Sustainable, beautiful, and budget-friendly, bamboo is an increasingly popular material for residential floors. Since it first appeared on the home building scene around twenty years ago, it has grown in both popularity and versatility.
The type of bamboo used today grows to 40 to 80 feet and six to eight inches in diameter—all in about five years. This rapid growth is the main reason bamboo is praised for its sustainability.
As with hardwood or vinyl plank flooring, bamboo flooring can be installed by professionals or by do-it-yourselfers with enough time and energy. If you want to tackle the job, our tips below will help you get started.
Here’re 5 steps to install your bamboo flooring correctly.
Table of Contents
1. Choose and order your flooring
First, you need to choose your flooring product. Different flooring lines vary in price, quality, appearance and ease of installation.
A. Easy does it
If you’re planning to do the work yourself, the installation method is one of the most important criteria to consider.
Different flooring products differ in where they’re attached and what is used to attach them.
Some planks are attached to the subfloor underneath. Since each board needs to be secured—either nailed or glued—it’s a more labor-intensive approach, and probably not something you’d want to tackle unless you have previous DIY experience.
Other flooring attaches to the boards around it, but not to the subfloor. These are referred to as “floating.”
Floating floors can be installed using a glue seam, which requires some skill but might be worth tackling for some DIYers.
The easiest installation method, though, is glueless click, in which the boards click in place next to one another. If you’re at all new to DIY, or just want to make your life easier, consider click-style products.
B. The right look
If you thought there was only one style of bamboo flooring, you’re in for a surprise! Bamboo planks can come in many colors, grains, textures, sizes, finishes and installation methods.
The first type of bamboo flooring to become available was made from strips of bamboo stalks that were glued together and pressure treated to form planks. There were two “grains”—horizontal (where strips were laid flat side-by-side before they were pressed) and vertical (where strips were stacked on their long sides like files in a filing cabinet).
The result was two slightly different flooring options: one that showed the nodes and color variation of the bamboo, and one that appeared more uniform. Both had a light golden color.
Bamboo manufacturing has come a long way in recent years. A third grain has been added, called “compressed” or “strand woven.” It is a result of a technique that uses smaller pieces of bamboo and higher pressure. The resulting product is very dense (it can be harder than red oak), fairly uniform and darker in color. When stained and printed, it can mimic almost any other wood.
C. Measure twice
Order too little and your project will come to a stop while you wait for more. Order too much and you’ll pay too much and get stuck with the excess.
For a rectangular room, measure from one wall to the opposite (or from baseboard to baseboard). Stop short of any built-in cabinetry. Make sure to round up—not down—to the nearest inch.
Convert your measurements from mixed feet and inches to just feet (by dividing the inches in your measurement by 12 and adding the result to the number of feet). Multiply the two numbers to get your square footage.
If your room is irregularly shaped, split it into multiple rectangles and calculate each one individually before adding them all together.
Once you have your number, add about five to ten percent extra. That will come in handy if there are mishaps or problems with the material.
2. Buy Your Supplies and Air them Out
You’ll want to buy your bamboo flooring with plenty of time to spare. Its moisture level needs to equalize with the house to prevent it from shifting.
Bring your flooring to the room where it will be installed and unwrap it. Leave it there for at least a few days so the moisture level can stabilize in its new environment.
For horizontal and vertical bamboo, a few days is long enough to wait. If you have the strand-woven variation, though, it could be a month before the bamboo is ready to use.
While you’re waiting, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need. You can save time later by buying that adhesive or borrowing a nail gun now.
3. Prepare the Area
Check out the substrate over which you are applying the floor. Make sure it is in good shape.
If your subfloor is flat plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB), 15-pound builder’s felt will work as a substrate. If the floor is concrete, you can use glue or add a foam underlayment. Roll out your underlayment and score it where you hit a wall, then cut off the excess with scissors.
If you happen to have radiant heat, check the manufacturer’s guidelines—as long as the temperature is not too high it should be acceptable to install bamboo on top of it.
Make sure to remove the baseboards. The new flooring will go under them, and the trim will go back up later to cover the tiny gap at the wall.
4. Put the Pieces Together
Choose a corner for your starting point. Place spacers along the walls, which will help you to leave a small gap for your floor to expand and contract with changes in the environment.
Next, place your first board snugly against the spacers.
When you are ready to place the second board, apply a line of adhesive such as PVA glue to the short end, then snap it into the first board. Continue adding boards until you get to a space that’s too small for one more. Measure the gap and cut a board to size before placing it.
Once you’ve completed row one, start on the second row. To stagger the boards, start this time on the side where you just ended, starting with a full-length board adjacent to the cut board in the first row.
When you’ve covered the whole floor and don’t have room for a final row, it’s time to measure again and cut some boards lengthwise, placing them until every inch of the floor is covered.
Check for any gaps where the boards need to be pushed together and remove any glue drips or objects that could scratch the new floor. Replace your baseboards and anything else you removed to make space.
Your floor is done!
5. Maintain Your Investment
Once you’ve put money and effort into a new floor, make sure you protect your investment by caring for it properly. Sweep regularly using a soft-bristle broom and mop about once a week. Use a cleaning product that is safe for hardwoods.; don’t use cleaners that are based on ammonia, vinegar or other acids. They can discolor your floor or weaken the finish.
For many homeowners, bamboo flooring checks all the boxes. It looks great, stands up well, is earth-friendly, and doesn’t cost as much as some alternatives.
If you’re handy, installing your own flooring can save you lots of money. You’ll need very few tools—just a little time and elbow grease and you’ll have a sparkling new bamboo floor.
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