Many of us think of regions that get crippling blizzards as an area with extreme climate conditions. However, even those who live in an arid desert or tropical humid areas experience extremes of above-average humidity or extremely dry air conditions. So, can you install bamboo flooring in a dry or desert area, or a humid or tropical area? Absolutely! Just follow this guide for a long-lasting and beautiful bamboo floor.
Interior Humidity For Healthy, Long Lasting Bamboo Floors
Whether you live in a desert or a tropical climate, keeping your home’s interior a climatic oasis is easy with the right tools. Wood floors expand and contract naturally through the changing seasons due to the changes in humidity. There’s no way to avoid that when you use wood products in your flooring, whether you have bamboo floors or another type of hardwood. Remember, the humidity levels outside are often very different from your in-home levels, as HVAC systems have a stabilizing effect on humidity levels. To keep an eye on your indoor humidity you can use a hygrometer like this one.
- Desert or Dry Climate: In many deserts, outdoor humidity might average about 35-40% year round. However, during an arid desert’s winter season, humidity levels can drop to 10-20%. That dry air can take a toll on hardwood and bamboo floors if it gets too dry (think below 20% humidity). If you see the interior humidity start to drop below 25% consider investing in a humidifier. A smart, programmable, home humidifier is a perfect solution. Select a portable model for the convenience of moving it where you need it and storing it out of sight when the dry season is over.
- Tropical or Humid Climate: These climates are actually very suitable for bamboo flooring because they have relatively stable humidity year-round (even if it is higher than normal). As long as you acclimate the flooring for 14 days you’ll rarely experience any issues with bamboo flooring in a humid climate. If it gets too wet you’ll notice the boards will expand and two planks might “tee-pee”, when this happens it’s easy to find a smart, programmable de-humidifier, or you can cut in extra expansion gaps at the sides of the planks where they’re pushing up against the walls.
Humidity control automation is also an option. A whole-house humidity modulator or humidistat will cost a more than purchasing a portable device but many homeowners think it’s worth the cost. Also, HVAC professionals offer many options for integrating humidity controls into a home’s air quality control system. Chances are, there is one that fits within your household budget. An automated system means the humidity is controlled even while you sleep or are away on vacation.
Acclimation Is Key
Another key ingredient to a successful installation of natural flooring in humidity extremes is acclimation. This needs to happen right out of the box, so to speak. When your flooring arrives and you’re ready to acclimate, remove the stacks of planks from their packaging and cross-stack them to receive better airflow, those planks need to breathe. Then, leave them be for at least 14 days. Allow them to adjust to the humidity level of the room where they will be installed.
The next critical factor for natural flooring success in an environment of climate extremes is how the flooring is secured. Although some projects use a nail down method, the glue down method is recommended in dry or humid geographies.
The types of adhesives used with bamboo flooring have an elastic quality that allows for natural expansion and contraction to take place. In tropical climates, it also acts as a protect-ant against moisture seeping up from to subfloors (as long as you get an adhesive with vapor barrier mixed into it). Another benefit to the glue down method is that it has a sound-dampening quality, acting as another layer of insulation that helps to absorb and muffle the sounds created when feet or objects move about upon the floor.
Leave Expansion Gaps
As you prepare to glue down planks, remember that there is no stopping Mother Nature. That means the expansion/contraction process of your bamboo flooring will occur throughout its lifetime. Give it room to breathe. Although carpet may be a wall-to-wall installation job, not so for bamboo. Your bamboo flooring needs some personal space, as in a 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap around the entire perimeter of your flooring installation area.
What Humidity Does – Dry and Wet
There’s no stopping seasonal changes and the accompanying swings in humidity levels, but living in a high humidity climate or arid desert is no reason to fear having the beauty of bamboo flooring in your home. It just takes a commitment to humidity awareness, adjustment, and control.
When recommended humidity levels are not maintained, the natural expansion and contraction of wood flooring becomes more pronounced. High humidity can cause excessive expansion with planks not having enough room, resulting in slight lifting/buckling of the floor planks. Arid conditions cause contraction. Gaps between planks are the most common signs of an interior environment that has become dry and these gaps are considered normal in hardwood floors.
Keeping your home’s humidity within the recommended range of 35-55% is helpful. Throughout the year, seasonal changes may cause fluctuations in interior humidity. Preventing a major fluctuation of more than 25% over a 48 hour period is important. But don’t let this discourage you as interior humidity is often more stable than you think. That’s why bamboo flooring is being successfully installed and enjoyed in homes found in Kenya’s tropical jungles and the high altitude deserts of the Rocky Mountains.
Remember this advice from our friends at the National Wood Flooring Association:
If you are ready to begin beautifying your home with gorgeously green bamboo flooring, contact a flooring professional. Don’t trust just anyone! Partner with a flooring professional that has a reputation for expertise in the highest quality bamboo flooring products currently available.