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”

  1. hello,
    what type or kind of nail do I use? exactly where does the nail go on the tongue part? do you have any ideas for the baseboard to use with the bamboo?

  2. Hi Cannon,
    Sounds like you need to visit the manufacturer’s website or a DIY (do-it-yourself) website for detailed instructions. You can call the manufacturer too. Most installers use nail guns. A lot of people hire a professional for bamboo flooring installation because it tends to split, chip, splinter, etc. during installation. You can do it yourself, so long as you take the time to learn about it first.
    Remember, 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.

  3. Hi Cannon,
    I checked with a friend of mine who had bamboo flooring installed, and the installers used a staples (with a staple gun) for the T&G and something akin to finish nails where they couldn’t access the T&G. She also made the comment that installing bamboo flooring is best left to professionals, in her opinion, due to the reasons I mentioned in the post above. At least that way, if it gets screwed up, it’s not your fault but the installers.
    Oh, forgot to address your question about baseboard. Any baseboard that’s thick enough to cover the expansion gap will work, and choose something that fits your home decor. I know, not much help, but you didn’t include information on what kind of colors you’re using, or if you want the baseboard to coordinate with the walls or the floor. ;~)

  4. Hi,
    We had a guy install bamboo flooring in a small bedroom by glueing to concrete floor. Gorgeous result, beautiful hardwood floor.
    BUT–the bamboo apparently got permanently stained on its surface, by his hands during the process. (fingerprint marks, etc.) I don’t know how to get them off. Plus, the stains are not glue but I think they are a glue by-product like oil, sweat, dirt, glue vapors, etc. Even if he wore gloves (which he should have), how to prevent glue vapors from imprinting the bamboo when installing in the future? He has to touch the bamboo surfaces during install. DIY folks say ‘wipe down’ during install to prevent all this; but I am not sure plain water will do it, if it is glue vapors…what to use during install to wipe down?!?!?

  5. You can try using a vinegar/water mixture and see if that takes care of it. If it doesn’t, then it’s time for a delicate operation — cleaning up the glue. With great care, gently dab mineral spirits onto the glue until it comes up. Be careful to not get too much on the flooring surface so you don’t damage the finish. Be sure to wash the spots with clear water when you are done to remove all remnants of the mineral spirits.
    When the glue in removed you may have to buff the fingerprints with a soft cloth– if they are just body oil and not glue smudges — to get the clean surface you want.
    I’ve also heard of a more unconventional approach for adhesive residue – don’t know if it works on other problems, like those from body oil, etc. Use a small amount of “Goo Gone” and “Bon Ami” on a paper towel and gently rub with the grain over any traces of adhesive. Quickly wipe off the mixture with a slightly damp towel and then thoroughly dry. Bon Ami is a mild abrasive that mixed with the Goo gone is just enough to do the trick. You may notice a slightly less shiny appearance after using this, however it is not enough that anyone but you would notice. Certainly much better than the smudged adhesive look.
    If the glue was latex based, you might try using a SOS pad – not the steel wool ones, but the kind made of plastic fibers. There’s two kinds, the kind for tougher scrubbing and delicate. Use the delicate. Sometimes this works. Don’t scrub hard though and be sure to take a damp rag to clean up afterwards or microfiber cloth. You can also use a dry microfiber cloth to kind of ‘buff’ it afterwards.
    You can also call the manufacturer – I’m sure they’ve heard of this numerous times and can also make recommendations.

  6. How do you fill in gaps in a pre finished bamboo floor?
    Two weeks after installation I noticed a 1/4 inch gap running the length of my floor and ther minor gaps. The floor was installed in the cold weather. Now that it is warm the gap has closed a little, but is still noticable as it is in the middle of my living room. The inspector said it is not the floor, but the installers liability. They suggest filling it in with putty, but I am concerned about the putty cracking and needing replacement over time. I am wondering if the best thing to do is to have the floor replaced even though it will be difficult?

  7. Hi ksmith,
    I would suggest giving the installers a call, and perhaps even the manufacturer. What brand did you use (just out of curiosity).
    I agree with the inspector, it should be the liability of the installer – the size of the gap in unacceptable. I wouldn’t do anything yourself yet. The floor would still be under warranty from the manufacturer, what kind of warranty (if any) did you get from the installer on their work?

  8. We contracted for a bamboo floor. We had the old tile floor revoved and the slab cleaned dorn to nothing but concrete. We have waited for several weeks, no water leaks, home A/C on lower than we usually keep it. The installers came out to prep the floor and said that the slab would never be dry enough to have bamboo. This is a thirty+ year old house with no foundation problems. I really don’t understand.

  9. I am wondering if you know how flexible bamboo really is. Our installer obviously thought bamboo is easy to install, but never actually installed it. He had trouble with the psi, the nail guns and– flatness.
    The floor is fully installed. And we are the big losers. He shimmed the floor, but it just created voids and dips everywhere. Level, but not nearly flat. It feels like a cheap floating floor. This is the 1/2″ Teragren Synergy. It seems like a great product, and gorgeous. But obviously the installer treated it like 3/4 hardwood.
    I have full access to the subfloor from the basement. Do you think I could drill 3/8″ holes up through the subfloor and inject PL Premium? Do you think this would fill the voids??
    Please help!

  10. Hi Eric,
    Bamboo flooring is very hard and because of this hardness, it’s not known for it’s flexibility. Some installers are even known to have special nail guns that they use just for bamboo – well, not really *special*, just that apparently certain brands/models work better than others for bamboo floors. Many nail guns have problems with chipping/splitting/splintering the boards just because bamboo is so dense (and thereby hard and brittle). This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not – bamboo is so durable because of it’s hardness!
    Anyhoo, back to your question about drilling up through the subfloor and injecting PL Premium…….. Honestly, I haven’t the faintest idea if this will work, but I suppose it’s worth a shot. Have you voiced your dissatisfaction to the installer? Seems to me he should have to replace the floor since he screwed it up so royally, which could very well mean purchasing new flooring and hiring somebody who is experienced at installing bamboo flooring. He’d be the loser (in terms of money), but if he cares about his reputation he should be willing to say that “Hey, I screwed up, but I’ll make it right, no matter what it takes”.

  11. In the article, it is mentioned that bamboo can be installed over existing vinyl/linoleum flooring if it is in good condition and not peeling. Is there any special consideration in getting the sub-floor ready? The linoleum in the house I just bought looks shiny as if it is coated with some kind of finish. I suppose it would be the glue-down method. Is there a special glue you need to glue onto vinyl?

  12. There’s not really a “special” glue, just make sure that the product you use will adhere to vinyl – be sure to ask for recommendations where you’re shopping. Roughing up the surface of the vinyl really well with very rough sandpaper will help to insure adhesion. If it doesn’t look like it’s getting roughed up very well because of the finish, you may need to strip the finish first. Some products recommend stripping the finish first to begin with.

  13. We had a Morning Star farms Natural Strand Bamboo floor installed this summer. We live in a ground-level ranch house in Sarasota Fl. Our house was built in the 70’s so the floor has been there a while. We tore up the existig tile floor, had it “preped” and somewhat leveled. We used the recommended glue (Bostik best)but did not use the moisture barrier because we were told by several installers that if the floor was wet (which we do not think it was – I did a test in several areas taping plastic down and waiting a week) then the moisure barrier would not help. Since it was very expensive, we decided agains it.
    Anyway, after about a month I started noticing boards here and there that were “splintering” or showing signs of damage on the surface which ran several inches long (with the grain of the boards). These boards are random across the entire floor. I wish I could post a picture so you could see what I mean. The “damage” is totally unaceptable and will need to be replaced (meaning that eventually we will replace the floor – with tile). To me this seems like a defect of the wood, not really due to the installation process or anything we have done since. Do you have and suggestions as to what may have gone wrong? I could understand if it was certain areas but it is so random. Are there things that go wrong with this type of flooring that may have made it defective? It is such a shame because I LOVE this floor and it does not scratch easily at all.
    Thanks for your help.

  14. If I had to guess, I’d say it was because the floor underneath was only ‘somewhat leveled’. This will cause stress on the bamboo. Was the bamboo acclimated before installation? If not, this can also cause problems.
    While you might not have a moisture problem, you still might have widely varying humidity which can also cause bamboo to crack due to expansion and contraction. This doesn’t happen very often though.
    There is always the possibility that the wood was defective, I know I have read lots of complaints about this type of problem (as well as scratching and gouging easily).
    A moisture barrier, depending on what kind was used, may have helped to level your under floor further and might have prevented at least some of this.
    I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t know if you’ll get any results from the manufacturer or installer. I’d start off with a ‘vague’ call to the manufacturer. You may have to get forensic tests run on the flooring. Good luck!

  15. Thanks for your comments. We will see where we get with Lumber Liquidators. I feel sick knowing how difficult the floor will be to remove and replace. We just survived our kitchen remodel (this was part of the whole project).
    I have another question:
    Should a small amount of water, say 1/4 c spilled on the floor cause ALOT of damage? Just today the cats knocked over a plant in one of the rooms with this bamboo flooring in it and about 1/4 to 1/3 c of water spilled and sat for what I assume was a few hours. Now 3 or 4 more boards are ruined.
    I had hardwood floors for years up north and I never remember so much trouble with water.
    We obviously cannot be trusted with a wood floor!
    If this is normal, ok, but it just seem so excessive for the amount of water – almost like there is no protection at all on the wood.

  16. I don’t know if this is normal or not for this brand of flooring. I would certainly hope not! If you have this floor replaced (and I sincerely do wish you luck!) I would recommend asking the manufacturer what kind of finish they would recommend in addition to what is already on it.
    Either this is a really poor quality flooring product or a bad batch. *sigh* I really feel for you, what a nightmare!

  17. I am thinking about using bamboo flooring 5/8 thick solid flooring I am wanting to naii it wright to the old oak floor my house is on piers in south texas, by the sea I have central air and heat should I put a vaper barrier down and what else do I need to know also do you khow anything about homeledgend bamboo brand flooring

  18. Hi Tim,
    If you’ve taken the time to read the article and look through all the comments then you should be pretty well armed. As far as home legend brand, I recommend that you do some homework by searching the internet for info.

  19. Hi – I just purchased about 500 sq ft of pre-finished bamboo. I have a second floor condo with a concrete subfloor. I ripped up all of the carpet and am finishing up the preparation. Since I’m on the second level, we have no moisture present at all. However, I think in order for the warranty to be good, I need to use the moisture barrier. There are a couple of spots I think I need to fill with leveling compound in order to make the floor perfectly level. I do not plan on using any underlayment such as cork. Is taht ok? Also, what is so tricky about the glue down method as opposed to nail down? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


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