DIY Bamboo Flooring

floating bamboo floorsBamboo is one of the most popular flooring options on the market today and for good reason: It’s a green, sustainable material that has the same warmth and beauty of hardwood, costs less but can last as long as hardwood with proper care and maintenance.

Though there are various types of bamboo flooring out there and some require a professional installation, to install by a weekend DIYer.

What are Floating Bamboo Floors?

Floating floors are ones that can be installed directly on top of an existing floor, without having to nail them down or glue them down, so there is no need for demolition or floor removal before installation. Floating floors can be laid over hardwood floors, vinyl, ceramic tiles, concrete, pretty much anything as long as the surface is even.

For floating installations the easiest product to use is click lock engineered bamboo flooring, and usually a 3 in 1 underlayment is laid down first, and the flooring is then clicked into place on top of that pad. Also, a small gap is left between the floating floors and the walls to allow for expansion, and these gaps can be easily covered and hidden at the end of the installation with moldings like shoe molding, quarter round or baseboards.

DIY Saves You Money

Besides the satisfaction that you installed the floor yourself and the boasting rights that come with that, installing your own bamboo flooring means not having to hire professionals to do the job for you and this can save you money; sometimes a lot of money. Depending on how many square feet of flooring you plan to put in, you could save anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.

Tips on Do It Yourself Floating Bamboo Flooring Installation

ONE – Make sure the floor or subfloor you are installing over is in good condition and free from any dirt or other debris. The idea here is you want a nice, clean and smooth surface. Also be sure to remove any baseboards or other perimeter trim before starting.

TWO – If installing over concrete flooring, you’ll first want to lay down a moisture barrier on the surface of the concrete and make sure to overlap and tape down the seams. This moisture barrier should then be covered with the foam padding of your choice. Or, if you want an all-in-one solution, check out a vapor and sound barrier underlayment.  If installing over other flooring materials besides concrete or over a crawl space, you can skip the moisture barrier, but then you will probably get more footfall noise as most underlayment pads have the added benefit of absorbing sound.

THREE – Once you start laying down your planks, one at a time, make sure to use 1/4″ to 1/2″ inch spacers where the planks meet the walls. This step is very important as all hardwood floors expand and contract through the seasons – they shrink when humidity levels drop and expand when humidity levels rise (it’s not that noticeable to the eye as it happens very gradually).

FOUR – Once the floor is down, install baseboards around the perimeter of the room to hide the expansion gaps.

Installing Bamboo is Easier than Most Other Flooring Options

Besides bamboo, hardwood and carpeting are the two other most popular flooring choices for homeowners, but installing these materials is just not as easy.

Installing carpeting requires special tools that you most likely will have to rent (adding cost) and are unfamiliar with. Laying the carpet isn’t as easy as it looks, and if you start the project and end up screwing up somewhere, your warranty most likely won’t be honored.

Just because hardwood and bamboo look very similar – don’t be fooled. Installing hardwood takes real skill and experience. Although some of the DIY shows on cable channels make it look like something you could tackle – you might also get in over your head if you decide to nail down or glue down the flooring.

Like installing carpeting, laying hardwood requires more than a little muscle and a rubber mallet, there are very specific tools that you most likely will have to rent and have never used before. Pneumatic nail guns (for nail down installations) can be tricky to get the hang of if you can’t source a high-quality gun,  and if you nail down using the wrong gun or cleat sizes you can permanently damage the flooring.  Glue down installations are costly, time-consuming and very messy, not for the faint of heart.

Also, hardwood floors are some of the most finicky and very much need to be acclimated correctly to your home. Many rookies don’t let the wood acclimate enough and this causes gaps and squeaking.

If you’re looking for flooring that is beautiful, inexpensive, will last for years and can be installed by you over the course of a weekend or two, look no further than bamboo.



Categories: Flooring, Interior Decorating

4 replies

  1. Hi. Is it a good idea to lay bamboo floor over a carpet. I would prefer to just wash the old carpet and use it as the underlay instead of just throwing it away. Could you advise me on that please.
    Regards, Anna

    • Hi Anna, the answer to that is yes and no. If the carpet has a lot of vertical flexion you typically don’t want to install hardwood flooring over it, and the compression of the carpet and pad under the hardwood can stress the sides of the planks. However if the carpet is very low profile (like commercial carpeting) and there is no compressible padding underneath, then you can install the flooring over it. As a general rule you don’t want the hardwood/bamboo flooring moving up and down when you step on it as it can compromise the click lock profile on the sides of the planks. Hope this helps and best of luck!

  2. Hi thank you for the information! I have a few questions for you- what is a 3/8 “ spacer”? Is it a physical item or a gap you leave when you put in the floor? I believe when you do a row itself it “snaps into place”, so the spacer itself is between rows and the walls? Does one actually notice this gapping when looking at the floor when done? I have no background in this so forgive this question- what does one need to buy or rent to cut the pieces to fit? Thank you for your help!

    • Hi Haley! A 3/8″ spacer is any piece of plastic or wood you place in between the flooring planks and the wall where the flooring meets the wall. This “spacer” is put into place temporarily to keep the floors from sliding up against the wall during installation, and once the flooring installation is complete the spacer is removed. Then you can use perimeter moldings like bamboo quarter round and baseboards to cover up the gap. Since hardwoods and bamboo expand when humidity increases, the expansion gap allows space for them to expand into. It’s typcailly recommended to leave about 1/4-1/2″ expansion gaps, and most hardwoods expand and contract more across the widths of the planks than down the lengths of the planks. If you’re installing the flooring during the driest part of the year you usually want to leave a slightly larger installation gap, and the reverse is true if you’re installing during the most humid part of the year. It’s always recommended you use a good 3 in 1 underlayment for vapor protection, sound absorption, and to make up for minor imperfections in the subfloor.

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