8 Common Installation Errors With Hardwood & Bamboo Flooring



You can avoid a lot of strand bamboo flooring problems by simply learning what to do and what not to do when installing the floors. Follow this guide to find out the most common installation mistakes – and how to best avoid them!

Mistake #1. Not reading the installation instructions

Flooring is a big investment and can result in expensive repairs if not done properly, so set 30 minutes aside to ensure you and your installer read the complete installation guide from your manufacturer.


  • Read the manufacturer’s installation guide. This seems like a no-brainer, but 99% of installation errors can be avoided by taking 20 minutes to read the manufacturer’s installation guide. You will save yourself future headaches and keep from voiding your warranty. Need a Spanish version of the installation instructions? ¡No hay problem! (No problem!) You can download the Spanish version here.
  • Read the manufacturer’s maintenance guide. To keep bamboo floors looking good for a lifetime, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guide to ensure you’re cleaning the floor properly and protecting them from long-term damage.


Mistake #2. Improper acclimation

If you have a hardwood floor glued or nailed down and has started to shrink or change shape within a few months after installation, improper acclimation is one possible culprit.


  • Acclimate for at least 72 hours and make sure the boxes are prepped correctly. All hardwood and bamboo flooring must be acclimated to its environment before installation.   Most high-quality bamboo floors can be acclimated in as little as 72 hours, but if you live in a more dry or humid area, it’s recommended you acclimate for at least 10 days. Make sure to cut open each box down one entire length and the interior plastic, and do the same on the end flaps. Cross-stacking is always best; otherwise, be sure to leave at least 3 feet between your stacks to allow for adequate airflow.
  • Always acclimate to the rooms in which the flooring will be installed, and make sure the climate control is turned on. Bring the boxes in to acclimate in the same rooms they’re going to live in. The climate control system must be turned on for at least 48 hours before bringing the boxes in to start acclimating and must stay on from that point forward. When floors aren’t acclimated to the environment they’re going to live in; they can experience all kinds of expansion and contraction problems. After installation of hardwood flooring, do not turn off the climate control system, ever. Turning the climate control off for an extended period can result in further shrinkage or dry-cupping (also known as “the greenhouse effect”).
  • Do not acclimate on top of concrete or over a crawl space unless sealed or unless you lay down a vapor barrier first. The moisture emitted by concrete and crawl spaces can cause warping after installation if not properly addressed. Make sure first to lay down at least a 6 mm vapor barrier/tarp, extend an apron out at least 18 inches away from the boxes, and make sure the boxes are sitting on top of a pallet.
Acclimation Instructions from Ambient™ Bamboo Floors

Mistake #3.  Erroneous glue down installation over concrete (resulting in cupping)

The failure to apply adhesive to concrete slabs at a uniform and consistent rate, at the wrong thickness, or with the wrong trowel is one of the leading causes of hardwood floor cupping.


  • Use a vapor barrier glue with its compatible trowel, and make sure to achieve 100% coverage of glue on the slab. Concrete slabs continue to emit moisture for decades after being poured. If you don’t get 100% coverage/spread of the vapor barrier adhesive on the slab, the gaps in the glue will allow the moisture to come up, and voila – the cupped floor!  Furthermore, using the wrong trowel – or misusing the trowel – can result in less than 100% coverage of the slab’s glue.  See the diagram below for a pictorial representation of good vs. bad troweling.

Glue Down Bamboo Over Concrete Cupping

Example of using only 20% glue coverage on a slab resulting in cupping


  • Perform a calcium chloride test. Most installations over concrete only require a vapor barrier glue with a 15 lb upper moisture limit. BUT some slabs emit more than 15 lbs – and it’s the installer’s responsibility to determine if the adhesive being used has a moisture limit that is suitable for the specific slab they’re installing over. So do yourself a favor – always test the slab first! If the vapor emissions are above 15 lbs, you may need to upgrade to a glue that provides an unlimited moisture limit (more expensive, but preferable to thousands of dollars in repairs).


Mistake #4.  Floating a floor over long distances, without stable humidity

If you have a long run on your floor, floating hardwood floors should only be installed in homes with stable indoor humidity. If in doubt, always glue down or nail down a floor.


  • Only install solid floating floors in stable humidity environments. Like hardwoods, bamboo will change shape slightly depending on the humidity. These effects multiply and then radiate out to the edges of the installation and at doorways on floating floors. One of the most common problems experienced by homeowners is related to their solid floating floors shrinking when the humidity drops. If the indoor humidity isn’t stable year-round (within the same 20% range) and you want to install a solid floating floor, be prepared to install transitions/breaks every 15 feet across the widths and every 25 feet down the lengths.

Rules For Floating Solid Bamboo Flooring


  • Engineered floating bamboo floors are more forgiving. If the home doesn’t have stable humidity, you can install engineered floating bamboo floors, which provide for increased run limits of 25 ft across the planks’ widths and 45 ft down the lengths of the planks.

Engineered Floating Bamboo Floor Run Limit Guidelines

  • If your runs are longer than 15 ft wide by 25 ft long, opt for an engineered floating floor, or be 100% safe and use glue down or nail down flooring. The big advantage to a glue down or nail down floor is that there are no limits on the successive distances (aka “runs”) of flooring. If the humidity drops below normal, you’ll get small gaps that develop between the planks (normal behavior for hardwood floors).
  • Do your research about the bamboo brand you’re considering. Always do your homework online about the brand you’re considering. Check for complaints and honest reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and BBB before making a purchase. Stick to a reputable flooring brand to avoid shrinkage, cupping, and many other problems that plague low-quality brands.


Mistake #5.  Letting glue dry on top of the planks/finish

Flooring adhesives are notoriously strong and can even hold a car to a wall, so don’t let the glue dry on top of your flooring planks, or you’ll be left with cloudy spots where the top coat of the finish used to be.


bambooflooringerrorsduringinstallationbabySomeone forgot to clean the glue up before it dried.


  • Use adhesive remover wipes to clean up the glue while it’s still wet. Be sure to use the wipes to clean the glue up as the floor is installed while the glue is still wet! If the glue cures on top of the plank – fuggedaboutit – it can then be impossible to remove and often result in stripping off the finish’s topcoats, which will leave cloudy marks.


bostikadhesiveremovertowelsInstaller’s Best Friend – Bostik Ultimate Adhesive Remover Wipes


Mistake #6.  Using the wrong cleat size or improperly set cleats when nailing strand bamboo

Strand woven bamboo and eucalyptus are by far the densest and hardest floors on the market and require properly set 18 gauge cleats when nailed down.


  • Only use 18 gauge cleats. There’s a reason why strand woven bamboo floors are the hardest wood floors in the market – because they’re really dense. And this is why using a cleat size larger than 18 gauge may result in dimples on your floor. Always opt for an 18 gauge cleat nailer (using, you guessed it, only 18 gauge cleats) when installing strand woven bamboo.


strand-bamboo-flooring-problems-wrong-cleat-nail-sizeThis installer didn’t use 18 gauge cleats.

Courtesy of Wood Floor Business Magazine

  • Ensure that the nail gun has the proper PSI setting. Please test it out on several sacrificial planks until you get the exact right pressure setting. This will prevent splitting of the tongue, dimpling, and damage to the planks from excessive force. After each row is installed, check to ensure the cleats and nails are set properly before continuing to the next row. Take care when using the gun because swinging the mallet too hard or using abnormally high-pressure settings can result in damage to the planks where the nail is driven in.


Excessive Force Damage Bamboo Flooring Planks Nail Gun


  • Rent a high quality 18 gauge nail gun. Problems can arise if the gun is not set properly, if the installer is leaning too far forward, if the hoses connected to the air compressor have leaks, or if the firing mechanism is compromised. We recommend renting a Primatech Q550 ALR, which in our opinion, is the best 18 gauge pneumatic nailer on the market. Some customers have reported positive results also with Powernail 50P Flex nailers.
  • For moldings & trim, use a 23 gauge micro pin nailer.  Strand bamboo moldings are just as hard as their flooring counterparts. We recommend using a Bostitch 23 Gauge Micro Pin Nailer found commonly online.


Mistake #7.  Using mineral spirits or other abrasive cleaners

Avoid turpentine, mineral spirits, paint thinners, and other abrasive cleaners on polyurethane finished hardwoods unless you like cloudy spots on your floor, as these abrasive cleaners can strip finish topcoats.


Permanent cloudy spots on polyurethane finish that was cleaned with mineral spirits


  • Avoid mineral spirits and other abrasive cleaners. Most bamboo floors come with UV-cured urethane finishes (polyurethane), damaged by mineral spirits or other abrasive cleaners. When cleaning up glue, always use Bostik Ultimate Adhesive Remover Towels. For general cleanup, use an approved bamboo floor cleaner (like Bam-Brite® Bamboo Floor Cleaner) or test your specific cleaner on a sacrificial plank to ensure it doesn’t dull or damage the finish.

Bamboo Floor Cleaner

Bam-Brite® Bamboo Floor Cleaner

Mistake #8.  Failure to properly seal a crawl space or other unconditioned space under the sub-floor

The Internet is loaded with examples of hardwood floors installed over crawl spaces that are cupping, sometimes within just a few weeks of installation. In most cases, the cupping is a result of the moisture being emitted from the ground in the crawl space.  This problem needs to be addressed at the source – crawl spaces and unconditioned spaces need to be sealed to protect hardwood floors from moisture before acclimation.


  • The crawl space should be a minimum height of 18 inches from the ground to the joists’ undersides.


  • Crawl space earth (or thin concrete slab) should be covered 100 percent by a vapor retarder of black polyethylene (minimum 6 mils) or any recommended puncture-resistant membrane, such as Class C, meeting ASTM D-1745.


  • A proper ground covering is in place. When local building codes require venting, the crawl space should have perimeter venting equal to a minimum of 1.5 square feet per 100 square feet of crawl space square footage, unless local building codes differ from this specification. Note: Local-building codes may differ. Follow local building codes.


  • For crawl spaces without ventilation openings, vapor retarder joints must overlap a minimum of 6 inches and be sealed or taped. The vapor retarder should also extend at least 6 inches up the stem wall and be attached and sealed to the stem wall. Continuously operated mechanical exhaust and perimeter wall insulation or conditioned air supply and insulation must be provided.


Suspended Subfloor


When warm, humid weather rolls in, the problems are compounded. Crawl spaces are usually below grade, shady, and are naturally cooler than the outside air. When the warm, moist outside air blows in the crawlspace through vents or other air leaks, the moisture in the humid air condenses on the cooler surfaces just like water condenses on a cold glass of ice water sitting on your counter. In extreme but not uncommon cases, so much water condenses that it begins dripping off the surfaces to collect in the bottom of the crawlspace. Hardwood floors cup because of excess moisture drawn up through the bottom of the floor-board, while the top of the flooring remains relatively dry by comparison.

Having a strand bamboo flooring problem that you think may be caused by an installation error? 

Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below!



Last Updated: 11/8/2021

30 thoughts on “8 Common Installation Errors With Hardwood & Bamboo Flooring”

  1. I have engineered bamboo floors that were recently damaged by appliances being installed. There are several scratches in the kitchen and I have tried almost everything but nothing has worked. Any suggestions?

  2. I have solid bamboo floors installed with 18 gauge cleats. They are buckling pretty badly in some spots. They were acclimated for 72+ hours and are not butting up against baseboards.

    Any tips? And, how would you repair?

    • Hi Bradley! Sorry to hear you’re having problems, have you contacted the manufacturer of your floor, or your installer? Most buckling is caused by no expansion gaps being left around the perimeter of the installation (this is the responsibility of the installer). Buckling happens when humidity increases – hardwood/bamboo floors expand and have no space to go because they’re pushing up against an outside wall or at a doorway. This usually causes a few planks in the middle to “teepee.” If that’s not what’s happening then you might be experiencing cupping or crowning, and the causes for that can differ, from low-quality bamboo flooring to exterior causes related to moisture.

  3. I installed some distressed antique java bamboo which was installed on a wood subfloor with a vapor barrier and nailed in. I am getting some bubbles in the floor what is the best way to fix these bubbles?

    • Hi Andrew! Sorry to hear that! Have you reached out to the manufacturer of your flooring about this issue? This can be the result of several things: defective finish, subfloor moisture, and others. We recommend you send photos of the issue to the manufacturer of your floor and ask them for advice. You could also hire an NWFA certified inspector to come out and determine what is causing the issue. Here’s a page where you can locate such an inspector.

  4. I have a bamboo floor which was installed in Oct 2012. It has been glued down. Recently in the center of the room it has started buckling – teepeeing!!! What is causing this? There is absolutely no water damage of any sort. How can I fix this?

    • Hi Jane,

      Oh no! First thing we would recommend you do is to call the manufacturer of your flooring to see if there are any known issues with that batch. Teepeeing can sometimes be caused by the floor swelling past the expansion gap around the perimeter. Once it has nowhere else to expand, it has no choice but to pop up. Also, occasionally high humidity can cause the flooring to hold more moisture so it might not be a bad idea to purchase a dehumidifier. Once the humidity drops, the flooring should settle back down. Hope that helps!

  5. We recently got engineered bamboo floors installed and the person doing the job used a combination of glue and lacquer thinner. Now I am finding a lot of grimy, dirt-like spots all over that I have unsuccessfully tried to clean (it looks like a layer of dirt but no amount of scrubbing seems to help).

    My question is, was the installer right in using lacquer thinner (for god knows what, I was not present at time of installation) and is there anything that can be done to clean this up? I’m rightfully very upset as the floors simply look dirty and this is not what I envisioned after spending thousands of dollars on getting this installed throughout the house.

    Thanks for any and all feedback!

    • Hi Sam,

      What a bummer! You might have already read this in the article, but any bit of the glue that cures on the surface of the flooring is extremely difficult to remove. Since everybody’s flooring is a little different and can have different types of finishes, we recommend you contact your flooring manufacturer and ask them what cleaners would be approved to try and remove that cured adhesive without harming your finish. Good luck and let us know if you are successful!

  6. We had bamboo flooring installed approximately a year ago in our condo in Southern Florida. The boards are starting to separate from each other. Can this be fixed short of ripping up the entire floor? Was this an installation error? Installer is nowhere to be found!!

    • Hi Denise,

      Oh no! I’m sorry to hear you are having issues with your flooring. We recommend reaching out to the manufacturer of your flooring to see if they have any advice to help close up those gaps. A good way to find out what is causing the issue is to hire an NWFA certified inspector to see if they can shed some light on things. Sorry to hear your installer is missing in action – I hope you get this resolved soon!

  7. We had Cali Bamboo Hardwood floors glued down at the end of July. When we went to clean them the day they were finished installing them, we noticed a lot of marks all over the place. They look like surface marks. You can see them on the floor when its dried and they’re even more prevalent when the floor is mopped. I thought it was possibly from the boots of the installers, so I had them come back out. The installer used some type of cleaner to clean the floor; however, none of the marks came off.

    Could this be a manufacturer problem with the bamboo itself? Thanks!

    • Hi Marie,

      That sounds like a real bummer! First thing we recommend is that you reach out to the manufacturer and see what they have to say. You might have to send them photos of the marks as well as information on what was used to install and clean the floors.

  8. Thank you for providing this article.People who owns a home who wants to use a bamboo flooring can definitely get inputs from here.

  9. Hi ,and how are you? This article was amazing to read !i am about to purchase strand bamboo 3/8″ engineered fllors . I have a crawl space that is vented ,with about 3ft of space ,joist have no insulation but have an old thermal paper . Questions is will this be Adequate for insulation to stack and acclimate ?so long as input 6 mill or greater .!it is fall now here and is relativity drywith some humid day in summer …thanks for you time !

    • Hi Christian,

      That’s a tough one and we’re unfortunately not able to give you customized advice for your specific project. It might be worth it for you to shoot an email to someone at the National Wood Flooring Associating to see if they have any recommendations. You could also consult a local installer to come out and take a look. Good luck on your project!

  10. Question, we had a bamboo floor installed over a year ago and we haven’t seen any problems until now. We have on section of flooring that is starting to buckle. In the center of the floor, where two boards lock into each other is pushing upwards where it is maybe an inch higher than the rest of the floor. Is the floor too tight against the walls and has no room to move. What can I do to fix the problem.

    • Hi Jimmy,

      We recommend that you reach out to the manufacturer of your flooring or the company that installed it to see if they have any suggestions. We can’t be sure, but it sounds like the floors have expanded beyond the expansion gap left by your installer, have hit a wall, and now have nowhere else to go but up! It could be caused by excessive humidity in the home, and if that is the case, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier to lower it back down to a reasonable level.

  11. We are preparing to install 5/8″ solid bamboo flooring on a 3/4″ plywood subfloor. We got a noise reduction 1/16″ underlayment we plan to use, and a flooring nail gun with 18 gauge cleats.

    When you talk about the temperature control system, are you just talking about the furnace? This home is in northern Michigan, and we have the furnace installed but haven’t had a humidifier put in yet. Sounds like maybe we should wait to get the humidifier in before acclimating the flooring or installing it? Also, when you say never turn the temperature control off, does that mean we can’t shut the home down in the winter time if we need to? Any other tips you may have will be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Tim!

      First, we recommended confirming with your bamboo flooring manufacturer that the noise reduction underlayment you have is appropriate for use with nail-down installations. We mention this because we advise our own customers who are nailing down our floors to only use 15lb. asphalt saturated felt paper (or red rosin paper), and do not recommend 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 underlayment under nail down floors. The latter can compress slightly when walked on, and the vertical flexion can result in loose nails and squeaky boards.

      As far as temperature control:
      While bamboo flooring can usually be exposed to cold weather for short periods of time (less than 24 hours) without problems, prolonged cold weather exposure is not recommended for bamboo or any other hardwood flooring. As a general rule, bamboo flooring will perform best when the indoor climate is maintained at around 40-60% humidity and 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, although conditions may vary in different geographic areas. The acclimation process allows the natural material to adjust to it’s ‘new home’ (i.e. its surrounding environment), so it’s better to acclimate and install the bamboo flooring once the humidifier has been put in and the home is maintaining a humidity level in that 40-60% range.

      Hardwoods left in cold weather (sub 40 degrees) for extended periods may result in face checking, shrinkage, and even cracking. However, as long as the indoor temperature does not drop below 45-50 degrees when you shut the home down in the winter, quality bamboo floors will hold up relatively well.

  12. Hi, I installed a solid Bamboo floor that is a drop and lock system. It was done three years ago and was acclimated for 72 hours prior to install . Three years after the install the floor is shrinking. There are gaps in the width and the flooring has shrunk away from the baseboards. What causes this after three years?

    • Hi there, Mike!

      If the floors were acclimated properly, the gapping may be caused by low or fluctuating humidity levels in your home. There is natural shrinkage and expansion that occurs with natural flooring materials, but if you are experiencing more than what is to be expected, you can look to your home’s interior humidity level and, if needed, set up a humidifier in the room where the bamboo flooring is installed to see if this helps reduce or alleviate the gapping. Keeping the humidity in your home within a 20% range (i.e. 35-55%) is the best medicine to keep your flooring looking healthy and beautiful and keeping the planks tightly ‘racked’.

  13. The wood thresholds come loose from my bamboo flooring. Ordinary wood glue does not stick to the bamboo. What do you recommend?

    • Hi Lou!

      Your moldings not adhering to the bamboo flooring may have something to do with the finish on either or both of the products. We’d recommend reaching out to the manufacturers of the moldings and flooring to see if they have suggestions for glues that may work better with their product.

      As far as alternatives, the adhesives that we most often recommend to our customers for gluing down our moldings and trim pieces to bamboo flooring are Titebond Wood Glue and Liquid Nails Construction Adhesive.

  14. Hello,
    I installed my bamboo flooring about 7 years ago. Nail down over sub floor. Climate controlled area with long 30ft runs. This past year the popping and cracking has gotten really bad. I thought it was for the dryer air in the winter so I bought a whole house humidifier and have it set to 60% with no change. I only use bamboo floor cleaner. What else could I be doing to get this to stop.
    Thanks for your help

    • Hey Jeremy, there can be a number of issues that cause this – run lengths, climate control, or even manufacturing errors. It is hard to determine the cause without a closer look at the product and the problem. We would advise to reach out to the manufacturer of your floors directly for deeper insight into what could be causing this problem. Best of luck getting it sorted!

  15. Hi, We bought a manufactured home on the California central coast in January 2022 with beautiful wood flooring. The previous owner has since moved to Florida. We have no idea who did the original installation or where the flooring came from. Now we have an area of buckling in the living room/ dining area. A company has come out and says we have bamboo flooring. They have very few ideas of how to fix this issue. The wood runs are fairly long. The company removed baseboards to check the gap but still have no good ideas for us. Any suggestions would be helpful!!
    Mary R

    • Hi Mary! We’re sorry to hear about the issue with your flooring. We have a few resources that should be able to help. First, our wood flooring cupping & crowning guide should give you a comprehensive look at the issue. We also have a separate blog post that goes into greater detail on whether you should repair or replace the damaged flooring. Replacement planks can often be reinstalled; however, given that you did not install the floor yourself, you may not have access to additional planks. Unfortunately, in many of such cases, the flooring will have to be replaced altogether. Take a look at these resources & let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.


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