Installing Bamboo Flooring

Before installing bamboo flooring, watch an installing bamboo flooring video; you may decide to hire a professional for installing your bamboo floor. There are tricks for bamboo flooring installing that can make the job faster with better results. Installing bamboo floor over fir floor with no subfloor isn’t much different than installing over plywood or OSB subfloors.

If installing floating bamboo floors over slab subfloor, take extra care so you have great results — or again, hire a professional. Bamboo flooring is beautiful and durable, and very much worth your consideration. Installing bamboo flooring isn’t hard, but hiring a professional is worth your consideration.

Installing bamboo flooring over a wood sub-floor is no more difficult that installing other wood flooring, and many homeowners find self-installation to be a great way to save money. However, installation over concrete takes more skill and expertise, and may not be worth the money you’d save by installing it yourself. Before you begin the project, it’s important to assess your capability and motivation to do the job yourself.

Once you’ve committed to installing your bamboo floor, make sure to order an additional 7-9 percent flooring to allow for waste and cuts. Also, carefully examine the bamboo flooring for consistent color, finish, quality, and damage before you begin. As with all projects, read and have a thorough understanding the manufacturer’s installation instructions, policies and warranties because the time spent in these early stages can greatly improve the quality of your finished product.

The basic concepts for installing bamboo flooring are the same as for installing other hardwood flooring. The sub-floor must be flat, smooth, clean and preferably dry — especially if installing onto a concrete surface (and you probably should consider laying a vapor barrier between the sub-floor and bamboo.

Most bamboo floors are not covered under warranty if installed in a bathroom, washroom, saunas, or other similar wet locations — but check with the manufacturer you want to choose to make sure. Remember, bamboo flooring is a natural product that will warp or swell with extended exposure to moisture, and shrink with extended exposure to heat.

General Preparation


As with other hardwoods, bamboo flooring must be acclimated in the room where it will be installed for 24-72 hours to ensure it adapts properly to the temperature and humidity level of the room. If you live in an arid zone, it’s advisable to have the wood acclimate in the space it’s to be installed for even longer; you want the wood to be at about the same moisture content as the humidity level in the room.

Lay Out

By laying the flooring prior to installation, you can ensure that the floor color and grain characteristics enhance the beauty of the finished floor. Being a natural product there will be variations, and the finished floor looks better if you intermix the light and dark pieces, as well as the slightly different grains.


Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions to protect your warranty.

Tapping Block

To avoid fracturing the flooring edge, use a tapping block to hit the bamboo, or a rubber-headed mallet. Never hit the bamboo flooring directly.

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Base Molding

Remove any base molding (aka baseboard or toe kick) and door thresholds before installation. Leave 1/4-1/2″ expansion space between walls, cabinets, etc. using plastic or wood spacers to accommodate expansion due to changes in moisture level. These spaces will be covered when base moldings are reinstalled.

Wood Sub-Floor: Additional Preparation

Clean and Smooth Surface

The wood sub-floor must be clean and free of all wax, grease, paint, etc. To ensure a smooth, even surface, sand the wood sub-flooring, and remove dust with vacuum and damp rag. If the floor isn’t level, sand down the high spots and fill in the low spots.


To eliminate squeaks, nail or screw the sub-flooring every six inches. This is well worth the effort because squeaking floors are a nuisance.


As recommended by the manufacturer, add a moisture barrier.

Concrete: Additional Preparation

Clean and Dry

The cement must be clean and free of all oil, stains, dust and debris, and must have all cracks and holes filled with patching material. Do not install on concrete unless it will stay dry during all seasons. Using a moisture meter, check the moisture levels in both the concrete and bamboo flooring. The difference between the two must be less than 3 percent (or 3 lbs. per 1,000 square feet, using a calcium chloride test).

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Moisture Treatment

Treat for moisture per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Vinyl: Additional Preparation

Clean and Dry

Make sure the vinyl is in good condition, clean, level and well bonded to the sub-floor.


Once your sub-floor has been prepared, your working line can be established by measuring an equal distance (the width of the plank plus 1/4″ for expansion) from the wall at both ends. Once measured, snap a chalk line. Confirm your working line by laying a few rows without glue or nails.

The three primary methods for installing bamboo flooring include the nail-down method, the glue-down method, and the floating method. Typically, the nail-down method is used with wood sub-flooring, the glue-down method is used for concrete sub-flooring, and the floating method is used for radiant heat floors, though nail-down can also be used on radiant heat floors too.

The use of each method depends upon the sub-flooring and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regardless of the method you choose, it is vital to follow the manufacturer’s instructions because they vary from company to company, and variances from these instructions may void the warranty.


Bamboo flooring can be purchased either pre-finished or unfinished. If you’ve installed unfinished flooring, sand the flooring using a floor sander as you would any other hardwood surface. After sanding the floor with a coarse grit, repeat with a medium grit and finish with a fine grit paper. Directly after sanding, apply the first coat of finish to avoid moisture absorption. Apply additional coats as recommended by the manufacturer, and as needed for traffic. Pre-finished flooring is ready to use immediately.

Why should you opt for bamboo flooring instead of more traditional options like oak? We like bamboo because it’s environmentally friendly, quick to grow and adds an attractive contemporary look to your floor. It’s also durable enough to last for a long time as long as it’s installed correctly.

How to Put Your Bamboo Flooring In

Bamboo flooring installation isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds – just laying down flooring – simply because a good-looking floor should run perfectly parallel to your walls and improper installation can actually reduce its durability. Most people prefer to hire a professional for exactly this reason.

However, it usually takes less than a day and you’d be surprised by how much a better-looking floor can improve the overall appearance of a room. If you decide to do it yourself, it’s usually cheaper but you also should make sure to do it right the first time so that your bamboo flooring remains attractive for a long period of time.

Step 1: Create a reference for laying down the first few rows

This is usually done by drawing out a reference line that runs parallel to either the exterior wall, which is usually the straightest, or the longest wall in the room and then laying down a batten board that’s perfectly parallel to either the exterior wall or the longest wall in the room.

This provides a reference guide to putting down the first few rows and will be removed once they’re in place.

Step 2: Start putting in flooring

Use an 18-inch nail driver to secure the shoulder of the first board. The nails should go in at an angle so they don’t interfere with putting in subsequent boards. If a different type of flooring borders the new bamboo flooring installation, leave a one-inch gap between the existing flooring and the new. This leaves room for a transition strip and avoids damage to existing flooring.

Step 3: Add another row of planks

Before you start with the next row of planks, make sure everything is straight and lined up with the batten board. The next row should start with a shorter segment of wood to stagger the seams.

This reduces wear and tear on the ends of the wood planks so your floor lasts longer. Make sure the seams are lined up straight as you add the new rows.

Step 4: Remove batten board and add spline

Once you’re sure everything is going in perfectly straight and parallel with the walls, remove the batten board.

The spline you add in its place should be twice the width and the same height as the tongues of the wood planks you’ve been adding. Put a small amount of glue in the groove of the plank that is nailed to the floor and gently tap the spine into place.

Step 5: Add the last row

Now that you have most of the flooring added, you may notice that there’s a gap that isn’t wide enough for a full-width plank.

This is where you’ll want to cut back remaining planks to the required width and use a pry bar to position the planks. Add finish nails to the face of the board near the wall and use molding to cover the nail heads.

Step 6: Inspect the work

Actually, it’s usually easier to inspect the work at each step in the process because you can still correct mistakes before the work is completed. Every row should go in perfectly straight.

If you’re close to the end and things don’t seem to be quite right, look for where you might have gone wrong even if it means taking up a few rows and reapplying them in a straighter fashion.

Step 7: Take good care of your bamboo floor

Your bamboo floor installation looks perfect now, but you still want to care for it properly to make sure it lasts. If liquid is spilled on it, the spill should be dried with a dry towel before it has a chance to soak in.

When you mop, you should use a cleaner that is designed specifically for wood floors and the mop should only be lightly dampened. Floor protectors should be placed under the legs of heavy furniture to protect the floor and keep the furniture from sliding.

If you must move furniture, get help with the heavy lifting so you don’t have to slide furniture across the floor. Remove shoes or wipe your feet before walking on the floor when you come in from outside. If you wear high heels, avoid walking on the floor if possible to avoid damage to the floor caused by the heels.

111 thoughts on “Installing Bamboo Flooring”


  2. You need to get rid of the concrete blobs so the subfloor, which is probably OSB (oriented strand board) or plywood, is even. If you have a warped subfloor you may want to fill the depressions in with thin layers mastic or glue, built up until the floor is level.
    If you put effort into making the floor level you’ll be more content with the bamboo installation. Don’t skip this preparation step! It may slow down the actual installation and you may live in a work zone longer than you want, but it’s well worth the hassle, inconvenience and effort.

  3. We had a professional floor installation done one year ago on concrete using bamboo flooring. We live in California where we have only had a few drops of rain in the past two years. The concrete was tested with a meter and was 3 or under everywhere the floor was to be installed. The floor slowly started warping about six months out, now a year later, we have a huge bubble in the middle of the living room and long areas of lifting and warping. We repiped the house before the floor was laid. We have had two leak dectection experts look for leaks and perform leak dectection tests. They both say there are no leaks. The floor was installed with a Franklin vapor barrier. Their rep came out and said they do not warrantee their barrier with bamboo, ever. Finally, our installer did a sodium chloride test and it came out as a 6. This was done two days after a very heavy rainfall, the first in many months. The installer still insists we must have a slab leak. My husband and I are desperate. We keep going round and round in circles and don’t know what to do. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

  4. I will be installing a bamboo floor over a concrete using the glue method I need to install an underlayment that can be a moisture barrier,vapour barrier and has a good noice barrier as i live in a highrise building could you tell me what is the best option sould I be applying the glue over the underlayment.
    Thank you

  5. You might try installing cork underlayment first. It will add to your flooring cost, but it will help reduce noise transfer. The glue will act as the vapor barrier.
    Let us know what you did and the results.
    You’ll love your bamboo floor.

  6. Hi,I live in norhtern Ohio,and would like to install bamboo in front foyer that will carry into bathroom.I will be going over concrete slab.I assume the glue down method will be best suited for this application,anything else I should know before installing??

  7. You could also consider doing a floating floor.
    Consider cork or foam insulation below the bamboo.
    You might also consider having the bamboo sanded and sealed after installation to give it a more durable finish and to fill in the cracks that naturally happen between the bamboo boards.
    I personally like the look of the bamboo stretching from the foyer to the bathroom without an expansion strip, but some manufacturers want you to put in an expansion strip as you change rooms. I didn’t do that and am having no problems.

  8. I just had stranded (woven) bamboo installed and my-oh-my is it gorgeous. I referred to your website to learn about removing glue with mineral spirits. Thank you. Now I am alarmed to read that I may have needed a vapor/moisture barrier. I live in Austin, Texas and we have lots of humidity. Right now I am using a de-humidifier. Of course, I cannot get the installer to call me back. The flooring was installed with mapei glue directly on a 30-40 year old cement slab. Anyway, my question is this….without having a vapor/moisture barrier installed, is my floor going to warp and bubble and generally become a waste of $2000??
    -Worried in Austin-

  9. The glue will act as a vapor barrier. Humidity isn’t a problem with your bamboo floor, though a high water table might be. If you don’t have a high water table you should be fine with the installation you have. The humidity might even be good for your floor.
    One of the advantages of bamboo flooring is that it’s engineered, making it more durable in the face of humidity, dryness, and temperature variations. Enjoy your bamboo floor.

  10. I was preparing to install bamboo flooring in three bedrooms. I pulled up the carpet in one and to my dismay, there was old vinyl tiling, probably from the 70’s when my house was built. At the time, I didn’t know this, so I started to scrape up the old tiles, thinking this would be the best idea. I then went to Home Depot and was informed it probably contains asbestos and I should stop immediately. What should I do? Can I install over this old vinyl flooring? Since I removed a corner of the tiling already, how would I level it off? Is there some other solution?
    P.S. I am pregnant and actually my friend is going to be doing the installation… I was just helping to remove the carpet. I am, however, concerned about exposure to glue. Will I be ok if I am in a different room if the room is well-ventilated with door shut?

  11. You want to level the area where you removed the tiles, maybe with the scraps you pulled up if they are in big enough pieces. Then you can lay the bamboo on top of the old flooring.
    You have several options for laying your new bamboo flooring: nailing, floating, and gluing. You are wise to be concerned about the glue VOCs. The best glue I know of is Bostik’s Best flexible urethane adhesive, but it’s not VOC-free (no glue is that is worth it’s weight, from what I know). And even with lots of ventilation for that one room the glue will off-gas for a long time.
    Floating often requires gluing, so it may not be an ideal approach either. Nailing may be your best option. Be sure to have a nail/staple that’s long enough to go through the bamboo, the tile and into the subfloor.

  12. Hello. I’m on the 4th floor of a 5 yr. old condominium complex.
    Per the condo association, I had to purchase 1/4″ cork underlayment. I have also purchased 6mm polyethylene film to go over the concrete slab.
    My question, can I float (everything)?
    My plans were to:
    -Remove carpeting and tack strips (done).
    -Make sure the concrete slab is flat and free of debris (in progress).
    -Lay down the polyethylene film (next)
    -Lay down the cork underlayment (floating, no glue)
    -Lay down the bamboo (floating, no glue).
    What do you think?
    Am I on the right track?

  13. Things to consider for you float your bamboo floor are whether you are going to click or glue it, how much expansion space to leave around the perimeter, how you’ll abut this to spaces like a fireplace, and how long to acclimate it before installation (give it longer than most manufacturer’s suggest). If the bamboo flooring manufacturer says the product is able to be floated you can proceed in generally the direction you are headed.
    My concern is that with three layers of material floating, you are going to get product wrinkling as the bamboo expands an contracts. My suggestion is to forget the vapor barrier and glue the cork underlayment to the concrete. The glue will act as a vapor barrier and keep the cork in place when the bamboo shifts. The best glue for the job is Bostik’s Best flexible urethane adhesive . Then you can float the bamboo over that. You should be quite happy with the results.

  14. A vapor barrier can be created in several ways, but it keeps moisture barred from entering a designated space. The point here is to keep moisture from being wicked through the concrete into the bamboo flooring.
    Since you are probably gluing your bamboo to your concrete, the glue can act as the vapor barrier, assuming you use the right glue. I favor Bostik’s Best flexible urethane adhesive for projects like you are tackling.
    Another option for a vapor barrier is a product that looks like black plastic sheeting. Raven Industries makes a fantastic film vapor barrier you could put down on your concrete floor prior to installing a floating bamboo floor. I have concern that as the bamboo expands and contracts it will either move the film or tear it — and in either case it won’t be effective.

  15. We purchased some bamboo flooring for our house and started installing it with polyurethane glue. Unfortunately it got messy and we ended up getting glue fingerprints and smudges all over the floor. I tried mineral spirits to get it off and nothing happened. What do I do? Do I refinish the floors after I am done installing? Do I tear up the floors and start over? Please help.

  16. I had a similar problem with glue on my bamboo floor. We used paint thinner and Q-tips, very lightly dabbing at the glue smudges and prints until the glue was gone so as to not damage the finish. Then we rinsed the area carefully to remove the paint thinner, and all was good.
    Let me urge you to test it on a scrap first to make sure it works for your glue and with your technique. If it doesn’t work, let’s brainstorm on some other ideas.

  17. Hi, I have pretty much the same question as Mack:
    I have 3/8″ particle board over cardeck(basically tongue and grooved 2x6s), I’d like to leave the PB in place and nail/staple through to the decking. Have you heard on anyone who’s done this successfully? We’re using 5/8″ bamboo flooring.

  18. Good question. The decking is oriented in the same direction that we want to run bamboo. I’m worried about evenness(?) if I nail it directly to the decking.


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