Bamboo Flooring

Environmentally sound, beautiful bamboo floors are just cool

During the 1940s and 50s, bamboo furnishings were all the rage. Armchairs, sofas, side and coffee tables graced many a livingroom with their barkcloth upholstery in vibrant tropical prints. Very retro and desirable now, most of these pieces are pretty pricey and hard to come by. But you too can do bamboo...floors, that is.

Bamboo flooring is manufactured from fast-growing giant bamboo (which is a grass, not wood) specifically for the construction industry. It must be harvested after 3–4 years or the plant is wasted. Because it grows so quickly, it is a "green", environmentally friendly product.

Bamboo natural flooring
Bamboo—sustainable & beautiful

Bamboo flooring is available as planks and engineered flooring composed of laminated strips. It comes in different grades that are determined by environmental variables such as age, rain, and when it is harvested. These and other factors affect the hardness and quality of the material. Because bamboo is treated during manufacturing, it doesn´t attract termites or ants. It´s fire and warp-resistant, essentially slip-proof, and really easy to clean.

Depending on the manufacturer, planks may be available with or without the distinctive bamboo nodes. Both solid and engineered planks are similar to oak flooring with the tongue and groove edges for interlocking installation. The planks can be installed over concrete by gluing or floating, or they can be nailed to a wooden subfloor. You can install bamboo over existing flooring as long as it is level, smooth, and firmly attached.

Bamboo flooring ranges from natural light finishes to darker caramel shades. The darker colors result from carbonizing during a pressure steaming process. Because the color is integral to the carbonized boards, staining is never required during refinishing. Some vendors offer a variety of different colors including blue, green, and orange that expand your design options but may also increase the cost. Boards are available with a urethane finish, but may also be obtained unfinished. This allows you to stain your boards for a more customized look. Other bamboo materials are also available for wall and ceiling treatments.

Generally, the average hardness of bamboo is harder than red oak, but not always. Lesser grades with certain finishes may readily show scratches and gouges. Engineered bamboo flooring may comprise bamboo strips laminated together that may not be uniformly hard. This can result in uneven wear.

To avoid an expensive installation and disappointing performance, it is essential to distinguish between the various grades and finishes, then buy the best grade you can afford. If you can't afford a high performing product for your installation, it might be a good idea to research other alternatives.

Verify the manufacturer's warranty and follow the installation recommendations to protect your warranty.

Caring for bamboo floors is the same as for other types of hardwood floors. Keeping it swept and an occasional damp mop is all it really requires. To refinish, use a deglosser, then apply a fresh urethane finish. (If the floor has been waxed, you´ll have to deal with that first.)

Installing bamboo floors

If you are installing over a wood subfloor, it´s no more difficult to install than any other wood flooring. The primary motivation homeowners have for doing this type of work is to save money. If a project can be done for half the cost by doing it yourself, why not?

If you are installing your bamboo flooring over concrete using adhesives or floating it, some experts suggest hiring a flooring pro to do the installation for you. Some bamboo flooring can´t be floated, so know what type of installation restrictions apply to the flooring material you fancy.

Before you start, honestly assess your capability. Do you really want to do this? Do you think you can follow manufacturers instructions, go slow, and do it right? If you know deep down that you might not do such a great job, hire someone to do the work. If you are motivated and believe you can do a good job, regardless of whether you´ve done it before or not, the completed work will give you profound satisfaction as well as save money.

Over wood subfloor

  1. Read all manufacturer´s warranties and policies.
  2. Sand wood subflooring to ensure a smooth even surface, then clean up all dust and particulates with a vacuum. The floor must be clean and free of any dirty, wax, paint, or anything that could interfere with installation.
  3. If you have floor squeaks cure them now by screwing or nailing subflooring securely.
  4. Add the recommended moisture barrier. This will enhance flooring performance.
  5. Before installation, inspect each board for defects.
  6. Put the boards into the room in which it will be installed to acclimatize it. Experts suggest removing the boards from their boxes and leaving them for a minimum of two days. There is a proper moisture balance described in the manufacturer´s installation instructions.
  7. Lay out flooring for visual selection. The careful placement of color and grain will enhance the beauty of the finished floor.
  8. Install the floor per the manufacturer´s guidelines to protect your warranty.
  9. Add moldings, carpet, and move back the furniture.
  10. Pour a cold one and toast a job well done.

For more information about enviromentally sound home design and house plans, check out Healthy Home Designs.


To find a flooring contractor, check out ContractorNexus.

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