Bamboo flooring is a beautiful green alternative to traditional hardwoods because bamboo, an actual grass, can regenerate in as little as 3-5 years. Compare that to hardwood trees that can take as much as 30 – 50 years to replenish and you can easily see why bamboo is the more environmentally-friendly choice.
Many homeowners ask if they can install bamboo flooring over a cement/concrete slab. The answer is a resounding yes! Bamboo is a great option for all rooms in your house, and you can even install engineered bamboo flooring in your basement.
Because you can’t nail the bamboo planks into your concrete slab, you’ll want to use the glue down method which we will cover below. It’s important to mention first, however, if the bamboo is being installed in a brand new home, you must allow the concrete slab to cure for at least 60 days to reduce moisture in the concrete before laying your new flooring down.
It’s very important that the slab be thoroughly cleaned before installing bamboo flooring over concrete. You may simply need to vacuum up any dust and debris. Should you find it necessary to scrub any particularly dirty areas with soap and water, be sure to allow the concrete to dry for at least 24 hours before beginning your bamboo installation.
Before laying out your planks, it’s important to first determine the best starting point. Typically, wood and bamboo floors run parallel to the longest wall in the room. It’s a good idea to start your installation in the corner farthest away from the room’s entrance so you can work your way slowly toward it. This way you won’t “paint yourself into a corner” and be forced to walk on the floor before the adhesive dries.
Scoop, Spread, Scrape
Before gluing a bamboo floor down to a concrete slab, the most important item you must purchase is a glue that has a moisture barrier in it, which seals the concrete and protects your floor from moisture. Then make sure you have the right trowel to pair with the adhesive, and you’re off to the races! Using the trowel, start by scooping some of the adhesive out of the tub and spreading it in a small area where you have decided to lay your first line of planks. Be aware, most adhesives dry in less than an hour so don’t apply more than you can manage to cover in say 40 minutes. Once the adhesive is spread out, scrape the top of it with the notched side of the trowel to create grooves. As you go along you’ll want to make sure to get use some adhesive remover towels so that no glue ends up curing on top of any planks, which can ruin the finish.
Don’t Forget Your Spacers
Place your first plank in the corner with the tongue facing the wall. Make sure to use spacers on the end and side that will allow for a 1/4 –inch gap between the board and wall. When gluing down a floor it is imperative you use spacers because each row will push against that first row, moving it little by little until it is tight up against the wall. If you were installing over a plywood subfloor, you could simply nail down that first row into place. Since that’s not possible with concrete, you’ll want to use spacers every 6 inches along your planks to ensure your first row will not budge.
Finish Your First Row
Finish laying the boards in your first row. When you get to the last plank in the row, measure the distance between the last plank you installed and the wall and subtract ¼ inch for the expansion gap. Saw this section off your final plank and lay it down placing a ¼ inch spacer between the plank and the wall.
Create Random Seams
Bamboo floors look more natural when the seams appear random. In order to achieve this, start your second row by placing a long board beside a short one. So for instance, you would place a long board up next to the last shorter board of the first row. After applying a new area of adhesive, push the tongue of the new board into the grooves of the installed boards. If necessary, tap it into place with a rubber mallet. Continue down the row and cut the last board as you did the first row. Finally, use painter’s tape and tape across the seam between the rows to hold into place while the adhesive dries.
Repeat and Wipe
Repeat the entire process throughout the room. When all of your rows are installed, wipe any excess glue that has squeezed between the boards away with the adhesive remover towels. Your installation should end before you reach the doorway – in other words when you can no longer lay any new rows without stepping on the newly-installed floor. Once the installed floors have been allowed to dry for 24 hours, you may finish your installation.
You’ll most likely have to cut the last row of bamboo planks lengthwise to fit the remaining space between the floor and wall, and remember to leave a ¼-inch space between the last row and wall for expansion.
Wait and Cover
You should wait 24 hours to be sure the new glue and installation dries, and once it is, nail your baseboards to the bottom of your walls to cover the expansion gaps.
You’ve just installed your bamboo floor over a concrete slab. All that’s left to do is invite some friends and family over to ‘ooh and ah’ over your beautiful room remodel.