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Can Bamboo Flooring Be Refinished?

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The What, When, And How Of Refinishing Your Bamboo Floors

Have you been considering refinishing your bamboo floors? Like hardwood floors, bamboo floors add warmth, beauty, and value to your home. It’s important to maintain them consistently and regularly check to ensure they’re in good repair for these reasons. It can sometimes be hard to tell when it’s time to refinish your bamboo floors.

Like traditional hardwood floors, bamboo can be a bit deceptive. Should you see scratches or areas of discolorations, don’t panic; they don’t necessarily mean your floors have to be refinished just yet. Conversely, a surface that looks smooth and uniform might actually need some touch-up work. Often, the eyes alone won’t give you an accurate depiction of the shape your floors are in.

Please note that not all brands have the same finish, so you will want to contact the manufacturer of your floor to ensure you’re using the right tools, methods, and finish.

There is an effortless way you can test your floors to see if they need refinishing:

  • Take a look at the section of flooring in your home that gets the most daily traffic. This will likely be the area that is in most need of being refinished.
  • Take just a tablespoon of water and pour it onto this section of flooring and watch what happens. If the water forms large droplets that stay on top of the floor’s surface, your finish is in good shape. If the water slowly sinks into your floor, your finish will definitely wear thin but doesn’t require immediate action. If, however, the water quickly penetrates your floors and leaves a dark spot, your floors may be ready for refinishing. Be sure to wipe up any remaining water after this test.
refinishing bamboo floors

Things to Consider Before Refinishing Your Bamboo Floors

Once you’ve determined that your floors need refinishing, there are some things you must consider before diving right into the project:

Hire a Professional or DIY?

Numerous television programs have many homeowners convinced they could tackle absolutely any home renovation/remodeling project. And with big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s catering to these people, why not think you can handle any job? Though refinishing your floors yourself may be the best choice for your wallet, it may not be the best choice for your floors. Bamboo floors can be difficult and labor-intensive to refinish. Though you can certainly choose to refinish your floors yourself, you may regret taking on this particular project if you don’t have adequate experience.

Rent or Buy Equipment?

If refinishing your bamboo floors sound like something you can handle, you might be inclined to run out to a hardware store and buy a sander or duster if you don’t already have one. But remember, you will only be using this expensive tool once and then not again for another 10 or so years. Your local home improvement center rents out these tools so you can keep your costs as low as possible. However, you will want to purchase your own safety glasses and ventilation mask because you’ll likely use them again.

Do You Even Need to Sand?

You may not even need to sand your floors. If the wear and scratching are minimal and don’t reach the actual bamboo, you might be able to get away with using a buffer to scuff-sand and only have to apply one or two coats of finish. This will save you time and money.

You’ll Need a Full Day.

If sanding is required, you’ll want to seal your floors the same day you sand them to prevent any moisture from being absorbed into your bamboo planks. Also, depending on the drying time for the finish you have selected, you’ll want to plan on completing your project in one day. Then allow 24 hours for the seal to completely dry before loading furniture and rugs back into the room.

Test for Oil

You won’t be able to buff a room that has been cleaned or waxed with an oil-based soap. If this is the case, your floors will have to be stripped first with an ammonia and water mixture or an industrial cleaner. Test a corner of your floor for oil by lightly sanding and applying a little finish. If it sets, you’re fine and can proceed with sanding/buffing. And remember, always check with your manufacturer first about the sanding and buffing methods acceptable for your finish type!

Use a Sheepskin Applicator

If you want to get the absolute best finish, you’ll want to use a sheepskin applicator. Using a brush will streak your floors, and rollers will create awful pools of finish that will discolor your floors. But using a sheepskin applicator will ensure your finish is smooth and even. Again, check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Buff and Clean Between Coats

Once your first coat of finish dries, you’ll need to buff the floor to remove any impurities. Make sure you clean up all of the dust before applying another coat. You can use an oil-infused cheesecloth to wipe up the buffer dust. And don’t forget to check with your manufacturer’s instructions.

Types of Finishes


Since being introduced in the 1970s, polyurethanes have become today’s standard floor finishes. Water-based polyurethanes have a shallow VOC content and are generally easy for a DIYer to apply. It’s recommended you use three to four coats. Water-based polys are great because they dry quickly (usually between two and four hours), they don’t give off nasty odors, and they don’t yellow like oil polys. They are, however, more expensive than oil polys. Oil-based polyurethanes are tougher, longer-lasting, and cheaper than water polys, but they have a slight initial off-gassing odor when you open the boxes (not harmful). They also take longer to dry, so it’s recommended you get your family (pets included!) out of the house for 8-10 hours while the floors are drying.

Oil Sealer

Oil sealers have been used for centuries to seal and finish floors. Oil sealers have a couple of great things going for them: they are easy to apply, and spot touch-ups are incredibly simple. Another nice benefit is that because the oil penetrates the wood or bamboo, it enhances the color and grain patterns. Also, oil doesn’t scratch, but you will need to recoat every two to three years since your finish will wear down.


Wax is one of the most traditional ways to finish a hardwood floor and was the method of choice before polyurethanes came onto the scene in the 1970s. For homeowners who don’t like a high gloss finish but prefer a low-sheen look, wax (either the paste or the liquid) would be a great option. Wax is also a natural finish with low VOCs and toxicity. It should be noted that wax tends to darken the wood, so if this is not the look you want, you still would like to use a wax finish, and then be sure to apply a base coat of sanding sealer shellac.

Sanding down and applying finish to bamboo floors

The instructions below apply to most polyurethane finishes applied to bamboo floors. For hard wax oil floors, as long as you regularly apply the wax oil you won't have the need to refinish them.

We highly recommend that you hire an experienced professional. However, if you want to tackle the job yourself, below is a general outline of the steps you will take.

  • 1 At a local big box or flooring store, purchase the following:
    1. 36 grit sandpaper
    2. 80 grit sandpaper
    3. The necessary quarts of uv-cured urethane finish
  • 2 At a local tool rental store rent the following:
    1. One B2 or Clark edger
    2. One 2" scraper
  • 3 Once you have the right tools, you're ready to begin the work:
  • Step 1

    Using the edger start to sand the floor down on a diagonal pattern/direction using the 36 grit sandpaper to get the existing finish off.

  • Step 2

    Then do a straight pattern/direction using the 36 grit sandpaper.

  • Step 3

    Then move to the 80 grit sandpaper and use it doing a straight pattern/direction. You may need the scraper to do the edges.

  • Step 4

    Allow enough time to dry by following the instructions on the product label, and voila you're good to go!

  • Step 5

    Once you have a smooth and dry surface you will want to apply 3 coats of the oil based polyurethane.

Refinishing Bamboo Stairs

  • flooring planks
    Step 1

    Sanding down the stair treads, which were built using flooring planks and stair noses

  • unfinished stairs
    Step 2

    Fully sanded bamboo staircase

  • finished bamboo stair
    Step 3

    Final finished bamboo stair treads with white poplar risers

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