Bamboo Floor Installation

Knowing some bamboo flooring pros and cons helps installation go smoothly.

By: John Riha

All bamboo flooring is processed, meaning the stalks of bamboo grass are cut into thin strips or shredded, then formed into flooring boards using heat and glue. There are three main types of bamboo flooring:

  • Vertical grain bamboo has an even, striped look.
  • Horizontal-grain (aka flat-grain) bamboo has the characteristic “knuckles” in the grain pattern.
  • Strand woven bamboo combines shredded grass fibers with super-hard resins — it’s the toughest and most expensive kind.

Bamboo flooring comes as solid tongue-and-groove planks and engineered boards with a veneer of bamboo glued to a plywood backing. Both types are 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick and 3-1/2  to 7-1/2 inches wide, with variable lengths.

Solid bamboo hardwood flooring is installed like any hardwood flooring: It can be nailed, stapled and/or glued to a solid subfloor or an existing hardwood floor in good condition.

Engineered bamboo usually installed as a floating-floor system with click-together planks laid over a cushiony foam pad. There’s no nailing, so installation is DIY-friendly and goes along quickly.

Both engineered planks and solid planks come prefinished in a variety of stain colors, so you skip any finishing.

Cost of Bamboo Flooring

Quality bamboo flooring costs $5 to $8 per square foot, which is about the same as common hardwood flooring like oak and maple. Cheaper brands of bamboo flooring may contain glues the emit harmful VOCs — look for products that are guaranteed to emit no or very low amounts of VOCs, and that have been certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

If you’d rather have a pro do the installation, figure another $3 to $5 per square foot for labor.

When buying bamboo flooring, take careful measurements of your room and order 10% more than you need to account for waste.

Installing Bamboo Flooring

Solid bamboo flooring can be installed anywhere that regular hardwood flooring is installed. With its wood-like properties, solid bamboo is susceptible to warping from excessive moisture, so it’s not recommended for bathrooms, laundry rooms and below-grade basements.

Engineered bamboo flooring is less susceptible to moisture and can go in any room, including below-grade basements (check the manufacturer’s recommendations before you buy). However, chronically damp basements can still pose a problem for engineered bamboo planks. Installing a vapor barrier under your floating floor system helps ward off moisture and mold problems, but avoid installing engineered planks if your basement has experienced flooding or has had visible wet areas.

Bring your bamboo flooring into the room where you’ll be installing it, and remove it from its packaging. Stack it in the room and let it acclimate to the ambient humidity for at least a week. That’ll ensure the flooring doesn’t expand or contract during installation.

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