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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 – 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.
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.
HOW TO AVOID IT
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
HOW TO AVOID IT
- 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.
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.
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