Bamboo Floor F.A.Q. - Installation

Common questions related to bamboo floor installation

We do not provide installation services, but have no fear as there are many high-quality contractors in your state and the majority will be eager to provide a free estimate over the phone or in the comfort of your own home.  We recommend that you check out this article: 7 Tips For Choosing A Floor Installer


Nail down.
This is the most economical installation method, and it's the fastest after the floating method.  The drawback is that over a long period of time nails can come loose due to repeated seasonal cycles (expansion and contraction), resulting in a squeaky floor.   For nail down installations you'll want to use a 15 lb felt paper or similar as underlayment.  You'll want to make sure to only use 18 gauge cleats; using the wrong cleat thickness may result in dimpling or goosebumps in your strand bamboo floor.  Make sure to choose L cleats as staples will typically fail on thicker 9/16" thick floors (but may be suitable for some 3/8" thick products depending on the strength of your nailer).  We recommend using a Primatech Q550 Nailer or a Powernail 50P Flex Nailer for all strand bamboo nail down installations.

Glue down
. While this is the most expensive and labor-intensive method, it is also considered the most stable method as the glue provides sound and moisture insulation, and the elasticity in the glue allows the floor to expand and contract naturally with the seasons.  Our floors can be glued down to a multitude of surfaces.  Be sure to check out the Acceptable Subfloor Types table in our installation instructions. If you're gluing down over plywood you can use a basic bamboo flooring glue, but if you're going over a slab you'll wan to choose an all-in-one glue for bamboo flooring over concrete. Remember that it's important to use the correct trowel in tandem with the glue you've chosen.  If you use the wrong trowel you may not get the correct spread rate, causing your floor to fail.  This can be a very expensive mistake!

Floating. The advantage to a click-lock floating floor is the ease of installation as it is less time consuming to install.  It is also easier to repair floating floors should you ever have a leak or other problem.  The disadvantage is that, unless your home has stable indoor humidity year-around (meaning it stays within a 30% range the whole year), you are limited in the length of the continuous runs of flooring you can lay.  Across the widths of the planks (tangentially) you are limited to 25 feet with engineered floating floors and 15 feet with solid floating floors.  Running down the lengths of the planks (longitudinally) you are limited to 45 feet with engineered floating floors and 25 feet with solid floating floors.  For this type of installation we recommend you use a 3 in 1 underlayment. 

Both click-lock and tongue and groove floors can be floated however tongue and groove floors are time-consuming because you have to apply a bead of glue along the entire length of the inside bottom groove of every plank.  As mentioned in the paragraph above, unless you have very stable/constant interior humidity settings year-round you'll also need to be very careful to mind the recommended maximum run lengths.
Due to the density of strand woven flooring, we recommend only using a high PSI, high quality pneumatic nailer, such as the Powernail 50P Flex or the Primatech Q550.  These nail guns require an air compressor.  You must use an 18 gage cleat, as larger cleats will cause dimpling.  Staple guns will not work on strand woven floors. 

For moldings installation you may need to use a Bostich Porter 23 gage micro nailer or similar gun. 

For all guns, make sure cleats and nails are set properly before continuing to the next row, failure to do so may result in goosebumps/dimpling.  You may need to try several pressure/PSI settings before finding a setting that will work – test on sacrificial planks.  Ensure the connector hose, seal and air compressor are fully functional and have no tears or defects.  

If you do not use the correct nail gun or cleat size, you may get dimpling in your floors. Read this important document about goosebumps and dimpling in strand woven bamboo.
Our bamboo floors must be acclimated for a period of 72 hours prior to installation, and we recommend an additional 72 hours for geographic areas of high or low humidity.  
Do not acclimate the floors on top of concrete, carpet with concrete under it, crawl spaces or any other sub-floor that may contain moisture, without first laying a 6mm polyethelyne plastic barrier down, or the flooring will soak up the moisture from the concrete and shrink post-installation.  If acclimating the floor on a radiant heat sub-system, ensure that the system is turned on during acclimation.

First, stack the boxes up to 5 high, with each stack located at least 3 feet away from the next.  Cross-stacking is preferable if you have the space.  
Once the boxes are stacked, use a box cutter or sharp knife to cut each box down one entire side lengthwise, and also the end flaps.  Make sure to also cut open the interior plastic so that the floors really breathe. 

Ensure that the flooring is acclimated in an environment (temperature + humidity) that will closely match the environment in which the floor will used in.  Remember that you must keep your interior humidity settings between 40%-60% (as for all wood floors) or you may experience increased expansion and contraction.
Yes, we recommend ordering 10% extra for cutting and waste.  If you have one or two large rooms that are square, and you are careful making cuts, you can probably get away with 7%.  Also keep in mind that your flooring lot is unique, so it is a good idea to hold on to a few extra boxes in case you ever need to make a repair down the line (you will have the same lot handy to make the repair instead of scrambling to find a lot that matches).
You should follow two basic rules when choosing a wood flooring adhesive:

1) If you're gluing the floor down to plywood or any other approved substrate, you'll want to use a zero VOC 100% urethane trowel-down adhesive approved for wood flooring installation.  When installing over plywood you don’t need glue that contains a moisture barrier unless there is a crawl space or other moist environment under your sub-floor.  If there is a crawl space, make sure to follow our installation instructions which provide a complete set of floor prep guidelines.

2) If you're gluing the floor down to concrete or any other sub-floor that may be emitting moisture, most of these cases will require an adhesive that contains a moisture barrier.  These adhesives are slightly more expensive than basic adhesives but well-worth the investment. We sell a great zero VOC adhesive with moisture barrier  that works not only for bamboo but for all types of wood floors and even some tile, and it comes with the bonus of also having a sound barrier, so many of our clients use it on their upstairs floors to keep noise levels down.  Important: always make sure to use the the correct trowel style and size for the type of adhesive you select or you may not get enough coverage on the floor and this will cause the installation to fail. 

About Moisture In Concrete.  Most concrete slabs emit moisture for up to 25 years after being poured, and installing installing a floor over such a slab is easy to do, however as with any other job done right you want to make sure you have the right tools, and adhesive, on hand.  Moisture is measured in pounds on concrete slabs. Basic adhesives usually protect up to about 3 pounds of moisture. Meaning, if you test the concrete and it comes back higher than 3, you need an adhesive that contains a moisture barrier. 

Keep in mind that moisture tests only test the moisture on any given day.  A slab may read 8 lbs per square foot one day but then it rains for a week and the moisture rating jumps to 14.  Our glue with moisture barrier mentioned above protects your floor up to 15 pounds of moisture per square foot which is very high and usually more than enough for all jobs.  There are also unlimited vapor barrier glues on the market but they are very expensive and typically only used for "wet" slabs. 
Most designers and installers will lay the flooring lengthwise longitudinally so that it is parallel to the longest run or wall in the installation.  There are some exceptions, but this is a general rule of thumb.

As to the direction of the flooring planks in relation to the joists below the sub-floor, this depends on several factors mostly related to the current condition of the sub-floor.  If the subfloor is observed to be sagging, it is recommended that you install the planks in a perpendicular direction compared to the joists.  This is a call you'll want your installer to make as he/she will need to inspect the sub-floor prior to installation.

All of the information below can be found on our detailed flooring installation instructions document.  We also recommend reading this informative post on our blog. 

Important Note About Crawl Spaces:  Many wood floors fail due to the failure of the installer to address moisture in crawl spaces.  If you have a crawl space under your home or new flooring, you must properly remedy this moisture.

  • You must have a high quality vapor barrier or moisture insulation (with 100% blockage) or the moisture coming up from the crawl space will damage the flooring. A ground layer cover is required - must be 6mm minimum black polyethylene with joints overlapping at least 6 inches, and sealed with moisture-resistant tape.There must be a minimum of 18′′ from the ground to underside of joists, the polyethelene should also extend at least 6" up the block walls and be sealed there as well, and it should have perimeter venting equal to at least 1.5% of the crawl space total square footage. The vents should be properly placed for cross-ventilation.  We recommend you read this document about what happens when crawl spaces are not sealed.

Important Note About Installing Over An Unconditioned Space (such as a garage):  Subfloor moisture penetration of improperly sealed sub-floors over unconditioned spaces is a common cause of wood floor failure.   If you are gluing the floor down over such a space, you must use a 100% urethane adhesive that contains a moisture barrier.  If you are nailing the floor down over such a space, you will need to follow these steps:

  • In an unfinished space, staple a 6mm plastic sheet to the ceiling of the unconditioned space with joints overlapping at least 6 inches, and seal with moisture-resistant tape.  In a finished space, coat the ceiling with two layers of high-gloss paint.

  • Lay down two layers of 15 lb asphalt saturated felt paper at a 90 degree angle to each other over the plywood before beginning the nail down installation. Thus, lay down the first layer and be careful not to overlap the rolls as this may cause an un-level surface.  Once the first layer is down, install the second layer at a 90 degree angle and care not to overlap 

You have two options over a concrete slab.  One is to glue down any of our tongue and groove flooring, just ensure to use an adhesive that contains a moisture barrier (such as our Bilders Ultimate), along with the correct V-Notch ¼in trowel.  Option two is to float any of our click-lock engineered floors over a 3 in 1 underlayment (which contains a vapor barrier).
You can glue down or nail down solid floors to a plywood subfloor.  You can also float engineered floors over plywood.  If you want sound insulation, use the glue down method and an adhesive that has a sound barrier in it.  If you want sound control and you are floating the floor, choose a high quality 3 in 1 underlayment with the highest STC/IIC rating you can find.
You can glue down or float over tile.  If gluing down you may need to scrape the tile first so that the glue will bond to it.  Our list of acceptable subfloor types is in our installation instructions:  Click here to download the instructions.
For nail down installations we recommend that you use either 15 lb felt paper (asphalt saturated roofing paper, essentially) or red rosin paper.   The 3 in 1 foam underlayments are only recommended for floating click lock floors.
Absolutely, however you will need to order 15% extra for cutting and waste instead of the usual 10% extra.
A piano is fine.  A piece of furniture with legs, or with just a few points of contact with the floor, is fine.  For pieces of furniture without legs - is the piece of furniture flat across the bottom, and how long is it in comparison to the run of flooring it will sit on?  The reason we ask is, in a floating installation you want to avoid "pinning" a long row of successive flooring planks across the widths of the planks, and more so if that run of planks takes up a large section of the overall run.  This is more applicable across the widths of the planks (tangentially) than down the lengths of the planks (longitudinally). The floor needs to expand and contract during seasonal cycles, and pinning the planks down will inhibit this movement and may cause gaps to form between the planks.  This is why, for example, we don't recommend installation of floating flooring under kitchen cabinets.  If the bottom of the furniture is flat and it stretches across the widths of the planks for more than 50% of that given run, and it's over 200 lbs, we recommend gluing or nailing the floor down.  Otherwise you'll be fine.

Our solid (wood all the way through) floors can be put under cabinets if they are being nailed down or glued down.  Floating floors of any kind should not be installed under cabinets.  This is because you do not want to pin down an entire side of a room of floating floors as it will inhibit their ability to expand and contract naturally. 

If your existing floor is clean and level, you can usually nail down a wood floor to it without issue.  Gluing down to it is a little trickier, as it requires sanding first which can create hazardous emissions.  In case of either option, we highly recommend that you seek the assistance of an experienced flooring professional.
Mainly, you must ensure that the sub-floor is level, dry, and free of debris.  As for approved subfloor types, please ensure to check our installation instructions for a helpful list.
Properly manufactured bamboo and eucalyptus flooring (like ours!) is similar to mid-range hardwoods when it comes to dimensional stability, so it can be installed in all climates whether very dry or very humid.  Our floors have been installed in all climates around the world from the jungles of Kenya to the heights of the Rockies.  All wood flooring expands and contracts with the seasons due to changes in humidity - there are no exceptions.   The key is to control your interior humidity as to avoid excessive swings in humidity throughout the year, as these will cause more pronounced expansion and contraction in your floors.  The recommended humidity setting for our floors is 40%-60% but even dryer and more humid settings may suffice as long as your humidity is stable (within a 20% range) throughout the year.  In very humid or very dry climates, just follow these tips and you will be all set:

a.    Acclimate your flooring for at least 10 days prior to installation (instead of the normal 72 hours) in the environment in which they are going to be lived on.  Ensure all boxes are opened properly so that the planks can breathe.

b.    Glue the flooring down.  The elasticity in the glue allows the floors to breathe easily throughout the seasonal cycles.

c.    Make sure to leave ¼ - ½ inch of expansion gap around your flooring perimeter at the time of installation.

d.    Try to keep your interior humidity setting consistent via the use of humidifiers/dehumidifiers if necessary.  If your humidity does not fluctuate more than 20 degrees year around, your floors will look great.  But if you allow larger humidity swings, larger gaps may develop between your planks during dry spells or you may have issues with expansion.

Although many of our clients have installed our floors down over their radiant heat systems with no problems, we do not provide a warranty for floors installed over radiant heat.
Unless you want your floor to buckle and warp, yes!  Some adhesive will fail spectacularly if you use the incorrect trowel size and design, so using the correct trowel(s) is a must.  We currently sell two types:  1/4in x 1/8in Square notch for our basic adhesive and 1/4in V-Notch for adhesives containing a moisture barrier. The V-Notch is designed to give 100% coverage of adhesive so you have a complete sound and moisture seal. The Square notch trowel does not give full coverage but puts down enough glue for 85% coverage, enough to hold down the floor on plywood or places where sound and moisture barriers are not needed.  Square notch trowels typically yield about 140 feet per pail and V notch trowels typically yield about 125 feet per pail. 
Strand woven floors (regardless of whether they are bamboo, eucalyptus, or another species) are much more dense than traditional hardwoods.  This means that your usual staple and nail guns may not work.  We recommend that you use a pneumatic nailer that has high PSI capacity, such as Primatech Q550 or Powernail 50P Flex.  You will want to ensure that the air compressor and hose attachment are in good operating condition and have no leaks.  Then, most importantly, you will want to make sure to use 18 gage cleats, as thicker cleats will result in goosebumps/dimpling.  For some moldings you will need to use a micro pin nailer and 23 gage nails, such as a Bostich Porter Cable tool.
Most squeaky floors are the result of the house settling and the lumber drying out and shrinking, or the sub-floor nails having come loose over years of seasonal expansion and contraction cycles, resulting in the structural wood parts rubbing up against each other and/or the nails.  Loose sub-flooring will emit high frequency chirping noises.  There are several ways to remedy this issue, including drilling screws up under the sub-floor to tighten the lumber up against each other.  We recommend that you consult with a local flooring installer to review all options, as some are dependent on how your flooring is installed.
You can typically safely walk on the floors around 6 hours after the adhesive was first troweled down.
Our flooring has been used in all environments but it is only warranted for indoor use and when installed in a proper manner.
We recommend leaving at least 8 inches between the ends of planks in adjoining rows.
In general we do not recommend installing our bamboo or eucalyptus floors in a room that is not climate controlled.  Otherwise, as long as the humidity inside that room is stable, and maintained between 40%-60%, you can install the floors there.  
Most prefinished wood floors are packaged shortly after coming off the finish line, and what you smell is actually slight off-gassing from the urethane finish; however there is no need for worry.  These are not harmful emissions and within 2-4 days the odor will disappear.  If you do not like the smell we recommend that you open a few windows to air the room out. 

The U.S. Green Building Council actually ranks varnish and lacquer as two of the worst offenders in terms of VOC off-gassing, so your wood furniture may be emitting more than your wood floors.  Federal laws call for varnishes to include less than 450 grams of VOCs per liter, and they require less then 350 grams per liter for lacquers.  All of our products meet the CARB Phase 2 indoor air standard and we test them on a yearly basis, at random, using a third party U.S. laboratory.  Click here to see all of our test results.

We recommend that you only use 18 gauge cleats.  If you use 16 gauge cleats they are likely to cause dimpling on your floors, as described in this article: https://www.ambientbp.com/pdf/avoiddimpling.pdf 

Furthermore, they may cause cracks and splits in the tongue that will cause further issues down the road. 

Your main concern is that high heat will dry out any wood floor that comes to close to the heat source.  We recommend that you inlay a border of tile, stone or another flooring material at least 18” inches wide around the stove.  If your bamboo flooring (or any other wood product) runs right up to the wood stove it will dry it out and cause gapping and possible buckling.

 

Strand woven bamboo is the most dense hardwood flooring material in the market and will wear down standard saw blades pretty quickly.  For this reason we recommend a minimum 40 TPI tungsten carbide saw blade, but should you want a cleaner cut you can use a blade with even more teeth.  Diablo is a brand that sells such a blade (check your local big box store or online). For cleaning up bamboo plywood cuts, you should be able to sand off saw marks using a few stages of different grit sandpaper. 
Dimensionally stable flooring can be installed over well bonded vinyl asbestos tile using our trowel down adhesives.  However, all waxes and sealers which have likely been applied to the VAT, must be stripped prior to install. It is prudent for this sort of prep to be done by a licensed asbestos abatement professional.  Please note: we cannot guarantee that other adhesives will bond, so you would proceed at your own risk if you are using adhesives other than those sold by Ambient.  

If you have a humidity modulator in your home that will keep your indoor humidity at a level of 40%-60%, you do not have any run limits on your floating wood floor.  This can also be achieved via the use of a portable humidifer or dehumidifier.  Also, some areas in the Southern United States have relatively stable humidity year around (like Southern California or Florida) so this usually isn't an issue in those areas.  However, if you live in an area with seasons, and you don't have a way to control your humidity, you will want to ensure to follow the guidelines in the diagram below.

 

Floating Bamboo Flooring Diagram Showing Max Runs

The fastest method to take up cured adhesive is to use grinding machines. A clean and less toxic one is a dustless diamond grinder. If you need to scrape glue out of a smaller space, the company Sentinel makes some good non-toxic adhesive removers that will soften the adhesive to allow it to be scraped up easier.
Most glues average around 2mm in thickness once cured, however the exact level can be more depending on the glue spread rate (note: it should not be less than 2mm). 
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