Bamboo Floor Buying Guide
Bamboo flooring offers a remarkable range of colors, patterns, and styles to choose from to fit any décor with an eco-friendly sustainability you can be proud of. When it comes to comparing bamboo flooring’s strengths and weaknesses, the pros far exceed the cons. Read our Bamboo Buying Guide for all the information you need to decide what flooring is right for you.
How Bamboo is Made
There are three types of bamboo flooring: horizontal, vertical, and strand-woven. Horizontal and vertical bamboo flooring are made from narrow strips of bamboo glued together for the appearance of plank flooring. Vertical bamboo combines narrow strips with laminate between them for a smooth, uniform look similar to hardwood. Horizontal processing uses wider sections of bamboo to show the natural knuckles and growth patterns of the bamboo.
Strand-woven bamboo flooring uses a byproduct of the bamboo milling process, pressing together long strands which are hardened and made uniform by resin for the traditional look of wood with durability and hardness comparable to Brazilian Cherry.
For a more in-depth, step-by-step explanation of the bamboo flooring production process, read our comprehensive article on how bamboo flooring is made.
Bamboo Buying Guide
What to Ask When You Don’t Know What to Ask
Why: One thing that makes bamboo stand out today is that it is environmentally-friendly. Unlike hardwoods harvested from trees that take 30 years or more to reach maturity, bamboo is technically a grass that is ready for harvesting in 5-7 years. It’s harder than many hardwoods, as durable and beautiful as any wood choice on the market, and offers a unique sustainability.
Where: Grade A bamboo is exceptionally durable, but exposure to excessive moisture will cause it to warp, making it unsuitable for bathrooms and outdoor installations, but perfect for high traffic areas in your home. It can be installed below, on or above grade.
What: There are plenty of choices on the market, including patterns, colors, and styles. The grain type – horizontal, vertical, or strand-woven – determines the pattern of the flooring, while stains provide a multitude of color choices.
Who: Floating installations, especially glueless-click, are relatively easy for the DIYer, while nail/glue down installations are better suited to either a professional installer or an experienced DIYer.
When: Installing a floor doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure you have time for delivery, acclimatization and installation of the floor. Schedule it!
All the Basics
Bamboo does not have a formal grading system, but most bamboo retailers identify bamboo flooring as either “A” grade or “B” grade. A grade is better quality, more durable and has a more consistent look because it is manufactured from fully mature bamboo. B grade flooring is manufactured using bamboo not fully matured and may be weaker and less durable, inconsistent in color and may have mold or fungus.
To fill out this information a bit more, check out this video that summarizes some of the information you’ll need to know when it comes to bamboo floor grading.
How Will Your Floor Wear Over Time?
Bamboo, like hardwood, can take a lot of punishment. It is dent and scratch resistant, but not impervious. Over time, it will retain its beauty as long as it is properly taken care of and reasonable care is taken to avoid scratching and dents.
Where to Install Bamboo
Bamboo would look great anywhere, but there are some things to consider before installing it in the bathroom or the weight room. Here’s a room by room breakdown.
Living & Dining Rooms
These high traffic areas are perfect for bamboo flooring. Just be sure to use furniture protector pads under your chairs and couches to keep from scratching the surface of the floor – good advice for any kind of flooring.
Foyers & Entrances
Bamboo shouldn’t be exposed to constant moisture, so if you live in a rainy or snowy climate, protect the entryway flooring with an area rug or runner to keep the floor clean and dry.
Offices & Dens
Bamboo is a perfect choice for an office or den. Put a mat under your desk chair and the floor will wear like iron in this kind of low-moisture, low-impact environment.
The kitchen is generally the highest traffic area in your house and the most likely room for messy spills, splatters, and impact (things get dropped). It’s also one of the rooms that requires the most scrubbing. Bamboo is durable enough to be a good choice, but spills should be cleaned up right away.
Bathrooms simply have too much moisture for any kind of wood or bamboo flooring.
Weight Rooms & Playrooms
The thing to consider here is impact. Bamboo is impact resistant, but any surfaces aside from carpet, rubber, or cork will dent when a weight is dropped on it, and kids can be pretty hard on floors. If you have your heart set on consistent flooring, do it…but put down a well-padded area rug to absorb the impact (and help keep the noise down).
Who Loves Bamboo?
People with allergies. Unlike carpets that store years of dust, pollen, animal hair and dander, bamboo floors form a tight seal that cannot be penetrated by these elements. All you need to do to keep your home free from allergens is vacuum or dry mop regularly.
People who like easy clean up and maintenance. Some woods require polishing and waxing to keep them looking their best. Not so with bamboo. All you need is a broom or a vacuum cleaner a once a week swipe with a little vinegar diluted in a bucket of water. That’s all.
People with children. No one likes the thought of babies crawling on dirty carpet or floors. Bamboo, with its tight seal, forms a barrier against embedded dirt. Regular vacuuming and damp mopping is all it takes to create a flooring surface that’s ideal for children.
Bamboo Cleaning and Maintenance
Bamboo is simple to maintain and will look great for years with very little effort.
- Dust mop or vacuum with a soft brush or wood floor accessory to keep your bamboo floor clean from dust, dirt or grit.
- A damp cloth or mop can be used without damage to the bamboo flooring panels, but do not use excessive water. Dry the floor thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth.
- Blot up spills or water from wet feet or footwear immediately with a clean, dry cloth, sponge, or paper towel. Do not allow excess liquid to remain on the surface of your bamboo floor.
- Do not use soap-based detergents, abrasive cleaners, or combined “clean and shine” products on your bamboo floor. A damp-mop solution of one quarter cup of white vinegar and one quart of water is the best way to clean bamboo flooring.
- Do not use steel wool or other scouring pads that may scratch bamboo planks.
- Do not wax or polish your bamboo flooring.
- Do not steam clean or use chemicals that may damage the bamboo flooring surface.
- For messy or sticky spills, clean up as much as possible using a dry cloth, then wipe, but don’t scrub with a damp cloth. Scrubbing can drive the stain into the bamboo surface.
Flooring is a unifying element of home design aesthetics, so how it looks is crucial to your overall satisfaction. Fortunately, bamboo offers a lot of choices in both color and texture.
- Natural bamboo with a clear finish is light blonde and neutral enough to fit with almost any décor.
- Carbonized bamboo is produced by boiling the bamboo until the natural plant sugars caramelize to create darker, more intense hues.
- Stained bamboo is available in a wide variety of shades and colors.
- Direct print bamboo offers the appearance of woods like oak, cherry, maple or exotics with the benefits of bamboo. Before it is pressurized and sealed, shades, grain patterns, and colors are imprinted on the planks.
- Machine-milled smooth bamboo flooring with several coats of finish create a uniformly smooth glossy or matte finish.
- Hand scraped or distressed bamboo flooring is finished by hand or sometimes by machine to create a more rustic look of old, antique flooring.
Moldings, Transitions & Trims
You’ll need the right moldings and trim to finish your floor. Make sure your dealer has products that complement the bamboo you’ve chosen.
Underlayment is a thin foam padding that absorbs sound as well as some of the very minor imperfections in the sub-floor. You will also need either a separate moisture barrier or an underlayment with a moisture barrier if your floor will be on or below grade, installed over concrete or in an area subject to moisture.
There are basically 3 underlayment options:
- Padding only (provides cushioning)
- Padding and sound barrier
- Padding, Moisture barrier and sound barrier
Not all bamboo flooring installation requires adhesives, but if yours does, make sure you use a glue that is VOC-free.
Installation is an important consideration when choosing bamboo flooring. The method of installation can affect the price, the time it takes to install and the way the floor feels under your feet.
- Nail Down/Glue Down – This type of installation is similar to a traditional hardwood installation and is often best done by a professional installer unless you are an experienced and confident DIYer.
- Floating: Glue-Seam – This kind of installation requires a bead of glue on the seams of the planks before joining them together. Because the glue dries in seconds, it is best to lay out the entire floor for color and pattern before gluing. This can be a DIY project, but not for a beginner.
- Floating: Glueless-Click – The glueless-click method of installation is the easiest choice. Similar to laminate flooring, the planks are made to lock together without the need for glue or nails and can be laid over any floor surface (as long as it is even and level). This is the simplest method for the do-it-yourselfer…even a beginner can do it successfully.
Installing Your Bamboo Floor
Preparing For a Bamboo Flooring Installation
Before the flooring installers arrive, there are three important issues to address: furniture, appliances, and fixed objects.
Furniture: Remove all your furniture and other objects from the job site where bamboo installation will take place. Make sure to empty the closets, cabinets, and other furniture carrying stuff. If your installer offers to move the furniture for you to prepare for flooring installation, find out if there’s an additional charge.
Appliances: Your appliances need to be disconnected and removed from the room to be floored. Some installers may do the job for you for an additional charge, but most people can accomplish this on their own with a little extra muscle. Prior arrangements should be made with your gas/appliances company to disconnect and reconnect all gas appliances safely. Disconnecting gas appliances yourself is NOT recommended.
Fixed Objects: For better finishing, fixed objects such as posts and fireplace surrounds need to be included into your plan when preparing for a do-it-yourself bamboo flooring installation. Measure the dimensions of these objects and gauge how they affect your square footage requirement. The overall professionalism of the flooring look will depend on the details. Preparing properly for bamboo flooring installation can result in a trouble-free experience and an expert installation.
A do-it-yourself bamboo floor installation requires intermediate-level construction skills. Several factors should be considered before a bamboo floor installation. A swift and easy process of installation can take place if you carefully prepare for the installation. Here are a few instructions:
- Make sure that the subfloor is flat, dry, and smooth.
- Use underlayment under your bamboo floor for soundproofing and stability.
- Bamboo flooring and underlayment/vapor barrier can be installed on any existing floor including concrete, wood flooring, vinyl tile, linoleum, tile, etc as long as the floor is flat and solid. The foam pad will make up for minor irregularities.
- Allow the bamboo flooring material to acclimatize to the installation site for as long as possible (min. 2 to 3 days). This allows the flooring to adjust to the room temperature and humidity.
- Examine each floor plank for color, finish, quality and defects.
- Bamboo floor installation should take place at a room temperature of at least 65°F (15°C). A floor surface temperature of 59°F and an overall room temperature of 65°F must be ensured before, during and three days after the installation.
- Take extra care when installing bamboo flooring over radiant heating. Ensure that you read both the manufacturer’s bamboo flooring and radiant heat system instructions carefully. Bamboo flooring should not be installed over a radiant floor with a maximum temperature exceeding 85°. Note: not all bamboo flooring can be installed over radiant heat. To be sure, check the manufacturer’s instructions and/or check with your dealer.
- Read the installation instructions provided by your bamboo flooring provider / manufacturer.
DIY Installation Tips
- The beginning wall of the flooring (the wall where you start installing the new floor) should be more visible than your ending wall.
- Remove any previous carpeting or wood flooring glued to a concrete floor.
- After measuring the area of the floor to be covered, add 10% to allow as wastage or for future repairs.
- If your room is larger than 1,000 square feet, you must use 0.75 inch spacers to create expansion space around the border of the room and any pipes, doorframes, cabinets, or fixed objects etc.
- If your room is smaller, a gap of 0.50 inches can work. These gaps allow for expansion and contraction. The exposed edges can be concealed with trim or molding.
- To install flooring around pipes, drill a hole in the plank that is half or a quarter inch larger than the pipe diameter. Cut the plank across the center of the circle, fit around the pipe on the floor, glue plank pieces back together and clamp (do not glue) bamboo to subfloor. Cover expansion gaps with molding or pipe rings when the floor is complete. Water pipes require silicone sealant.
- To replace any planks damaged during installation, raise the last installed board approximately 1 to 2 inches until it disengages. Continue until you reach the affected plank, replace and reinstall the planks.
Underlayment is a material placed between the sub-floor and your bamboo floor to provide cushioning, sound absorption and a barrier to moisture. It comes in large rolls or as separate pieces that can be taped together. The use of an underlayment speeds installation, reduces walking noise, improves flooring stability and provides superior support.
- Remove the shoe molding from around the baseboard and also the doors from the installation area to be covered.
- The flooring planks need additional space to fit under doorframes. Place a piece of underlayment and bamboo flooring next to the jamb to determine the required height, and cut out the desired area of the frame.
- Install the underlayment and make sure the edges don’t overlap. To prevent them from shifting, tape the pieces together. Create an expansion gap between the underlayment and walls by using spacers.
- If you’re placing a bamboo floor on top of a concrete slab, apply a polyethylene plastic vapor barrier before installing the underlayment.
Floating or Glueless Installation Method
Ease of installation is one of the key advantages of bamboo flooring. One of the two do-it-yourself installment options is the floating or glueless method. In this method, the flooring is not secured to the subfloor. Instead, it allows each board to be connected by means of a tongue-and-groove design. Around eight inches by four feet long, these planks click together to form a firmly fastened surface.
Not only easier, the glueless flooring planks are installed approximately 50% faster on average than the traditional methods of installation.
- Straight edge
- Measuring tape
- Speed square (to test angles)
- Coping saw
- Circular saw with fine-tooth blade
- Safety goggles
- Wall spacer wedges
- Tapping block
- Last row puller (prybar)
- Bamboo flooring
Underlay (foam, vinyl or cork are popular choices)
- Flooring planks should be preferably installed with their length parallel to the incoming sunlight.
- Start the installation from the left corner of the room. Cut off the tongue of the planks, and run them parallel to the wall with the help of expansion spacers.
- Install each plank by inserting one end into the other at an angle and pressing down.
- On reaching the end of the row, measure and trim the last plank to fit.
- Cut a new plank similar to the pattern of the first row and start the next row with this plank.
- Lift the previous row slightly to fit the next planks into position. Now give a sharp rap to the next line of boards with your hand to fully engage and press them down firmly.
- Continue with this procedure with the rest of the flooring.
- The last row should be the same width as the first row. Trace the wall outline and remember to leave space for expansion.
- Trim and remove excess plastic sheeting and spacers. Reinstall baseboards without nailing to the floor.
- Flooring should extend under the doorframe. Use a piece of scrap flooring to mark the depth that the doorframe should be trimmed.
Bamboo Flooring Installation Costs
Once you’ve chosen a bamboo floor, you need to calculate the total cost of your installation. You will need to determine of how much square footage you’ll need plus 10% for wastage and future repairs, consider the bamboo quality that will best suit your flooring location, along with the cost of underlay, moldings and trim. Making sure that there are no surprises as far as your project budget is concerned makes for a good start to a successful flooring installation.
But, apart from material costs, here is a list of additional expenditures you may have to factor in during or prior to a bamboo flooring installation project:
- Furniture removal and replacement: Some professional installers charge to remove your furniture and for moving it back once the installation is complete.
- Removing old floor covering: Your previous/old floor covering may need to be removed and disposed of. Some installers charge extra, so to save money, consider doing it yourself.
- Subfloor preparation: If your subfloor needs to be repaired or treated for unevenness, then pre-installation work may incur additional charges. Be sure to ask your installer to review your substrate.
- Installation: be sure your flooring calculations include the cost of materials and all installation costs.
- Accessories installation: If the installation procedure requires accessories/additional material/tools to install bamboo properly, be sure to find out if this step is included in the installation agreement.
There are many things you should know before considering bamboo as your flooring option. This may not be a complete list, but knowing what questions to ask of your flooring installer or dealer will give you complete information. Make sure to get an installation quote that is truly all-inclusive before the work begins. Doing your research and getting all of the costs of a bamboo flooring installation upfront is the key to a happy and successful project.
Where to Buy Your Bamboo Floor
Picking a reputable dealer is all-important. You want to make sure you not only get good advice but that you get good service all the way through your purchase and installation process. The best way to do that is to ask tough questions in advance and be prepared to walk if you don’t like the answers. For example, a reputable dealer will be able to tell you the VOC rating for the flooring.
- Is there a bamboo expert in your company who can answer all my questions?
- Will that person be the same person I deal with all the way through?
- Can you measure my space and provide me with an estimate?
- If you don’t have personnel to measure my space, can you advise me how to do it myself?
- Do you have installers or can you help me find one?
- If you have installers, do you guarantee their work?
- Is the flooring I want readily available or do you have to order it?
- If you have to order it, how long is the wait?
- Can you guarantee the time of delivery?
- Is your price guaranteed to be the lowest?
- If I find the same product somewhere else will you refund me the difference?
- Do you have a money-back satisfaction guarantee?
- What does it cover?
- Can you put me in touch with previous customers who have bought from you or used your installation services in the past?
- Do you have any product or company reviews online?
- Do you deliver?
- How much does it cost?
- Does your delivery charge include international shipping, if applicable?
- If not, how much will that cost?
- What is the warranty on my bamboo flooring?
- What if there’s a problem with my product that falls under warranty?
- How do you rectify that problem?
- What happens if I don’t like the product after I buy it but before I install it?
- Will you take it back and if so, what will you charge?
- What if I discover damages upon delivery?
- How do you make it right?
- Who can I call if I have a problem?
- Will it be the same person who sold me the bamboo flooring?
- Do you have the accessories I need to finish the job?
- For accessories like trim and moldings, can I see them first so I can determine if they are a good match to the floors?
- Do you have samples I can take home with me?
- How long can I keep them and at what cost?
Be sure to bookmark our Bamboo Buying Guide for reference when you’re making flooring decisions.