Bamboo Laminate Flooring Installation
In this article, I’m going to take you through the steps involved in installing bamboo laminate flooring. About six months ago, I was in a situation where I needed to renovate our one-bedroom apartment. It has a bedroom, living area or lounge room, office, kitchen, and bathroom. One of the more important decisions was the type of flooring that we were going to have. Up until now, it had carpet flooring but as we would soon be parents, I felt that a solid floor would be more appropriate. We had several choices that included ceramic tiles, solid timber flooring, solid bamboo floors, cork flooring, engineered flooring or the laminate flooring version of some of these i.e. hardwood laminate flooring or bamboo laminate flooring.
Carpet and Ceramic Tiles
We had already decided that we were going to skip installing carpet. After having heard several stories from friends about the amount and type of mess that a baby can create, we both could see that a carpet floor that would need fairly regular steam cleaning would not be the best choice.
Now that we were left with choosing between the different solid floors, we considered ceramic tile flooring as an alternative.
The ceramic tiles would be perfect for areas that we’re often exposed to water but as far as the bedroom and living room were concerned, we weren’t too sure. The problem here was that we both felt it would be too cold a surface in winter. Given that our unit is downstairs and built directly on the rock, the coldness of the rock would penetrate straight through to the tiles. We decided that we may consider tiles for the kitchen flooring and bathroom flooring but we would give them a miss in the living areas.
The next obvious choice was hardwood flooring like solid oak flooring or pine flooring. In particular, I’ve always loved the richness of oak, mahogany or cherry and it can always be sanded back and re-varnished if damage occurs over time. There are several distinct disadvantages though when considering hardwood floors. The most obvious of these is the cost.
A hardwood floor is possibly the most expensive flooring type that you can choose and although it is possible to find discount wooden flooring, the price can still be prohibitive and the quality may be less than desired. The high cost is indicative of the long growing time of these trees. They take literally hundreds of years to grow and the long growing period also means these trees are not a very quickly renewable resource.
This has consequences when it comes to conservation and attempting to be environmentally friendly. In addition, when it comes to hardwood floor installation, we would have to call in flooring professionals, adding to the already high cost of the flooring.
The next alternative is solid bamboo flooring. This is a beautiful type of flooring with many inherent advantages. Firstly it is a far more environmentally friendly resource. Bamboo is a grass that only takes five to seven years to grow at which point it can be harvested. It is extremely strong, resisting scuffing and other forms of damage as well as being water-resistant.
It is perfect for an Asian theme when considering the interior design of your house and the bamboo blinds we were considering installing, would be complemented by a bamboo floor perfectly. Alternatively, the resort-style plantation shutters that we currently had, would also be complemented by bamboo flooring. The only real drawback for us installing bamboo flooring was the price. It is difficult to find bamboo flooring and it would also need to be professionally installed.
Engineered flooring was the next alternative that we looked at. This flooring option is cheaper than genuine hardwood or bamboo because it is made from layers of plywood that are bonded across each other to make the final product incredibly strong. The top layer of engineered hardwood flooring is made from reclaimed wood i.e. wood that comes from an old building that is being demolished. In the case of engineered bamboo flooring, the top bamboo layer often comes from shredded bamboo.
Both of these flooring types offer the genuine look of the real flooring boards whilst being incredibly strong, though, in the case of engineered wood floors, the top layer is not usually thick enough to allow sanding back if the floorboards are damaged. One big advantage of engineered flooring is that it falls into the DIY flooring category. If you have some basic handyman skills and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then you’ll be able to install the flooring yourself and save yourself the cost of hiring professional flooring contractors.
The only drawback of installing this type of floor is that glue is required to bond the floorboards together. The flooring planks come with a tongue and groove system whereby you squirt the glue into the groove of one board and then push the tongue of the second board into that groove. You continue to do this with the first three rows and then stop to wipe off the glue that will have squeezed up from between the boards. Engineered flooring usually isn’t attached to the subfloor and hence it also falls into the floating flooring category. Although this type of flooring suited most of our needs we still wanted to research bamboo laminated flooring.
Bamboo Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is similar to engineered flooring except that the top layer is a photograph of the wood or bamboo the flooring is trying to simulate. Until only recently, most cheap laminate flooring looked quite fake. But with the advances in laminate floor technology, it is possible to buy laminate flooring that is difficult to distinguish from the real thing. Because it is made from layers of plywood, laminate flooring is very strong and resistant to scuffing and damage.
It is also easily installed by the home handyman because it usually comes with a snap and lock system that doesn’t require glue. Hence installing laminate flooring is far cleaner than engineered flooring. Laminate flooring is also a cheap flooring alternative, generally being less expensive than engineered flooring. And cleaning laminate flooring can be easily done with a quick vacuum. Or simply mopping over with warm water and a gentle laminate floor cleaner.
As such it would be perfect for our newborn baby to play on – any mess they made could be easily cleaned up. So with all of these advantages, we decided to choose bamboo laminate flooring for the living room and bedroom. One problem with laminate flooring is that it doesn’t handle being exposed to liquid or moisture on a constant basis. If this happens, the laminate will start to warp and form gaps between the boards. Therefore we decided not to use the bamboo laminate in the kitchen or bathroom. And to use some discount kitchen tiles in those rooms instead.
Picking Up Bamboo Laminate Flooring
Now, it was time to jump in our used 4×4 and pick up our flooring from our local retailer. We have been regular shoppers at Ikea and while we were there last, we had a look at what was their best laminate flooring. We found one that suited our purposes perfectly and was at a very cheap price. As expected, the laminate floorboards came with the snap and lock system. And knowing how good Ikea quality is, we knew we could install it without too much trouble.
The bamboo laminate plank flooring came in packs of ten. We also picked up standard underlay and plastic polyurethane sheeting as well. The subfloor of our unit is a concrete slab laid straight onto dirt and rock that absorbs moisture and gets quite damp. Because bamboo laminate flooring cannot withstand constant contact with moisture, it requires a plastic barrier to be laid between it and the concrete. As far as the standard underlay was concerned, we had a choice of two types.
The first was almost like a felt and offered a slight cushioning effect under the flooring. This came in a roll. The second underlay was much thicker and added the additional advantage of filling very small gaps between the floorboards and the subfloor. This came in large tiles roughly four-foot square. We chose the latter for our floor, as we knew the subfloor might not be perfectly flat.
While we were there, we picked up a tool kit specifically designed for laying this type of laminate flooring. It included a hammering tool to be used in conjunction with a hammer or mallet for hammering each laminate floorboard into the next. It also included spacers for placement around the edge of the floor while it was being laid.
The Tools For Installation
There are actually very few tools needed for laminate bamboo flooring installation. To start with there are the ones that we got at the retail outlet. That actually cost us about ten dollars. Then we needed a hammer or a mallet to use on the hammering tool to hammer the bamboo laminate flooring boards into each other. Of course, we needed a saw to cut the floorboards to the right length. And a pencil and square to draw the saw marks and make sure they are at right angles.
Next, we needed a sharp lino cutting knife to cut the underlay. And a pair of scissors to cut the plastic moisture barrier. Finally, we happened to have a power drop miter saw that allowed us to cut new skirting boards with 45-degree angles at the ends so that they fit nicely into the corners. I’ll go into finishing with skirting boards or molding later in the hub.
Preparing the Sub Floor
When we got our bamboo laminate flooring home we opened the manufacturer’s instructions and followed them to a T. Firstly we had to make sure our subfloor was level, as this bamboo laminate flooring could only tolerate a 3 mm dip in the subfloor over a 3-meter length of bamboo laminate flooring. The concrete slab that formed our subfloor appeared to be flat enough.
To check this, we got a 3m metal pole that had a straight edge and rolled it over the surface of the concrete. As far as we could see there were no gaps bigger than 3 mm between the pole and the concrete. Had there been bigger gaps, we would have needed to use a self-leveling filler agent. This can be bought at a hardware store and can come in a liquid form. It is poured onto the area where the gap is and smoothed out with a trowel.
Then over the next little while, it levels itself our over that part of the subfloor. There are two problems with using this stuff. Firstly, it’s incredibly expensive if you have to use it over the entire floor. Using it to level just one or two spots isn’t too bad cost-wise. The second problem is that most of these leveling compounds cannot be used where the subfloor is prone to moisture. Had we needed to use it this would have posed a problem, as our concrete is definitely moisture-prone. It is possible to get leveling compounds that work in moisture areas. But you have to look hard and long to find them, as they are not standard.
Plastic Moisture Barrier
Next, we had to roll out the plastic moisture barrier and cut a length of it off so that it crossed the bedroom. Leaving a little that stood up about two inches above the floor against the wall. We then repeated this with a second length that we attached to the first piece along its length with gaffer tape. We made sure that when we were finished, the plastic covered the whole subfloor. And proceeded up all four walls to a height of about two inches.
This is needed to stop moisture from getting into the edges of the bamboo laminate floor from the walls just above the subfloor. This plastic gets hidden once you install the skirting boards or molding above the bamboo hardwood laminate flooring.
Next, we laid the underlay. This was a simple matter of taking out the tiles of tough felt like underlay. And laying them down along the walls so that they touched. When we got to the opposite wall we had to cut tiles down. It is to make sure they fitted between the last tile laid and the wall. This we did with the lino knife but had to be careful. Because it had a tendency to come away in chunks at the edges instead of cutting through cleanly. We then repeated this entire process for the living room.
Preparing the Bamboo Laminate Flooring Boards
Finally, we had to open all of the packs of bamboo laminate flooring boards so that the air could get to them. And move the packs into the unit for 24 hours before we could lay them. The purpose of this is to acclimatize the planks. So that they will shrink or expand as little as possible once laid. This is one of the characteristics of floating floors. In this case, they will expand with an increase in humidity and contract with a decrease in humidity. As such, the floor is completely floating. Since it is neither attached to the walls or the floor to accommodate this movement. By acclimatizing the bamboo laminate floorboards beforehand, they hopefully do most of their expansion or contraction before we lay them.
Actually Installing Bamboo Laminate Flooring
We’re finally at that point. So how was it done? The first thing was to lay down the first floorboard. One end against a wall, one side against another wall. And spacers placed between the board and the wall. In fact, spacers are placed around the perimeter of the floor as you are laying it. These are removed when all of the laminate bamboo floor has been laid and provide space for the floor to expand. If this space wasn’t provided, the flooring would expand and begin to lift. So that when you walked on it, it would flex under your feet.
The end of the next board is placed against the end of the last board. And using the hammering tool and your hammer or mallet, tap the second board into the first. Do that until it snaps in and there is no gap between the two. Continue this until the final board can’t fit between the last bamboo laminate board laid and the wall. At this point take the final board, place it in line with the last board laid. So that it is against the wall with a spacer in between it and the wall.
The other end of this board should overlap the last board laid. Then using your pencil and square, draw a line on the final board at the overlap point a few millimeters towards the wall. Then take this board and using the saw, cut it along that line. It will then fit in between the wall and the last bamboo laminate board that was laid. Using the hammering tool, tap it in as was done with the other boards.
Next, the offcut produced from cutting the last board is longer than about 40cm, use it as the first board in the second row. If not, cut a new board in half and use one end as the first board of the second row. This causes the joins at the end of the boards in each second row to be offset from the next joins in each other row, strengthening the floor.
One problem we found as we approached the wall opposite to where we started was that the room was not square. This meant that we had to cut the board’s lengthways as well. It is to get them to fit between the last row laid and the opposite wall.
Dealing With Doorways
When it came to the doorway between the living room and the bedroom, we could either join the floors or the two rooms with an aluminium or wooden join. Or just run the bamboo laminate flooring straight through without a join. We chose the latter since we felt it would look better.
One of the problems though is how to have the flooring boards surround the doorposts and doorjamb. In such a way that it looks professional. The easy answer is not to cut the floorboards so that they fit around the doorposts. Instead, sit a bamboo laminate floorboard up against the doorpost and using a flat saw. Cut the bottom of the door post out so that the boards can fit underneath the doorpost. And door jambs with no gap between the two.
The other problem that you may find is how to join your discount bamboo laminate floor with a floor covering of another type e.g. carpet. In this case, an aluminium join that you can buy from a hardware store is the best method to use.
Once the entire bamboo laminate floor had been laid, we took out all of the spacers. And then prepared to attach the new skirting boards that we had measured, cut and painted. Once attached, these would hide the small length of plastic that could be seen along the wall, above the flooring. If you prefer, you can leave the original skirting boards on the walls. Lay the bamboo hardwood laminate flooring up to the edges of the skirting boards (with the spacers in between). And when you remove the spacers, install molding over the edge of the flooring, against the skirting boards. This molding can normally be purchased from the flooring retailer.