrees.

Additionally, ensure that the rafters are placed less than 40cm apart from each other. This will allow you to have a sturdy roof structure. You don't want rain spilling in and ruining your bamboo Bluetooth speakers and other items in the home.

Therefore, ensure that the roof is very well made.

Quality Control

Even if you're using natural resources to make your building, you still have to ensure that there's quality control on your construction site.

Some quality control measures include ensuring that all the bamboo poles to be used have been properly treated and dried before being used. Also, ensure that your poles have less than 18% moisture levels before using them to build.

This is because these poles contract once they dry. When this happens, they can crack and split. Therefore, to avoid any damage to your bamboo structure after you've put in all that work, ensure that the moisture levels are correct.

Another quality control process is ensuring that you arrange your poles in terms of size, color and shape. Have different piles for each type to avoid unnecessary confusion and time-wasting during the construction process.

What about storage? Before you even start the harvesting process, ensure that you have a place to store your poles. A raised platform is a must-have to protect your poles from moisture. You can also opt to lean your poles against a structure or wall.

Don't lay your poles directly on the ground as they will rot. You can also use high-quality tarpaulin to protect the poles from moisture.

Final Thoughts

Bamboo is a highly renewable resource which makes it great for building. Ensure that you understand your local regulations concerning building with bamboo before your begin work. Knowing which bamboo plants to use for what will also save you time and headache in the future.

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