8 Common Installation Errors With Hardwood & Bamboo Flooring

 

commoninstallationproblemsbamboofloors

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.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • 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 problema! (No problem!) You can download the Spanish version here.
  • Read the manufacturer’s maintenance guide. In order 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 that is glued or nailed down and has started to shrink or change shape within a few months after installation, improper acclimation is one possible culprit.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • 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 as well as 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 in 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 you bring 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 off, ever. Turning the climate control off for any extended period of time 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. Moisture emitted by concrete and crawl spaces can cause warping after installation if not properly addressed. Make sure to first 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.

acclimatingbambooindryorhumidclimates

 

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.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • 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 – cupped floor!  Furthermore, using the wrong trowel – or using the trowel improperly – can result in less than 100% coverage of the glue on the slab.  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

gluedownconcretenotcorrect

  • 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 responsibility of the installer 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 long runs in 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.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • Only install solid floating floors in stable humidity environments. Like hardwoods, bamboo will change shape slightly depending on the humidity. On floating floors, these effects multiply and then radiate out to the edges of the installation and at doorways. 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 widths of the planks 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, and if the humidity drops below normal, you’ll just 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 before making a purchase. Stick to a reputable flooring brand to avoid shrinkage, cupping, and a myriad of 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 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.

 

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • 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’s being installed, while the glue is still wet! If the glue cures on top of the plank – fugghedaboutit – it can then be impossible to remove and will often result in stripping of the top coats of the finish, 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.

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • 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.

 

dimpledflooringwrongcleatsizeThis installer didn’t use 18 gauge cleats.

Courtesy of Wood Floor Business Magazine

  • Ensure that the nail gun has the proper PSI setting. 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 make sure 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 top coats.

cleaningbambooflooring

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

HOW TO AVOID IT

  • Avoid mineral spirits and other abrasive cleaners. Most bamboo floors come with UV-cured urethane finishes (polyurethane), which can be 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 the great majority of 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 undersides of the joists.

 

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

 

  • Where a proper ground covering is in place and when venting is required by local building codes, 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.

 

 

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.

Have a recommendation for a common bamboo flooring installation error? Have technical questions about installing? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below!

 



Categories: Floor Protection, Flooring, Home Improvement, Interior Decorating

10 replies

  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: https://www.woodfloors.org/certified-professional-search.aspx

  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!

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