Bamboo Stairs – Treads & Risers

There is a trend, where we are seeing an increasing number designers using bamboo boards for stair treads and risers. A couple of years ago, we had the odd designer using the boards for this application, but now this application is becoming more popular. WHY?

I’ll have to take a guess here, but we believe that it’s because of two primary factors;

  • Bamboo boards are a great and cost effective alternative to solid timber
  • Bamboo has a higher tensile strength than cold pressed steel – it’s really strong

Allow me to discuss each of these points in more detail;

Timber alternative

Bamboo boards offer the convenience of a pressed board and the technical characteristics of solid timber to the designer. Using standard pressed board dimensions, it’s easy to calculate material usage, thus a lower wastage and lower cost. In addition, bamboo stains very well, so getting the colour scheme you desire is simple (we think it looks great as it comes, but understand the need to fit in with a design sometimes requires a little colour tweaking).

Tensile Strength – Bamboo is strong

When one designs a staircase, one has to be absolutely sure the material will be able to hold the weight without giving way. Bamboo’s fibers are longer than those of wood and therefore can endure higher stresses before it splits. This makes the material ideal for stair treads, risers, balustrades and overhead walkways. In addition, our Eco-Logic Bamboo boards are cross laminated, further increasing the strength and stability of the board.

We have worked with one structural engineer who tested the feasibility of a design where the bamboo stairs were embedded into a wall so as to have a fully floated staircase. After performing the calculations and some testing, he declared it perfectly safe and feasible. His design used 40mm thick, 1.2m stair treads that were embedded 200mm into a wall. His next challenge? To design a fully floated stair rail.

What do I need to consider when specifying bamboo for a staircase?

There are a number of considerations that I’d like to bring to your attention;

Bamboo is stronger than most timbers, so you don’t necessarily need to design with the same thickness as with timber. If you are simply laying stair treads on a solid structural base – such as concrete or steel, where the weight is entirely supported by the substructure, you can use a 16mm thick bamboo board.

As the amount of weight that the actual bamboo stair tread bears increases (i.e. less substructure support) you need to increase the thickness. Typical applications use the 20 mm & 30 mm boards for this purpose.

In designs such as the fully floated staircase mentioned above, you will need to consider the 30 mm to 40 mm boards.

There is a special case with strand woven bamboo. Due to it’s high density, it requires a more substantial substructure as it tend to have less flexibility than standard solid bamboo boards. Seeing this we have specially developed a hybrid strand woven bamboo & solid bamboo board. These Eco-Logic strand woven bamboo boards have a solid bamboo core – providing that extra flexibility – whilst having a 5 mm strand woven bamboo surface layer. These boards are ideal for stair treads & risers.

Trims/finishes. There are a range of standard finishing accessories available in solid and strand woven bamboo. You can use these to finish off those details.

So whether it’s a floated staircase, boxed staircase, suspended staircase or simply stair treads you are using in your project – bamboo boards offer a wide range of options that will fit your design, whether it be chic or modern, traditional or eclectic.

Happy staircase designing!

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About Oriental Bamboo Team

We only deal in Solid Bamboo Timber Products - boards, counter tops, plywood panels and doors - nothing else.
Through extensive manufacturing research and experience, we specify our products at our factories to perform well in our diverse African climatic zones.
Being solid bamboo pioneers in Southern Africa, we have worked with users in all facets of timber application over the years.
We are driven to understand our customers specific requirements. As a result of these relationships with our varied clients, we have accumulated a lot of experience in using solid bamboo products wherever one would traditionally use timber.
This blog documents a few of our experiences and comments on various aspects of solid bamboo timber as used in various applications.
Cape Town based Oriental Bamboo is a bulk bamboo timber supplier of "specified for Southern Africa": bamboo boards, bamboo plywood panels, solid and hollow core bamboo doors via a network of timber merchants in South Africa and sub Saharan Africa.


  1. Debbie Louw says:

    Hi there

    Please could you give me an idea on the cost for bamboo boards for stair treads and rises. There is a concrete structure in place so would just be placed on top.

    Thank you

    • Hi Debbie. My suggestion is that you use a minimum thickness of 30mm for the treads. The risers can be 16mm thick, or even a 3-5mm cladding. If you want a really chunky feel, you can use the 40mm thick boards for the treads. If you are on a budget, you can use the 20mm thick boards, but then I recommend you have the risers supporting the treads.

  2. How do you clean untreated bamboo steps prior to staining them?

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