Installing Bamboo Floors
Installing bamboo follows closely in how traditional hardwood is installed, but one thing is clear; be careful. Why? Some bamboos are quite soft in that they can ding and dent quite easily. Probably the best advice here is protect the floor after each section is installed. More on this topic is covered below.
With any type of installation, critical steps to success should be performed before starting. These include acclimation, moisture testing, and proper floor preparation. Generally the lack of floor preparation is one of the leading reasons for failure. In a nutshell, all subfloors should be flat while allowing a tolerance of 3/16" over a span of 8-10 feet. For more on all these topics, follow my floor preparation articles.
Nailed or Stapled
If you have a wood subfloor the direct fastening method seems to be the preference. Originally many manufacturers did not provide specifications, rather they assumed most installers were safe in following standard methods which included stapling. In recent years more guidelines have surfaced that includes the use of 18 gauge cleat nails over staples that eliminate or cut down on tongue splitting; a result that can create squeaky floors.
Products now being recommended by larger manufacturers include the Powernail 50P or Primatech Q550 specifically when it comes to the harder, more popular stand flooring varieties.
Guidelines for nail down procedures should be similar to that of common hardwoods. Fasten every 6-8" on center (OC) and approximately 2" away from each end joint. Always keep a good eye on nail penetration. These tools are pneumatic and fasteners will not seat properly if the air pressure is too low or high. Failure to monitor can result in crushed board tongues (high pressure) that can result in squeaking, or adjacent board surface dimples or bumps (low pressure) once the floor is installed.
Too often I hear, "they said we could float this floor." Not all products can be installed by the floating floor method, specifically solid products. Wider engineered or cross ply products should only be considered for floating. Floating floors are installed over various types of underlayment providing a cushioned feel. Some more popular basic underlayments include three in one (3-1) types that provide cushion and moisture protection for concrete subfloors.
Click or glue? Click or snap lock products have become popular with the DIY crowd in laminate, hardwood, and bamboo. How long they hold up has always been on many installers minds. As of this update, September 20, 2014, we're glad to report these systems are holding up well but should be avoided near areas of potential moisture. Glued type floaters require the application of Titebond adhesive into the groove of the boards when installing. The consensus favors glued type floating over others.
Floating floors need expansion area as do other types of installations. Often misinformed salespeople confuse laminate flooring expansion with hardwood or bamboo. Laminate manufacturers use 5/16" as a guide. Our suggestion; play it safe and allow as much expansion as possible. Small layouts or square rooms may only need 3/8" expansion, but if the installation flows into other rooms and runs in excess of 40 feet or thereabouts, more expansion area should be allowed. Do not butt or install any floating systems against a fixed object such as fireplace hearths, columns and the like. Failure to heed this advice will result in tenting or buckled flooring.
Glue Down Floors
Across the website you'll find we don't consider gluedown installations for do it yourselfers. But we realize many are determined. If considering such, it is important to use the recommended adhesive! With many brands being sold without installation specifications, what is one to do?
Manufacturers that do make the effort, specify urethane type adhesives such as Bostiks (example shown above). Water based adhesives should be avoided! Our suggestion; buy the more expensive urethane glue and sleep better at night. The others will cause severe cupping within a matter of days and your new floor could be permanently ruined.
Installation Costs? Protect As You Go
Labor rates for installation follow closely with that of common wood floors but will vary from one region to another, including your hometown. As with any prefinished floor, care should be given priority, especially during the installation process. Always keep work areas clean of debris and cover already completed areas with cardboard, masonite board or other thicker protective materials and sweep frequently.
In earlier years we heard numerous complaints about bamboo and their performance. Often a salesperson not familiar with the product is to blame and not the product itself. Many put too much emphasis on the durability as being almost indestructible; harder than oak or maple and more. The complaints reminded us of the same when laminate flooring became popular in the mid to late 'nineties.
There are differences in hardness, an often used selling point. As you'll notice on other pages, not all products are the same. Some will be more consistent in color from one board to the next while others can offer a wide variation (example above). With any type of bamboo or wood floor, always utilize three or four cartons when installing to obtain a better distribution of color.