In recent years, bamboo flooring has become a popular choice among homeowners who are looking for eco-friendly flooring that won’t break the bank. It has also risen in popularity because it has a unique beauty which is characterized by its distinctive variations in color and grain. These inherent variations are what set bamboo apart from all other natural flooring products. However, you must keep expansion and contraction in mind when installing any floating hardwood flooring.
Like hardwood and laminate floors, bamboo can be installed in 3 different ways: the nail-down method, the glue-down method, or the floating method (Learn more: Nailing vs. Gluing vs. Floating a Bamboo Floor). The last method is straightforward, and one that most DIYers choose when installing their own bamboo floors. No matter which method you use, it is very important that you consider the floor’s expansion to avoid warping and buckling. In fact, most installation problems are because of moisture intrusion, lack of expansion, or planks that have been cut too tight around fixed objects, such as kitchen islands and doorways.
Allow Acclimation before Installation
Bamboo’s size and shape changes with the absorption and release of moisture. How much it changes is determined by the species and particular cut. After the bamboo is harvested, it is kiln-dried and then wrapped in cellophane to prevent moisture gain or loss during transit and storage. By the time you get those planks home, they will need some acclimation before you can begin to install your floor.
Acclimation is one of the most important steps of any installation and one that many people neglect to do. But if you want to ensure the optimum stability for the lifetime of your floors, and we think you probably do, then please don’t skip this step.
Bring the boxes of bamboo into the house and store them in the very room you will be installing them in. If you’re installing planks in an upstairs bedroom, don’t leave them down in the cellar and vice versa, since the temperature and moisture content of both rooms will not be the same.
Slice open up the lengths of the box and end flaps, including the interior cellophane, and stack the boxes up to 5 boxes high on the ground for a minimum of 72 hours. Preferably, try to cross-stack them. Ideally, you want to allow acclimation to happen over a period of 3-10 days (some brands that aren’t moisture-balanced properly require longer acclimation periods). The goal here is to reach a balance between the new floor and indoor surroundings before installation begins. Neglecting this step will invariably result in floors that squeak, have excessive movement, and have excessive gapping.
Mind the Expansion Gap
And speaking of gapping, it’s really important to remember during installation to leave a space (gap) of at least 1/4 to 1/2 inch around the perimeter of your floor. Many DIYers don’t realize that this also means, for example, installing bamboo flooring in kitchens around solid fixtures like the kitchen island and columns, not just the obvious walls in the room. So think of it this way, the gap should be left along all vertical surfaces in the room. Once the floor has been installed (What is the cost to install bamboo flooring?), this gap will be hidden with decorative accessories like baseboards and shoe molding.
Following these tips will help you install your beautiful bamboo floors correctly, ensuring they don’t become warped or buckled.