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Bamboo Flooring Buying Guide

You may be thrilled by the idea of a beautiful new hardwood-esc design while also asking, what even is bamboo flooring? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like.. it’s a type of flooring that is made out of the bamboo plant.

Bamboo is usually found in Asia, but fortunately for those who are interested in the bamboo flooring industry, it’s starting to be seen all throughout the world.

Bamboo Flooring Buying Guide

Why Should you own Bamboo floors insteed of Hardwood?

The reason why so many people are making the switch from regular hardwood to bamboo are these 3 things:

  1. More durable than hardwood so you don’t have to worry about ruining it
  2. it’s eco-friendly made from plant
  3. it’s sustainable so it doesn’t require an extensive amount of upkeep.

How is Bamboo Flooring Made?

There are three main types of bamboo flooring: horizontal, vertical and strand woven. The manufacturing to how they’re made initially starts out the same but after some individual processes happen for each type of flooring.

As we discussed bamboo ias a plant and not wood compared to hardwood so it grows much quicker than for example oak trees.

When Bamboo floorings are made, this steps are invoved:

  1. Harvesting – The beginning of the manufacturing process is harvesting bamboo, which is done every three to six years.
  2. Milling – This is a process when bamboo is cut and shaped into the ideal flattened strip. In this step, we also take into consideration whether or not you want horizontal or vertical flooring.
  3. Boiling – After the bamboo is shaped we need to start the Boiling process. It has two main purposes. By removing starch and sugar it will not attracts bugs (specifical termites) anymore and bamboo floors will expand less in the future.
  4. Carbonization (optional) – This next part of the process is really just preference, and that is the carbonization of the bamboo. This step doesn’t do anything other than darken the bamboo a little bit, which can be skipped if you want to keep that natural-looking color. Keep in mind – You can refinish them later if you prefer.
  5. Kiln Drying process – After you decide whether or not you want to carbonize your bamboo, it will go through the kiln drying process. This is where the bamboo will be inspected to make sure all has gone well up to this point and dried of any excess moisture to the final desired target point. The kiln is similar to air-drying but it’s a more efficient way while ensuring everything stays strong and secure.
  6. Choosing the right type – the next part of the process is where we get into the specifications of manufacturing. Would you want horizontal, vertical flooring, or strand-woven Bamboo flooring?

Different Types of Bamboo Flooring:

As we discussed earlier, there are three main types of Bamboo Flooring. We wrote an in-depth post. Below is a quick summary:

Horizontal bamboo

Horizontal bamboo is made in a way that highlights the growth joints so it creates a more organic and natural form. It will produce a more noticeable grain pattern and what gets called “knuckles.”

Vertical bamboo

Vertical bamboo flooring is done basically the same as horizontal, but rather than the strips getting laid horizontally, they’re laid vertically. The grain pattern is a bit different because it contains no “knuckles,” within its pattern. It will provide more of a modern wood feel due to its sleekness and uniform consistency.

Strand woven bamboo

As you read in an earlier chapter, bamboo strips are cut during the milling process for vertical and horizontal flooring, but that same process is not applicable for this flooring type. Strand-woven bamboo is woven from the excess part or “trim”, which is then pressed into random patterns.

NOTE: Because of this process, strand-woven bamboo flooring is much stronger than the other two. 

Finishing Touches on Flooring:

If you skipped the carbonization of your flooring and want a last-minute change, now is the time where you can stain the bamboo to darken it. Otherwise, you can then add your fitting profile (which will be discussed more thoroughly in the installation process,) and distress the flooring or add lacquer.

KEEP IN MIND: Lacquer essentially just acts as a protecting gloss so your floors will stay in pristine condition and distressed gives you that extra texture.

Difference between Distress and Lacquer Bamboo finish

Distressed flooring is still lacquered, it is just brushed (by hand or by wire brush) during the work process. Bamboo flooring with a distressed look offers the same advantages as regular bamboo flooring, only with a more rustic appearance.

When choosing a lacquer, you could either get matte or satin-matte. Both provide equal amounts of protection, but the appearances are what differ in the two.

Matte lacquered flooring will give you a natural appearance with anti-slip properties, while also appearing as a more flattened look. With Satin-matte lacquer you will get a tiny bit of sheen and shine to your floors.

KEEP IN MIND: Regardless of what you choose, a few layers of lacquer will add perfect finish to your bamboo floors and provide protection from daily wear and tear.

Solid vs Engineered Bamboo Flooring

A topic that is important to address prior to discussing colors and patterns, is recognizing whether you have solid bamboo or engineered bamboo flooring. It’s a pretty basic difference, but it is important when it comes to staining it if you choose to do so.

Solid bamboo is just what it sounds like, pure solid pieces of bamboo that is put together to form flooring. Engineered bamboo flooring is strand-woven bamboo with a plywood or fiberboard base.

Different Bamboo Colors

We kind of already covered some of the different types of colors and patterns of bamboo floors above, but there are many options to choose from. Click on the link above and read an in-depth guide about colors and patterns.

Carbonized

Choosing to carbonize your bamboo can give it that rich brown color you’re looking for. Carbonization is done during the manufacturing process. They darken floors through the entire bamboo plank with a steam pressured process.

KEEP IN MIND:  when choosing this method, manufacturers will try to pick bamboo that has the same or similar colors, so you don't worry about your colors looking spotty.  

Natural or no color added

An easy option to choose from is natural bamboo. The color has a very light appearance to it when you don’t carbonize or add any color, which would be perfect if you want an untouched appearance.

Stained

One very popular option for choosing the color of your floors is staining them. Because of the wide variety of colors available, this method is extremely useful.

It’s important to note that engineered bamboo can only be refinished a limited number of times, and to be able to do so it needs to have a thick enough base.

KEEP IN MIND: Many shops will mention tiger bamboo color, which is actually a mix of natural and carbonized strips. As a result, many people are drawn to its unique appearance.

Different Bamboo Patterns

We’ve already gone over vertical, horizontal, and strand-woven options, which provide you your basic patterned looks but there are also three different subsections within them that can help further your vision.

Three main Bamboo patterns are smooth, hand-scraped and hand-sculpted. With different texture and appearance, they all provide same sort of protection and feel.

Smooth Bamboo pattern

Smooth bamboo flooring pattern is coated with several layers of sealant to ensure a real sleek-looking appearance. The benefits of choosing this pattern come from its ease of cleaning.

Hand-scraped Bamboo pattern

A hand-scraped bamboo floor is similar to the distressed flooring we discussed earlier. You will choose this type if you prefer an “aged” but classy appearance. The disadvantage of hand-scraped bamboo patterns is a higher price due to the lengthy production process.

Hand sculpted pattern

A hand-sculpted pattern is sort of a mix between smooth and hand-scraped. It gives you that distressed look, but with more of a smooth finish and feel. Similar to hand-scraped, it will cost more due to more man-hours needed to get final results.

How to Install Bamboo Flooring?

There are a few different ways to install bamboo flooring and some require underlayment.

Underlayment is what you put on your original flooring (concrete or plywood, whichever your house’s raw flooring is,) prior to installing your bamboo flooring. This helps provide soundproofing or sound absorption, insulation, cushioning, and moisture protection.

So, in short, underlayment is necessary in both nailed installations and click-together installations. You will need underlayment suitable for laminate and engineered wood.

Installing Bamboo Flooring With Glue Down Method

If you are planning to glue down your Bamboo flooring you don’t need underlayment.

Step 1: Measure your room

Measure the room you’re doing to calculate square feet, and add about 5 – 10% more of bamboo on top of those measurements when placing your order.

Step 2: Order the right glue

There’s the glue that doesn’t contain a vapor barrier which is best used for hardwood, plywood, or scuffed tile.

On the other hand , you can buy glue that contains a vapor barrier, which is used when there is a moisture concern (if you’re putting bamboo flooring in bathroom or basement)

Bostik GreenForce 0 VOC Adhesive, 4 Gallons

The last type of glue is one that contains what is known as a sound retarder. This is mainly for when you are concerned about the sound.

PRO TIP: Most glues that contain vapor barriers will also absorbing sound really well.

Step 3: Prep your room

The next step is to Prep your room and floors. Place your bamboo floors in the room you plan to install them in and let them sit for a few days so they can adjust to the temperature. Make sure the floor is leveled, clean, and dry.

PRO TIP:  If you’re putting the bamboo in a room with concrete or a similar floor with moisture, make sure to lay down a plastic tarp so the moisture from the floor doesn’t affect the acclimating process.

Step 4: Set up equipment and begin cutting

Make sure to come equipped with the proper equipment to eliminate any health hazards or risks. If sanding is required, be aware that you may need a mask to protect from any dust. Otherwise, bring along your gloves, earplugs, and safety goggles.

Measure your planks and make sure that you cut them to size. It is recommended that you cut at least eight feet long strips, you can go back and fill in any little gaps later.

NOTE: You’ll need spacers around the walls, as your bamboo flooring will most likely expand and you don’t want it to break or crack.

Step 5: Apply Your Adhesive

It is to your discretion which glue you prefer, but as noted above, using one that is considered a vapor barrier will save you plenty of trouble. Apply your glue evenly with a towel starting at your longest wall.

The section size you work with is up to you, you’ll just want to really make sure your application is even and applied relatively quickly so it doesn’t dry out as you go. When applying and spreading your glue, hold your trowel at a forty-five-degree angle and apply gentle pressure.

The adhesive should cover the floor to the point of not being able to see the original floor underneath. This doesn’t mean overcompensate and apply too much, but just make sure you aren’t doing an extremely thin layer.

If you’re applying adhesive over concrete, it’s even more important to fully cover the base you’re working with.

KEEP IN MIND: Some adhesives begin to dry as soon as you open the container itself, so make sure to check the cure time. 

Step 6: Apply Your Bamboo Flooring

Remember to use spacers so your bamboo doesn’t touch the wall directly since it is going to expand no matter what.

Place your boards, do not slide them on. Sliding will take the risk of moving around the adhesive, and you don’t want areas where there either isn’t adhesive or there’s build-up around a plank.

Fill up the entire row you began with, and then working on continuing your next row. It could help to go ahead and have some pre-cut pieces to fill in areas you may not be able to access, but this may be tricky because you can’t premeasure.

TIP: When adding rows tap your seams gently to make sure your planks will stay together.

Step 7: Allow your floors to Settle

Once you’ve got your entire room done, walk along the boards and fix any pieces that may be raised by tapping them gently with something like a mallet.

Afterward, allow the room to sit for twenty-four hours before doing anything to it. Once you’ve let it sit, you can clean it with a broom or vacuum, but do not get it wet.

KEEP IN MIND:  You can either remove the spacers and apply molding before or after you let it sit. Some have found that applying the molding prior to letting it sit helps the sides from lifting up.

Installing Bamboo Flooring With Floating and nailing Method

The beginning process of installing a bamboo floor via nails or click-together installation is virtually the same, so to save you from having to basically read the same thing twice, I’m just going to highlight the differences.

  • Instead of adhesive prior to application, you’re going to apply the underlayment that was discussed earlier. There are installation instructions that should come with the type of underlayment you get so just make sure you obey them
  • With click lock flooring, begin with the L-Shaped side facing away from the wall, and as you go, you should feel the boards click into place.
  • With tongue and groove bamboo flooring, start with the tongue facing the wall and lay tongue and groove glue along the inside of the grooved area.
  • When nailing the bamboo flooring, try to start with the plank’s tongue at a forty-five-degree angle (if you aren’t able to do this, try pre-drilling the holes.)

Aside from that, the process is the same all the way throughout.

What is Bamboo Flooring Warranty

Bamboo flooring manufacturers all offer some form of warranty. Typically lasting anywhere between 15 years to the lifetime of the floors, and covering everything from the flooring structure to the wear and finish.

All about Bamboo flooring warranty in my extensive blog post.

How Tough is Bamboo Flooring?

Bamboo flooring is tough! The absolute best option to choose when thinking of a durable bamboo flooring option would be strand-woven type. In prespective: It is twice as hard as oak flooring.

In addition bamboo floors are extremely durable and resistant, so all of you animal lovers don’t have to fear about your pets tearing up or scratching your floors. Beside durability, its also slip-resistant, which could save both you and your pets from falling!