When you Make decision to install bamboo flooring in your home can bring about many additional questions related to completing your project. One thing that you must consider is the method that you will use to install your bamboo floors.
There are three primary methods that are used to install bamboo floors: the nail down method, the glue down method, and the floating method. The method you decide to move forward with for installing bamboo floors depends on a few factors, including the type of subfloors that you will be installing over, who will be performing the installation (i.e. a flooring professional vs. a DIY project), and the area of your home where the floors will be installed.
Keep in mind that many manufacturers will recommend an installation method depending on the type of bamboo floors that are purchased (i.e. solid horizontal, solid vertical, strand woven, or engineered), so consider these recommendations during the research process.
Different Methods available when installing Bamboo Flooring
We’ll lay out each of the three installation methods for bamboo flooring, how and when each is or should be used. We will also share some of the pros and cons of each.
Understanding which installation method is best for you can help with determining the work needed and, ultimately, the cost associated with your installation. Instead of providing all of the detailed instructions and a step-by-step guide for each installation method, we wanted to take a step back and provide a simplified view of each method.
Nail down method
The nail down method is one of the most popular when installing bamboo floors as it is typically the option that allows for your floors to be the most sturdy.
How it’s done
This method involves using either a nail or staple to secure the bamboo planks to the subfloor and is ideal for bamboo floors that use the tongue and groove form for installation. It should only be installed over a wood subfloor (like plywood) or over a wood material that is used as the underlayment on top of the subfloor.
Tips using nail down method when installing Bamboo flooris:
- It is recommended that you use a pneumatic nail gun, which can actually help to install the floors more quickly. Keep in mind – if you are unfamiliar with how to use this tool, this may hinder your ability to complete the installation on your own.
- with this method, you’ll have to use some form of moisture blocking layer that will ensure that your floors are exposed to as little moisture as possible.
- this method calls for at least an 8-inch space between the end of the plank and the first nail. While this may differ between manufacturers, it is important to understand the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer in order to ensure that the warranty coverage is not voided.
- Not leaving a large gap in between nails can also result in the planks cracking or snapping.
When and why it’s used
In almost all cases, you will only install bamboo floors using the nail down method when you have a subfloor or underlayment that is made from a wood material such as plywood; this is because it is the only material that will work to secure your bamboo planks using nails.
As you would imagine, using nails to install bamboo floors over concrete would prove to be unsuccessful as the nails would not be able to penetrate the hard surface.
Pros of this method
May provide the best final look and feel
When compared to the other installation methods, the nail-down method offers the most secure feel under your feet. Because you are able to use multiple nails for each plank, you’ll find the there is very little shifting that takes place as long as the nails are installed correctly.
Assuming your underlayment and subfloor are even and have no significant dips, you can expect to hear almost no creaking sounds when walking on bamboo floors. Because of how secure the planks are, you should also see that this method provides the most even and flush look.
Can be installed quickly
When considering which method to move forward with, you may have certain time constraints that limit how flexible you can be during the decision making process. If you’re short on time, the nail down method is often considered the quickest of the installation methods as there is typically no glue involved and no need to use a hammer for the nails.
This will obviously depend on the space where the bamboo floors will be installed and the type of bamboo floors that are chosen, but in nearly all cases, professionals should be able to install bamboo floors using the nail down method in much less time than other methods.
Can be easily repaired
Now, when referring to damage caused by nails coming loose, it is generally an easy task to repair a specific plank or set of planks that are causing issues. If for any reason the planks begin to shift, you should be able to isolate this area of your floor and insert new nails to re-secure the planks with issues.
This is an added bonus as it should prevent you from having to completely pull out all of the planks in order to complete the repair.
Cons of this method
Costs to rent or buy a nail gun
While bamboo floors can be a cost effective option when compared to other types of hardwood floors, one must be mindful of additional costs that can be incurred during the installation process. If this is a job you intend to perform on your own, you can expect to pay a decent amount to purchase or rent a pneumatic nail gun (most of the top models range any where from $200 to $400 and up for purchase).
Additionally, if you have contracted a professional who does not own the tools needed for installation (this may be the case for contractors who do not specialize in flooring, but are still capable of performing the work), you could find yourself paying pretty hefty rental fees that can eat into any savings you may have been expecting.
Can only be used with wood subfloors
As mentioned previously, you’ll want to ensure that you are only using the nail down method when installing over a wood subfloor or underlayment. This may disqualify specific color or shade options of bamboo floors that are meant to be installed using the nail down method if you do not have the required subfloor or underlayment.
Nails can come loose and cause shifting and squeaking of floors
Many consumers looking at bamboo flooring as an option for their space may have read reviews related to how noisy or squeaky bamboo floors can be.
Even though we’ve listed the stability created as a result of this installation method as a pro, it is important to understand that this stability is only achieved if the nails are inserted correctly. Also, if there is a higher-than-average amount of activity taking place on the floors, the nails may come loose over time and cause shifting and squeaking.
Glue down method
How it’s done
Similar to the nail down method, the glue down method has long been a very popular method for installing bamboo floors. The glue down method is typically used for bamboo floors that come in the tongue and groove form, and uses an adhesive to both secure the bamboo planks together and to secure the planks to the subfloor or underlayment.
- Unlike the nail down method, you can install bamboo floors using the glue down method without having to use any power tools during the installation process; this may make this method a bit more attractive to those who are looking to do the work themselves and don’t have a ton of experience with the types of tools needed to nail down bamboo floors.
- Additionally, there are many different subfloor or underlayment options that work for this method. While the glue-down method works over a plywood subfloor, it is also normally recommended as the method that should be used if installing over concrete.
There are a number of popular adhesives used for this method. One of the most popular is Bostik . Some manufacturers may recommend specific brands and products based on their experience tho.
When and why it’s used
You will most often go with the glue down method if you are planning on installing bamboo floors in a space that has concrete. There are specific adhesives that work best for this type of installation that will help ensure proper installation.
It is also common to use this method if you feel more comfortable with the glue down method when compared to the nail down method. Because the process for applying the adhesive is fairly straightforward, this method is often attractive to those who are itching to complete the installation themselves.
Pros of this method
Adhesive provides a water resistant layer
While with the nail down method you’re typically required to add an additional layer of protection from moisture, the adhesive used to install bamboo floors using the glue method almost always acts as a protective layer against moisture.
One of the biggest concerns when installing bamboo floors over concrete is the amount of moisture that can build up underneath the flooring surface and the damage that that moisture can do to bamboo floors. This method ensures that you are much safer from moisture damage as it is recommended that a generous amount of the adhesive is used on every plank.
Should prevent shifting and squeaking
Unlike the con listed above for the nail down methods that involves nails coming loose, the glue down method ensures that your bamboo floors will remain secured to the subfloor for a years if installed correctly. Because of how secure the bamboo planks will be using the adhesive, you should see little to no movement, which should result in almost no squeaks coming from your bamboo floors.
Keep in mind, however, that adhesives come in many different qualities. If a low quality adhesive is chosen, you may see begin to lose its hold much sooner than expected.
Cons of this method
Glue can dry quickly, so installation needs to be done right
Depending on the brand that is used, there are certain adhesives that dry much quicker than others. Because of this, small mistakes like unnecessary gaps between planks and installing a plank at the wrong angle can add up to big headaches throughout the installation process.
It is highly recommended that the floor be laid out without apply any adhesive to ensure you feel confident about where each plank will be placed. If there is any cutting or shaping of planks that needs to take place, this should be handled before the glue down work begins.
Method may not be approved by manufacturer
As mentioned previously, some manufacturers suggest a specific installation method depending on the type that is chosen. While it may still be OK to move forward with the glue down method for installation, understand that this may cause you to lose any warranty coverage that was offered at purchase.
Added cost of purchasing adhesive
As with the additional costs that arise when using the nail down method, one must consider the additional cost of the adhesive for the glue down method. In our research, we’ve found that most brand offer a 4 – 5 gallon bucket of adhesive for $150+. Depending on the space where the bamboo floors will be installed, you may needed to buy more than one bucket, which could add up quickly.
How it’s done
Often referred to as the easiest method for those who want to install bamboo floors themselves, the floating method was created to make the installation process much more seamless for your average joes and professionals alike. The floating method involves connecting the bamboo planks together using either the click-lock form of bamboo floors with no adhesive, or the tongue and groove method using a small amount of adhesive or none at all.
- As with the glue down method, the floating method can be used when installing over a variety of different flooring types.
- We often see this installation method used for engineered bamboo floors, which may be because of the additional durability found in the mixed wood or plywood base layer.
- The ridges found on click-lock bamboo floors create a strong connection between planks that should help alleviate the concern related to planks coming loose and shifting over time.
When and why it’s used
While the nail down and glue down methods have historically been the most popular methods for installing bamboo floors, the floating method made bamboo floors more realistic option for those who were looking to save money by not having to hire a contractor and installing themselves.
Due to the flexibility of what subfloor or underlayment bamboo floors can be installed over, over time, more manufacturers began producing bamboo floors that were compatible with the floating method. It is also often used by contractors who have the capability of using other methods, but don’t want to deal with the added materials needed to install using nail down or glue down.
Pros of this method
Can be installed over many flooring types, including pre-existing floors
While you are limited in what subfloor or underlayment you can have with other installation methods, the added benefit of being able to use the floating method to install bamboo floors even your pre-existing floors are still in place can be a huge cost savings.
Adding a new floor to your space without having to take out your existing floors can help to prevent the need to pay for a contractor to remove your old floors, or save your the time you’ll need to invest to do the work yourself.
Best option for DIY-ers
Many consumers are moving towards more DIY projects for their homes, and flooring installations are one of the primary home improvement projects that are moving from hiring contractors to doing it on your own. Once you understand how often floors are being replaced and how much the labor costs are, it is fairly easy to see why consumers are moving in this direction.
The floating method offers a way for consumer to get the work done on their own while also offering some additional flexibility when it comes to fixing mistakes made during installation. Because there is typically not glue or nails involved, it is possible to disassemble bamboo planks and re-click correctly without the need to remove nails or peel off glue.
Cons of this method
Have to install a moisture barrier
Since glue isn’t used to adhere the bamboo planks to the subfloor, you will find that the extra layer of moisture protection is missing. The floating method requires that an additional barrier be added before installing the bamboo floors to protect against moisture.
Floors may shift and move over time
As we’ve stated, bamboo floors using the tongue and groove form can be installed using the floating method. The concern here is that the bamboo planks aren’t as secure with tongue and groove when compared to click-lock floors.
If no adhesive is applied or not enough adhesive is applied, you may have large areas of your floor that shift under enough pressure. This may call for the need to perform additional work to ensure your bamboo planks are secure and stay put.
Things to consider before choosing a method
Bamboo flooring acclimation is a step that should never be skipped regardless of what installation method is used. Not allowing your bamboo floors to adjust to the climate and environment where they will be installed can result in above average shrinking and expansion that can lead to warping, swelling, and cracking.
Along the same lines as the point above, you can expect for there to be some expansion that takes place after your floors are installed. Be sure to refer to the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer to understand how much of an expansion gap they recommend based on the installation method.
Wrapping things up
We know that simply choosing which bamboo floors you want to go with may be a stressful process. For that reason, we wanted to provide relevant information about processes that occur after your floors are chosen to ensure you feel empowered to make choices that will ultimately be best for your space.
If you are interested in doing the work yourself and aren’t confident that you have the skills needed, or are having trouble which installation method is best for your project, you should reach out to a flooring professional that is familiar with bamboo as a flooring material that will help guide you before moving forward.