About 10 years ago the bamboo flooring market was on fire. This proliferation of interest in bamboo as a flooring material meant that there was also a surge in manufacturers selling the product and it has ended up in a lot of homes. If you own a home with bamboo and it’s time for a renewed look, then this post is a good practical guide for you.
Bamboo is a product manufactured buy assembling pieces of bamboo together with adhesive. Different methods of bamboo construction are:
- Carbonized- a process of steaming under controlled pressure and heat. The carbonizing process can reduce the floor’s final hardness significantly compared to non-carbonized bamboo, rendering it softer than some pines and softer than more common red oak.
- Natural (vertical or horizontal grain)- Strips of the flooring are cut and re-assembled with adhesive.
- Strand Woven- A process that essentially rips apart the wood fibers and re-assembles them with heat and adhesives and tremendous pressure. Strand woven products are exceptionally hard, but also are extremely difficult to install.
Because the process of manufacturing bamboo evolved at a rate that far exceeded the intelligence of most retail salespeople, many varieties of the product were sold with bigger promises than could be provided by the material. So, if you were one of the people who was promised a 25 year warranty, but you’ve experienced a lack of durability you may be frustrated. Don’t worry because you can refinish the floor in most cases unless your floor is strand-woven or a very thin veneer engineered product. Attempts to refinish strand woven bamboo by my colleagues at the NWFA headquarters have proven unsuccessful because the fibers of the bamboo constantly pull up and away from the glue substrate in the board resulting in a never ending “fuzz”. Thin veneer engineered products of bamboo simply lack the available surface depth to be sanded.
SO………………..If you have natural or carbonized bamboo, keep reading for what refinishing factors influence your floor:
- Changing the color– Bamboo does not absorb traditional floor stains very well at all. The color tends to look blotchy and dirty compared to something like an oak floor. If you want to go darker with your bamboo floor, then I advise a system like aniline dye and a tinted sealer coat. This will yield the most even look. This method of changing the color is very difficult to do, so I encourage you to prepare for a much higher estimate if you want to change the color of your bamboo floor.
- Beveled edges– Depending on your flooring the edges were likely beveled. You might consider the degree of bevel and if you want it removed or not. Removing a heavily beveled edge will also remove quite a bit of life from the floor.
- Adhesion– There are a variety of finishes on the market such as oil modified polyurethane, conversion varnish, waterborne, and hard wax oil. All of my conversations with colleagues in the industry indicate that hard wax oil such as Rubio monocoat and Pallman Magic oil will not absorb into the bamboo. In my experience waterborne finishes and conversion varnish finishes work great when applied to bamboo.
- Sheen– Make sure to determine what sheen you prefer your bamboo floor when getting it sanded.
Recently we refinished the bamboo floors at the Capitol Grill in downtown Sacramento. The floors were finished with a waterborne finish system to ensure that the smell upon re-opening would be minimal. Here are a few before and after pictures:
This project was originally a factory finished aluminum oxide floor. It was a tough finish to remove. The floor was able to be completed within a two day window in order to achieve proper curing before customers returned.
If you have any questions, then feel free to email us or call us.
Thanks for reading!