Nail vs Glue vs Float: Which Flooring Installation Method is Best?

Preparing for a new flooring installation can be a daunting task. Maybe this is your first time, or maybe you’re aware of the spectrum of installation techniques. Bamboo flooring – like many other types – has benefited from the development of click-lock technology. This makes for an easy install without any complex equipment or confusing instructions.

Click-lock flooring installations are known as “floating floors,” but this is just one common technique. Not every floor is warranted for floating installation, and it can be difficult to choose which route to go.

Since bamboo flooring is growing so rapidly in popularity, we thought we’d let you in on some flooring installation trade secrets. Just as there are different ways to cook a good steak — broiling, pan-frying, or grilling — there are also different ways to install a beautiful bamboo floor. As with our steak-cooking example, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

THE NAIL-DOWN METHOD of Flooring Installation


Using an 18 Gauge Pneumatic Nailer (blind nailing)

This is the most common way to install hardwood. Behind floating floors, it is the cheapest and fastest installation method.  Approximately 70% of the tongue and groove floors are nailed down using the “blind nailing” nail down method, which hides the nail holes.

While this method is economical, one potential downside is that the nails can loosen due to seasonal expansion and contraction over the years. This can cause floors to become creaky and gapping between planks to occur. Due to its hardness, strand woven bamboo requires that you use 18 gauge cleats and a high-quality pneumatic nailer such as the Primatech Q550ALR.  This is important because using the wrong size cleats can cause dimples or ‘goosebumps’ in the flooring.

Before installation, you’ll want to purchase an underlayment such as 15 lb. felt paper or red rosin paper. These underlayments help reduce wood-on-wood squeaking. Note that 15 lb felt paper and red rosin paper are NOT vapor barriers. If you need a vapor barrier*, the glue-down installation method should be used instead of nailing.

*A vapor barrier is necessary when installing floors over an unconditioned area (like a crawlspace) or a concrete slab.

1. L Cleat Blind Nail Side View | 2. Top View Showing Properly Set Cleat

THE GLUE-DOWN METHOD of Flooring Installation

While a glue-down installation is the most expensive and labor-intensive of the three options, it’s also the most stable installation method. That’s because of glue elasticity, which allows the floors to expand and contract naturally with the seasons. If you purchase a high-quality adhesive, like our Ironwood All-In-One Wood Flooring Adhesive, you’ll get the added benefits of sound and moisture insulation.

glue down installation bamboo flooring

Troweling out the glue before laying the planks

Depending on the type of subfloor you have, you may be able to use a cheaper wood flooring glue, for example, if your sub-floor is plywood.   However, if you’re installing the floors over a crawl space, you’ll be required to use the all-in-one glue that contains a vapor barrier to seal the concrete.  Ensure that the adhesive you purchase has an upper moisture limit of at least 10 lbs, and always moisture test the concrete first to ensure you don’t have an excessively wet slab.

Just as it’s important to use the right nails and nail gun for the nail-down method of installation, it’s also essential to use the correct trowel in tandem with the correct glue. Why is this important? Use the wrong size trowel, and you won’t get the correct spread rate. This can compromise the new flooring’s ability to adhere to the subfloor. Don’t forget to clean up glue spills before they dry on your flooring planks! Use a product like Bostik Ultimate Adhesive Remover Towels to avoid damaging your floor’s surface and finish!

How To Glue Down A Bamboo Floor from Ambient Bamboo on Vimeo.

THE FLOATING METHOD of Flooring Installation

The main advantage to a “click-lock” floating floor is the ease of installation and a shorter flooring installation time overall. A floating floor is also easier to repair in the event of a leak or issue that causes sectional damage. Besides the click-lock version of flooring, a tongue and groove floor can also be floated. However, the latter is more time-consuming. This is because you must manually apply glue along the inside bottom groove along the entire length of each plank.

But before you jump on the floating floor bandwagon, you need to be aware that there is one restriction that applies strictly to floating floors (this applies to all floating wood floors, including bamboo). It has to do with humidity levels in your home and run distances on your floor. Unless your home has stable indoor humidity year-round (stays within a 20% range throughout the year), you’ll have limits on the distance of continuous runs of flooring you can lay, both in terms of length (longitudinal) and width (tangential).

CAVEAT:  Do you live in a geographical area with stable humidity? Do you have an HVAC modulator that will keep your interior humidity within the 40%-60% range all year? If so, you do not have to follow these run limits.

However, if that is not the case, you must follow the run limits below:

  • For an engineered floating floor, run limits are 25 feet wide and 45 feet long.
  • For a solid (wood all the way through) floating floor**, run limits are 15 feet wide and 25 feet long.

**Ambient™ does NOT recommend nor advise installing solid bamboo flooring via the floating method.

It would help if you opted for a click-lock floor and a 3-in-1 underlayment for floating installations’ best results.

1. Click Lock Profile | 2. Installing Click Lock Floor over a 3-in-1 Underlayment

Bamboo Hardwood Flooring: Eco-friendly, Beautiful, and Affordable

Eco-friendly bamboo flooring is rapidly becoming the choice of those who love the look of wood but want an option that’s better for the environment. Bamboo not only rivals the look of hardwood, but it’s also a more sustainable, earth-friendly option. Why? Bamboo is a rapidly-growing grass that regenerates every 5-7 years!tahoe-handscraped-bamboo-flooring-in-kitchen

But that’s not the only reason for bamboo flooring’s growing popularity. Its strand-woven manufacturing process also makes it rock-hard and durable, a definite plus in an active family home! That means it will need refinishing far less — if ever! — than a typical hardwood floor will. Bamboo floors are also available in many stylish up-to-the-minute finishes and colors, so what’s not to like?!!

If one of the things that appeal to you is eco-friendliness, you’ll be even happier with an Ambient bamboo floor. Our flooring takes sustainability and non-toxicity to a whole new level with its flooring, glues, and finishes.

Safe & Healthy Floors: Perfect for Any Home

Ambient is FloorScore® Certified, which means you don’t have to worry about dangerous off-gassing of toxic chemicals. FloorScore® is recognized by more than 19 leading environmental programs. The FloorScore® seal is your guarantee that a product has been independently tested and scored by SCS Global Services.

Plus, all of our adhesives and finishes are either ultra-low or zero-VOC. Your indoor air quality isn’t something you’ll have to compromise when installing an Ambient bamboo floor!

All Ambient floors are Lacey Act Compliant, which is your assurance that they’re legally sourced with minimal damage to the environment.

Add in one-stop shopping ease, great prices, honest reviews, and you’ve found the best place to buy your bamboo flooring. Shop our bamboo and eucalyptus floors today!

Last Update on 1/6/2022

Categories: Flooring

16 replies

  1. Should I put aa pad down with a bamboo flooring

    • For nail down installations we recommend that you use either 15 lb felt paper (asphalt saturated roofing paper, essentially) or red rosin paper, however please note that those underlayments are not considered vapor barriers!

      For floating installations you can use a 3 in 1 vapor barrier underlayment, which provides a vapor barrier, sound muffling, and makes up for small imperfections in the sub-floor. For the 3 in 1 underlayment, the higher the STC/IIC sound rating, the more quiet the floor will be when you walk on it. Good luck with your installation and let us know if you have more questions!

  2. Can I re-glue new flooring to previously used subfloor? I took up glued parquet and hope to glue new engineered-hardwood-on-ply in its place.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Justin! In this case we recommend you contact the manufacturer of your adhesive to ensure it will bond to the type of sub-floor you have. With many glues, as long as the sub-floor is clear and free of debris, it will work, but you’ll want to reach out to the manufacturer to confirm. For some surfaces such as tile or existing hardwoods you may have to buff off existing finishes and scuff the surface first, to enable the new glue to bond. Remember to also ensure that your sub-floor is level, that’s important! Good luck!

  3. Can I glue the tongue of click-lock floating bamboo to reduce squeak? Thanks

    • Hi David! We recommend that you reach out to your bamboo flooring manufacturer with this specific question. Are you sure the and not the sub-floor? Most floor noise is the result of loose nails and/or shifting joints in the sub-floor, or a result of dips in the sub-floor (this is one reason why most installation guides require that the sub-floors be level prior to installation). Most quality bamboo hardwoods will not squeak when you walk on them, so if your floors are making noise it may be a product defect and we definitely recommend reaching out to the customer service department of the brand you purchased. Hope this helps and have a great day!

  4. I am installing a snap lock engineered bamboo floor. No matter what we do we have not been able to get the subfloor to level in some areas. Would it be a problem to nail down a snap lock floor?


    • Hi Jean! We recommend checking with the manufacturer of your bamboo floor, but typically it is not recommended to nail/staple down a floating floor as the nails can compromise or crack the click mechanism which will result in the floor lifting up later. Best of luck!

  5. Can I nail/cleat down engineered bamboo flooring that was built to be a floating floor? The subfloor is a little uneven and it’s causing a few spots to flex a little more than might be nice underfoot. The instructions say just to float it, not to nail it down, but we’d like to be able to secure the flexing spots… Hoping that nailing it down won’t ruin it.

  6. Oh, apologies, I see you addressed this in the comments already. I missed it.

  7. i have tiles over original wood floors and now I want to install hardwood floors with underlay. do you recommend something else or is this okay.

    • Hi Marie and thank you for your question! The answer is: it depends on what type of tiles you’re referring to. I recommend you check out our bamboo flooring installation guide, specifically the section titled “Acceptable Subfloor Types” on page 4. This is a general guide showing what types of sub-floors are acceptable for nailing or gluing bamboo flooring to (and other hardwoods in general). Conversely, if you’re installing a floor via the floating method, all that is required is that the sub-floor be level to 3/16″ within a 10 ft radius, and that the sub-floor is dry and clear of debris. And remember, when installing a floating floor over a concrete slab or other subfloor that may be emitting moisture (like a crawl space), you’ll want to use a high quality 3 in 1 vapor barrier underlayment (the higher the STC sound absorption rating, the better!).

  8. This article is great!It will give people option as to what to use in their floors.

  9. When nailing bamboo floor how far away must each nail be I was told roughly 8 inches and can you put it down before you install a new kitchen as it would be easier

    • Hi Martin!

      Nails should be spaced at 8″ to 10″ intervals with a minimum of six nails per piece. For wide plank products (four inches and wider) nailing every 6″ to 8″ is the standard. There should not be a nail within three inches of each board end. For nail-down floors, professional flooring installers do advise nailing down the floors before installing cabinets, islands, and other kitchen items.

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