Dear James: I was planning to install hardwood flooring myself, but then I saw some bamboo flooring, which was cheaper. What do you think of bamboo flooring, and can I install it myself in my living room? — Charlie M.
Dear Charlie: Bamboo flooring is rapidly being accepted by homeowners as an alternative to hardwood flooring. Some of it looks surprisingly similar to hardwood flooring, so you may have already walked on it in homes and not known it.
One major advantage of bamboo flooring is its lower initial cost compared to hardwood flooring. Bamboo is actually a variety of grass, which grows quickly and can be harvested every several years. This makes it readily available and easy to increase in supply in a relatively short time period. This results in more price stability.
General daily maintenance of bamboo flooring is similar to maintenance for hardwood. Long-term maintenance is less for bamboo because it is not stained, as some hardwood is. The color of bamboo is determined by the manufacturing process. As it wears, the color does not change, so it does not have to be restained when the surface is refinished. Also, scratches on bamboo are not nearly as apparent.
Bamboo flooring can be used in most locations in your home, as it is very durable. The only places to avoid are constantly damp locations. Persistent dampness may cause the bamboo to warp — somewhat similar to hardwood.
If you can install hardwood flooring, the installation procedures for bamboo flooring are very similar. Installing bamboo flooring may actually be a bit easier: It is available in longer pieces, so there are fewer mating edges to line up properly.
The first step in a quality installation is allowing the bamboo to acclimate itself to the humidity and temperature conditions of the room. Bamboo is a natural material with pores, similar to hardwood, so its size will change as the room's climate changes. It would be wise to first unpack the bamboo and allow it to rest in the room for three to seven days.
If you are planning to install the bamboo over a concrete slab floor, do a test first to be sure moisture is not seeping up through the concrete. The manufacturer's instructions will advise you on how to do this.
One common method is to tape a large piece of plastic film — seal all the edges — on the concrete. After a day or two, remove the film and see if it feels damp or if there's condensation on the underside of the film. If so, seal the floor or choose another flooring material that better handles moisture.
If you are working over wood subflooring, it should be 5/8 inch or thicker for stability and screwed to the floor joists. Check the smoothness of the subflooring and file down any high spots. You should not have to do a moisture test first unless the subflooring is located over a crawl space.
You can install bamboo flooring with nails, staples or glue. If this is your first time, using glue is easiest. The color may vary slightly from plank to plank, so sort them first. Leave a 1/2-inch expansion space at the wall and glue down the first row. Interlock the groove edge of the next row over the tongue edge of the previous row until the floor is covered.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.