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How to Refinish Bamboo Floors and Stain them Properly

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Bamboo floors are both beautiful and durable. Their durability gives them very long life spans, upwards of 25 years, even in some cases 50 years. What you might not have known, is that bamboo floors can change color over time. They can either lighten or darken. This change in color is due primarily to exposure to UV rays, and even excessive heat. If they start to look odd, rough and furthermore with lots of scuffs and scratches, you may consider refinish bamboo floors.

How to Refinish Bamboo Floors and Stain them Properly

I’ll walk you through the steps needed to refinish your bamboo floors properly and get them look new again. After the step by step guide, I’ll answer some commonly asked questions. 

Before you jump in, you might be interested in: How to clean Bamboo floors? as well

How to Refinish Your Bamboo Floors?

Gather your supplies before starting. You will need:

  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Respirator
  • 60, 80, and 100 grit sandpaper
  • Polyurethane floor finish
  • Polyurethane sealer
  • 120 grit sanding screen
  • Flooring drum sander
  • Flooring edger
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Pad Sander
  • Paint pad or floor finish applicator
  • Floor buffer

Step 1: Prepare your room

Your room needs to be isolated first. When bamboo flooring is sanded, it can releases VOCs into the air because of the adhesives that are used to press and hold the bamboo fibers together.

Below tips will help you prepare your room before sanding bamboo floors :

  1. You need to cover all air vents, and doors to the house with plastic sheets to prevent the released VOCs from entering the house airstream.
  2. Open windows to the outside.
  3. If you’re refinishing in a room that has an exhaust fan, you can turn that on to help you out. Exhaust fans pull the air out of the room and vent it to the outside.

Step 2: First Sanding

Remove all the baseboards, and put on your mask before you start sanding. Put the 60-grit sandpaper on the flooring drum sander and sand at an angle to the grain of the bamboo. The angle is necessary because it will help reduce the chances of splinters raising. Sand the edges with 60 grit sandpaper on the flooring edger for the edges that the drum sander cannot reach.

Step 3: Vacuuming

Vacuum. Bamboo when sanded will get fuzzy and cause lots of dust (and VOCs). Vacuum up all the dust before proceeding. Your respirator should still be worn.

Step 4: Second and Final Sanding

First pass with the flooring drum sander should be 80 grit sandpaper, and then the same with the flooring edger (also 80 grit) after Vacuum up dust and debris, if it is not attached to your sander. After repeat the process with 100 grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Wipe Down and Check for Splinters

Wipe down vacuumed floor with a tack cloth after the third and final sanding. I recommend trimaco tack cloth from Amazon. I have tried several. This is by far the best.

Tip: While wiping down be vigilant for splinters. After Leave and let the floor dry.

Step 6: Apply Sealer

Use your paint pad, or floor finish applicator (preferred) to apply a coat of polyurethane sealer. Follow instructions on your sealer for drying time.

Step 7: Buffing

You will use the floor buffer with a 120-grit sanding screen to buff the sealer.

Step 8: Two Coats of Finish Buffing in Between

Vacuum up any potential dust after buffing, and apply a coat of polyurethane floor finish. Let dry according to the floor finish label recommendations and then buff again with the 120-grit sanding screen. Repeat cleaning up any dust and apply second and final layer of polyurethane floor finish. Let dry, leaving the any outdoor windows open for air circulation.

Helpful Tips for Refinishing: 

  1. You will need to wear a respirator the entire time you are working this project.
  2. You can typically rent the heavier duty machinery from a local hardware store.
  3. Enlist a friend to help you. Having another set of hands and eyes could help this heavy-duty DIY project go more quickly, and they can help you catch things that you might have missed.
  4. Schedule this project while your house is empty. Send your family on a weekend trip get away to reduce the risk of their breathing harmful VOCs while you are working.
  5. Use oil-based polyurethane products instead of water-based.

Which bamboo floors can be refinished?

Whenever you’re looking to make a big decision about flooring, and especially when you’re leaning toward wood floors, you typically want to know if in the future you’ll be able to refinish your floors if they need a face lift.

The High quality bamboo floors are typically produced by compressing 5 or more layers of bamboo in order to increase the sturdiness. These type of floors can be refinished multiple times in order to get back their original look.

Where this becomes complicated is when manufacturers are using only few layers of bamboo for top wear layer. In these case, layer can be so thin that you can actually split, crack, or permanently damage your floors when sanding them during refinishing process. .

NOTE: If you are unsure about the thickness of your floors and you haven't checked when buying, ask flooring professional to come out to have a look. 

Why refinishing your Bamboo floors may not be the best idea?

Beside buying bamboo floors with cheap and thin wear layer there are three more reasons why redfinishing may not be best idea.

1. You may void your warranty

Whether you are planning on purchasing or already have bamboo floors, be sure to read the fine print on your warranty pertaining to reasons why your warranty can be voided. There are retailers and manufacturers that will actually void your warranty should you decide to refinish your bamboo floors.

2. Your bamboo floors are thin and you’ve already refinished previously

Depending on the thickness of your bamboo floors, you may be pushing the limits when it comes to the number of times your floors can be refinished.

Most manufacturers list the thickness of their floors on the packaging which should help with understanding how many times and how often you’ll be able to refinish your floors.

If you refinish your floors too many times, you may run the risk of cracks appearing in your bamboo planks.

3. Your bamboo floors are showing other signs of wear that should be addressed before refinishing

Like many other flooring types, bamboo floors are susceptible to issues that may need to be addressed more immediately.

If your floors have swelled, shrunk, cracked, or warped, it may be time for a separate solution before you refinish. Allowing yourself time to address these concerns before refinishing will help with making sure your floors are in the right condition before refinishing work begins.

What signs tell you to refinish your bamboo flooring?

If you’re wondering whether or not it is time for your bamboo floors to be refinished, here are a few signs that will help with the decision making:

  • Excessive surface-level scratches that have spread throughout most of the surface area of your bamboo floors
  • Signs of discoloring that have spread and are noticeable: If you are seeing extreme cases of discoloring, you may be overdue.
  • If your bamboo floors have excessive water damage in more than just an isolated area: This may be the case in areas with high humidity or entry points of your home.

Can Bamboo Floors Be Sanded? 

Yes, they can, but only if they are at least 2mm thick. Sanding your bamboo floor is part of the process for refinishing. This performs the necessary function of removing the layer of finishing. Ito refinish bamboo floors they can’t be previously sanded and refinished. Check this before starting a project.

Screen and Recoat

However, you may not need to sand your floors, you can instead do what is called a screen and recoat, which uses a buffer to scuff up the floor with a sanding screen. The screen and recoat process won’t actually expose the bamboo, so it won’t cause any splintering nor will it release as many VOCs as the refinishing process.

Should Bamboo Floors be stained?

Bamboo is a grass plant, not actually a wood tree. It contains adhesives to hold and press the fibers together which means it isn’t very porous. It may absorb a stain unevenly, or in patches. If you are determined to try to stain your bamboo floor, I would strongly urge you to test an inconspicuous space first to see if you like the results.

TIP: If you choose to stain your bamboo floor, you'll probably have better success by using an oil-based stain over a water-based one.

What about refinishing Carbonized bamboo?

If your bamboo floors are darker colored, then they have not been stained like a hardwood floor but instead have been treated through a process called carbonization.

If you’re refinishing a carbonized bamboo floor, you don’t need to worry about losing the color during the process. Carbonized bamboo planks are colored all the way through because it’s a treatment done to the bamboo itself, not a stain.

How Much Does it Cost to Refinish Bamboo Floors?

Refinishing bamboo floors is not a light DIY task, it’s intensive and requires specialized tools and a large time commitment. I’d recommend hiring a professional if you can afford it. Nevertheless, the process is similar to that of refinishing a hardwood floor. You can expect to spend $2 per square foot if you do it yourself and anywhere from $3-$4 per square foot if you hire a professional.

You may not need to refinish your bamboo floors. If you have just a few places with scruffs and scratches, you may only need to do some spot repair instead of refinishing the entire floor. If it’s just spot treatments for scratches you need, hop over to my post, “How do you get scratches out of bamboo floors?” for information and tips on how to take them on.

How long do bamboo floors last?

Quality bamboo floors are even harder than hardwood floors. They are very durable and because of that durability, you can expect your them to last 25 years, and even closer to 50 years when they are well cared for. The lighter colored bamboo floors are typically longer lasting and more durable as well.

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