Some of the questions we get most often around here concern bamboo and basements. People want to know if they can install bamboo flooring in a basement, if doing so will pose any problems, and how to complete a successful installation (Be sure to read How to Install a Floating Bamboo Floor).
YES – is perfectly suited for basements. It’s a fantastic flooring material to use all over your house, but it’s especially good for rooms that are below ground because of its increased resistance to both moisture and humidity.
Even when the humidity levels rise in your basement, your bamboo floors will be able to expand and contract without getting damaged, as long as they were properly installed and as long as they have room to expand. This is why you should always leave expansion gaps at the perimeter of the installation!
It is important to note that bamboo is a natural, organic material and therefore isn’t impervious to water damage. In the case of much more serious or prolonged water damage (i.e. floods, leaks from water heaters or washing machines), your bamboo floor may need to be replaced. This is usually due to mold concerns, but it’s also true of almost all other floors.
We recommend using engineered bamboo floors in basements since they’re incredibly stable, can be easily installed via floating method over concrete, and they are well-suited to handle changes in moisture levels. Because of this, bamboo flooring can be installed over a garage.
How does bamboo stack up against other types of floors in a basement?
Well, there are a lot of unique challenges in a basement that are not readily met by other types of flooring. Let’s take a look at the other flooring types and how they hold up.
1. Hardwood Floors
Most hardwoods aren’t quite as stable in higher humidity settings as bamboo flooring. Remember, bamboo is grown in a humid climate and has a much lower liquid absorption rate than hardwoods. Therefore, it is more suited to moisture-prone rooms. Although bamboo is more resistant to moisture than hardwoods, all concrete slabs must be sealed in a basement when you’re installing bamboo hardwoods.
As concrete is an artificial material, it is less prone to moisture- or water-related problems. However, it’s not altogether immune, so you can still experience dampness in a basement with concrete floors.
There is also the matter of concrete flooring being less suited to everyday home use, leading you to not use your basement as often as you would like for recreational purposes.
What makes concrete less appealing? It is often cold, hard, and unforgiving underfoot, and shoes are usually required. It’s also more difficult to customize to your décor, so you’ll either have to style your basement around a gray floor or have the concrete stained some unnatural color.
Many homeowners will choose to put down carpet on top of concrete to make it more suitable for regular use. This makes sense since it is warm (or at least neutral) on bare feet, and you’re able to choose the style/color that will best suit your décor.
The problem is that carpets can trap moisture easily as well as dust and mites, leading to allergy problems, mildew, and mold; not something you want to step on with bare feet.
If you want something soft to walk on, a better bet would be machine-washable rugs. However, these would still have persistent problems over time and would wear out far before they would in areas with less moisture.
4. Stone Tiling
This is a popular choice because it combines the style options of carpets/hardwoods with the moisture resistance of concrete, but it still has the problem of being cold to the touch and made from synthetic plastics.
Also, it can be an expensive choice for your flooring. Worse still, the more-affordable faux stones are considered too soft for use in basements.
5. Ceramic and Vinyl Tiling
These both have largely the same benefits and drawbacks as stone tiling, albeit with some more colorful design options. Remember to make sure your subfloor is dry enough for this flooring to be installed, and again you’re talking here about a non-natural, plastic-filled synthetic floor.
Why do you recommend engineered bamboo floors?
We’ve already told you that hard-wearing engineered strand woven bamboo floors are our top pick for basement installations, but we haven’t explained why in great detail. Let’s fix that.
Engineered floating strand bamboo floors are the best choice for flooring in basements because:
- they’re easy to replace if your water heater leaks or you have another common basement water issue.
- they’re resistant to moisture and humidity.
- they’re more dimensionally stable than solid floors.
- they’re easy to install over concrete.
- they come in a wide range of colors and styles that will suit any decor.
- they have beautiful natural variations in color.
Can you go into more detail?
Engineered strand floating bamboo are floors made using fiberboard or a multi-ply base and a very solid wear layer of strand woven bamboo. There is a wax layering on the click design all the way around the plank that helps prevent water from getting below the planks and possibly growing mold.
In addition to high-density fiberboard (HDF) or multi-ply eucalyptus plywood cores, engineer bamboo floors also employ the strength of strand woven bamboo, one of the hardest wood materials in the world according to the Janka Hardness Scale. Basically, in a fight between engineered bamboo floor and Batman, Batman would lose. ;o)
The best part is that if you’re looking for a floor that has brawn and beauty, engineered bamboo floors come in a variety of colors, finishes, and textures to suit any design scheme.
What about refinishing the engineered bamboo floors?
You may have heard – incorrectly – that one drawback to engineered floors is they can’t be refinished if they start to wear with age. Luckily, some of the best bamboo flooring companies have solved this issue by creating a thick wear layer that can be sanded down and refinished two times.
Furthermore, with strand woven bamboo, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need to refinish your floors in your lifetime. So, now you can rest easy with the knowledge that engineered bamboo floors will be great for your home (and especially your basement), and you can refinish them if they do start to wear.
Another benefit is that if you’ve installed you engineered bamboo flooring using the click-lock method, you can easily remove and replace individual planks that may have been damaged without needing to refinish the entire floor. This is particularly useful in the case of localized occupational flooding, i.e. an overloaded washing machine from a 70s sitcom.
What about solid and strand woven bamboo floors?
At Ambient, we provide a warranty for our engineered floors installed in basements, but not our solid floors. However, the truth is that if you have a stable humidity environment in your basement, you can install solid bamboo flooring as well by gluing down using a vapor barrier adhesive. We recommend using engineered bamboo floors because of their additional moisture resistance (thanks to that all-important seal).
Both types of flooring are able to withstand moisture and humidity much better than hardwoods and can usually be installed in basements without any problems, as long as proper humidity levels are maintained. Solid bamboo floors, however, must be glued down in basements using an adhesive with a vapor barrier.
How do I install bamboo flooring over concrete?
There are multiple ways to install bamboo flooring over concrete. All you have to do is choose your method (there are pros and cons to both), and follow some simple instructions. See how easy it was for the people in the video below to do?
Gluing the bamboo floor down
In this method, you’ll be using a specially-designed trowel to apply an adhesive with a vapor barrier to the concrete floor before laying the planks down. The type of adhesive you need depends on how much moisture your concrete floor releases, so you’ll need to test for that beforehand. And don’t worry, there’s a section about that below.
Much like scrapbooking or collage crafting, all you need to do is place the bamboo planks on top of the glue and leave it to dry. Just make sure you clean up any glue spills ASAP because it can ruin the finish on your beautiful bamboo floors.
Once installed, just consult the manufacturer’s instructions to check how long it will be before you can use your basement again.
Pros and Cons
As with everything, there are both pros and cons to this method, and they may determine how you choose to install your basement’s bamboo floor.
- The adhesive will help to soundproof your basement: It’s not quite to the extent that you could host a rave there without complaints from next door (unless your neighbors are super cool), but you might be able to use it for band practice or watching movies in surround sound.
- The glue will allow the bamboo flooring planks to expand/contract naturally: This translates to a smaller chance of problems arising from humidity.
- This has the potential to get messy fast: If you’ve never glued down a whole floor before, you might underestimate what is involved, and if you aren’t careful, you could end up stuck to the floor!
Using the floating method
You’ll probably agree that the phrase “We all float down here” is comforting when referring to bamboo floors instead of the clown from the IT movies. If you don’t, then you’re probably Pennywise.
The floating method is actually really easy because the planks fit together like puzzle pieces. All you have to do is lay down a 3-in-1 moisture barrier, and then lay the flooring planks directly on top, clicking each plank into place.
Pros and Cons
Now let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this method, so you can see if it’s the right choice for you.
- It’s super easy to do as a novice: You’ll save money on installation. Yay!
- There’s a limit to the distance that installed bamboo flooring can reach using this method: If you have a bigger room to cover, you won’t be able to use the floating installation method unless you can install a transition molding to break up the long runs. The recommended maximum runs for an engineered bamboo floor laid in a basement are 25 feet across the widths of the planks and 45 feet down the lengths of the planks.
What you need to do before installing bamboo flooring
When purchasing bamboo flooring, as with any big purchase for your home, there are some things that you’ll need to do to be sure the product you’re buying is the right one for you. This ensures you don’t end up with a big bill and a wasted product.
What should you do?
1. If gluing down, test your basement floor for moisture levels
The first thing you should do before installing bamboo (or any hardwood) floors in your basement is to check the current moisture levels over a period of 72 hours. This will help you determine if you need to do anything (i.e. putting in place a vapor barrier) before installing your beautiful bamboo floors on top of concrete.
These tests are pretty easy to complete as you can see in the video below, and it doesn’t cost a lot either.
2. Acclimate your bamboo floor to the room
Once you’ve done the moisture test, you should already have read in the instructions manual about how long you need to acclimatize the bamboo flooring to the basement before installation.
It’s a crucial process that you shouldn’t skip because it will help to make sure that your bamboo floors won’t buckle or bow due to humidity in the years to come.
The method is simple. All you do is clear and clean the basement in preparation for the installation, close all outside windows and doors, and unwrap the planks from their plastic wrapping. Then leave the planks for the period of time noted in your test results – a minimum of 72 hours – before installing.
3. Read the installation guide
Not reading the installation guide is one of the biggest and most common mistakes people make. Furthermore, do your research and read online reviews about the flooring brand you’re considering using because there are some ubiquitous brands out there known for having quality issues. Use a trusted brand with a good reputation.
This way, if something goes wrong with the flooring while under warranty, you’ll be able to get your money back or have it replaced for free unless you did something to cause the damage.
Sometimes, manufacturers will warn against installing their floors in a basement, and if so, you should definitely not install them there.
What are the main problems with installing any type of floor in a basement?
Basements often have higher humidity levels than the other rooms in your house for a number of reasons. The cause for the elevated humidity levels can be from moisture seepage from the soil, the location of water heaters and washing machines, and even a lack of open windows.
This added humidity can create a moist environment in your basement, which can cause all sorts of problems for the average floor, from warping to staining to mold.
You should try to control humidity levels in your basement by doing things like opening your windows, immediately cleaning up any spilled water, and using a dehumidifier.
Well, hopefully, that answered all of your questions about installing a beautiful bamboo floor in your basement. But if you have any other questions, ask away in the comments and hopefully, we can answer them in another blog post soon. You can also call 866-710-7070 to speak with one of our flooring professionals at Ambient Bamboo and Eucalyptus Flooring
Let us know if you’ve installed a bamboo floor in your basement and if you have any tips for everyone else.
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