- 1. Before You Start
- 2. Nailing Installation
- 3. Gluing Installation
- 4. Floating Installation
Bamboo Flooring Installation
Follow the instructions below for a long-lasting and beautiful floor
We recommend that you always follow your bamboo floor manufacturer’s installation guide, as parts may vary from the instructions below, which is just a general guide. In the information age, it has become pretty easy to do home projects on your own. You can learn everything you need to know, watch videos about it, ask questions of experts, and so on. That said, it’s still very important to read the instructions for your particular flooring and make sure you have the right tools and know-how before you get started installing bamboo flooring.
To know what tools you’ll need, figure out what type of installation makes the most sense for your space. Your options are:
This means you can fix the planks to the floor with glue, nails, or simply lock the pieces together and lay them down as one unit. To know which kind of installation you should use, you need to consider your subfloor and other characteristics of the room. Don’t just pick the installation method based on your love of hammers or trowels.
Before You Start: Bamboo Floors Pre-Installation
Before you start installing your bamboo flooring, you need to plan the project and prepare the area.
Check the general conditions in your house.
- In the room where you’ll be installing the flooring, ensure temperature and humidity are normal for a minimum of 5 days before installation. You will want to maintain those levels after installation, where possible.
- It can be a good idea to get a moisture meter to check not only the moisture of your planks to ensure acclimation, but also to check the moisture of the subfloor to be sure it’s ready for flooring installation.
- Some areas with extreme climates may require more time for proper flooring acclimation.
- If you are in the middle of building or remodeling, wait until everything is securely enclosed, dry, and set. Be sure all outside windows and doors are in place. Excessive moisture caused by the slab or plaster drying should be completely dissipated before the flooring is placed as well.
Flooring should be removed from the box and allowed to acclimate on site at least 5 days before installation. Some people like to just slice open the boxes, but really get that bamboo out and about to be sure it’s getting used to your house. You can use a moisture meter to check moisture levels in both the subfloor and the bamboo flooring before installation. If there is a 3% or more difference between the two, do not install the floor yet. Allow for more time to acclimate. During this time, you can also move planks between the packages, mixing any possible color differences evenly so that there’s no visible pattern from installing one box at a time.
Your sub-floor needs to be clean, dry, and flat before you start and while you install your flooring. If you are removing carpet, be sure to follow instructions for removal of all tack strips as well as tacks, staples, or nails. Watch where you step!
Other types of flooring can leave residue or debris as well, so use the correct tools to remove all of these things before sweeping and vacuuming. Make certain your floor is free of dirt, wax, oil, paint, curing agents and other contaminants that would interfere with adhesive bond. Old resilient floors can be covered provided above conditions apply.
The maximum allowable variance in your subfloor is 1/8″ over eight linear feet. That means you don’t want your floor to have much variation in height or else your floor will end up jacked up. Check the subfloor for any inconsistencies and remedy any slumps or high spots as necessary. You may have to use self-leveling concrete or other products to ensure your subfloor is level (especially if you have an older home).
There are many possibilities for underlayments to put on your subfloor. What you pick depends on the flooring, type of installation, and your favorite color. Nah, don’t pick based on color because you won’t see this anyway. Underlayments include foam, felt, cork, or rubber. The material may or may not have an attached vapor barrier to prevent moisture problems. It’s a good idea to include vapor barrier over concrete subfloors (where moisture can migrate) or over a crawl space.
It’s important to inspect all of the planks as they are installed. Before that, you can inspect the product while unwrapping packages as you prepare them to acclimate to your setting. This is a good time to do the double-duty of moving planks between the packages, simultaneously looking them over while mixing the packages to ensure a nice mix of shades and eliminating the possible blotchiness you could get installing from just one box at a time. Bamboo flooring manufacturers attempt to identify the contents based on the general shade, but there’s still a range of variation within these categories and colors. Color determination is subjective, and natural products are unpredictable in color consistency.
To mix during installation, a good rule of thumb is to work out of three separate cartons. Alternate planks from each carton to produce a floor with a pleasing collage of colors. Some people prefer to lay down several planks at a time without installing them, to switch planks around based on color and length before fixing them together. Installers are the last step in quality control and are required to inspect each plank prior to nailing or gluing it in place.
Even with a high-quality bamboo floor, up to 5% of your flooring can have defects (which is one reason you should order some extra), but many of these off-quality planks can be used as starter pieces or fillers depending on the defect. Don’t toss them if you find icky pieces while inspecting the boxes.
Installing Over Radiant Heat
Installation over radiant heat often isn’t warranted by the manufacturers but many people do it with no problems. If you are installing radiant heat bamboo floors, there are a few things to know. You should not use nails. Instead, gluing down is a safe and comprehensive installation method. Gluing directly to a concrete slab may be done at or above grade. Do not use glue to install below grade.
Installing Bamboo Flooring with Nails
In this method, the bamboo floor is nailed down to a wood subfloor. It is the traditional way of installing bamboo floor, and the installer uses a pneumatic nail gun with nails, staples, or cleats. You can predrill holes or use a manual nailer, but oh boy is that slow and a big pain in the butt compared to using a pneumatic nailer! They are available to rent if you’re doing this job yourself, so make sure to check around. Strand woven bamboo flooring requires an 18 gauge cleat nailer, as thicker cleats or staples won’t work or may result in goose dimples.
Most manufacturers recommend felt paper, red rosin paper or foam underlayment over the subfloor, and these materials should not overlap at the seams. 3 in 1 underlayments protect against moisture that can migrate along the floor, and it also makes your floors quieter. Solid bamboo flooring and many types of engineered bamboo can be installed this way—with a wood subfloor, underlayment, and nails.
When planning how to install your floor using the nail-down method, begin laying out the planks perpendicular to the floor joists, square with the room. Usually this puts your planks parallel to the longest dimension, saving time and cutting less. Laying it perpendicular to floor joists makes for a nice and secure floor, but there’s no reason not to lay the floor diagonally if you want a unique look. It’s just more difficult to install this way as planks have to be cut precisely and on an angle.
If you are not going perpendicular to floor joists, some sources suggest adding ¼” plywood to the subfloor. For square lines, use a chalk line to ensure your planks are straight. Leave a ¼” to ½” space around the base plate or wall to ensure some room for movement of the planks without buckling or squeaking against walls. Nobody wants an uneven or squeaky brand new floor!
As You Go
Ensure starter rows are firmly in place by nailing the planks to the subfloor. After the first row, subsequent rows can be nailed through the tongue (ouch! Just kidding, the tongue is the small lip that fits under the next piece of flooring). Nail at a 45-50 degree angle, preferably with a nailer that maintains this angle. Space nails at about 8-10 inch intervals with at least two per plank, and always be sure to put one within three inches of the end of a plank. Usually the last two rows will have to be face nailed since a nailer won’t fit between your work area and the wall.
Strand Woven Bamboo Floor Installation with Nails
Here’s an example of a strand woven bamboo floor that is installed using the nail-down method. Grab your mallet!
Installing Bamboo Flooring with Glue
Similar to flooring tile, bamboo floor can be installed with glue. This method works on plywood or concrete subfloors. Be sure to prepare the subfloor as with other methods, removing debris, sweeping, and cleaning carefully. The adhesive acts as an underlayment barrier, so do not use an underlayment. The glue will adhere directly to the floor.
Bamboo Floor Adhesive
Bamboo flooring should be glued down using a moisture resistant flooring adhesive (specifically a urethane adhesive). Water-based adhesives should not be used for securing your bamboo flooring to the subfloor. Use a premium wood flooring adhesive to ensure good adhesion and consistent quality. Bad glue can really ruin your weeekend!
Take extra care to follow the adhesive manufacturer’s guidelines for safe use, storage, and handling of any adhesives. Flooring adhesives can be hard to remove from skin and will adhere permanently to clothing, so make sure to wear protective gear including pants and shirts with long sleeves as well as gloves. Read adhesive instructions carefully to ensure you have the proper trowel size and allow enough time for the glue to set. Be sure to allow adequate ventilation during the procedure.
These are the two main ways adhesives are used to glue a bamboo floor to concrete or plywood subfloor:
- Wet Lay Method – Apply adhesive to substrate with suitable trowel, immediately place flooring onto “wet” adhesive. Wipe any adhesive that may have gotten on the top of the plank.
- Walk-on-Work Method – Apply adhesive to substrate with suitable trowel and allow it to develop tack (may take an hour or more depending on temperature and humidity). Install flooring onto “tacky” adhesive. Immediately roll finished installation with 150 pound roller.
Tips for Gluing Bamboo Flooring
- After applying a section of adhesive to the subfloor with a trowel, the bamboo flooring planks should be immediately placed down with the groove facing the wall. If you’re doing the wet lay method, start with the outside wall and spread no more glue than you can cover in about a forty-minute period (for most people this is 100 to 200 square feet).
- Always clean any adhesive that comes in contact with the face of the plank immediately. There are special wipes you can buy from the adhesive manufacturers exactly for this purpose.
- The room, flooring and adhesive should be conditioned at room temperature for 72 hours before and after installation.
- While it sets, make sure the floor has not budged out of alignment, and be careful not to let installed floor move on the wet adhesive. Walk on or use a flooring roller over the flooring foot-by-foot within 30 minutes of laying the floor to ensure a solid bond with the adhesive. Flooring planks around the edge of your room may require weights to help them bond since those areas are difficult to fully walk on.
Installing Floating Bamboo Flooring
Floating floors can be great for certain settings, like in older houses. Not all bamboo flooring can be installed by the floating method, however, specifically solid and strand woven products. Wider engineered, radiant heat, or cross ply products should only be floated. The term floating refers to the fact that the floor is attached to itself usually by clicking together, but is not attached to the sub floor. It can be installed over various types of cushion underlayment. This method is suitable with any subfloor and is especially recommended for radiant heat or below grade installations.
Keep in mind with floating floor installation that you’ll want to leave about a half an inch gap around the perimeter of the room. If you run planks all the way to the wall without a gap, you risk creaking and buckling. Don’t toss scrap pieces of flooring! You can use them to help bump planks together.
Overall, a floating floor is pretty easy installation! Just make sure this is the right method for your setting and for the flooring you choose.
Floating Floor Tips
Here’s a video with some great tips about why to do a floating floor and how to make sure installation goes swimmingly!
Bamboo Flooring Installation Tips
Before you start laying those planks and gathering your glue, here are some final tips for installing your bamboo floor.
- All planked flooring should be installed perpendicular to your flooring joist.
- Floating floors should not to exceed 16 inches wide without an expansion gap for solid bamboo.
- If you are installing your own bamboo floor, consider renting equipment instead of buying everything you need.
- Particleboard will not adequately hold fasteners. It is not considered an acceptable subfloor material, so make sure you avoid this.
- Ask your bamboo floor supplier or manufacturer for recommendations on how to properly tackle installation.