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We've all heard of timber, plywood, and oak, but not many of us are familiar with bamboo flooring. It's the new kid on the block when it comes to floorboards, and its popularity is on the rise.
Here, we divulge everything there is to know about bamboo flooring, including how much it will cost you to install it in your home and how to finance the work.
Why should I install bamboo flooring in my home?
Over the past decade, bamboo flooring has become incredibly popular in Australia. Not only is it more durable than flooring materials like timber floorboards and carpets, but its also one of the most affordable flooring options out there. Not to mention that you'll be doing your bit for the environment as it's considered to be one of the most sustainable materials on the hardwood market todakitcy.
How much does bamboo flooring cost?
Expect to pay between $40 - $55 per square metre for bamboo flooring, with the exact price depending on the supplier and type of flooring you choose.
As well as paying by the square meter for the flooring itself, professional installers charge per square meter rather than by the hour. Expect to pay a professional installer between $80 and $90 per square meter according to Hipages.com.au to lay your flooring depending on the experience of the installer and whether or not they need to remove your old floor. There may be additional costs too such as underlay and delivery charges.
How can I finance bamboo flooring?
When it comes to funding your flooring, there are several ways to borrow the capital that's needed:
- Personal loan. Personal loans are usually capped at $30,000, which can make them useful for renovation projects like bamboo flooring.
- Credit card. Depending on your personal limit, you may be able to use your credit card to buy the bamboo itself or fund its installation.
- Home equity loan. This type of loan allows you to borrow money against the current value of your home.
- Redraw facilities. If you've paid additional money into your mortgage, your lender might allow you to withdraw a small amount to spend on renovations. It's worth keeping in mind that this is only available with certain lenders and loans.
The step-by-step process for installing bamboo flooring
Bamboo can be installed in two ways, either as a 'floating floor' or by using an adhesive to secure the floorboards to the subfloor. The majority of tradesmen tend to favour a 'floating floor' as it causes less damage to the subfloor and is much easier to remove.
Here's a quick overview of the installation process:
- The subfloor is checked to ensure it's clean, dry and level before the installation begins.
- The moisture levels of the subfloor are checked using a concrete moisture meter. The reading should be below 6% to ensure the board don't warp over time.
- The bamboo boards are laid out in the room they will eventually be laid, and left to acclimatise for at least two days.
- An underlayment is fitted on the subfloor to further reduce the risk of moisture damage.
- Expansion gaps of 10mm are measured around the perimeter of the room. These will allow the bamboo to expand and contract with the levels of humidity.
- The first row of bamboo flooring is laid, and the installers make sure each board fits firmly together. With clock lock flooring, the board should lock together. In tongue and groove flooring, each board will slide together.
- The next rows are laid using a mallet to make sure they're all snugly in place.
- Once the last row is down, the transition mouldings are installed in the expansion gaps made earlier.
How long does it take to install bamboo flooring?
The process of installing bamboo flooring can take between three and five days. This includes at least two days to allow the bamboo to acclimatise to the level of humidity in the room, and one day to install the flooring itself.
How to choose a bamboo flooring installer
If your bamboo flooring is installed incorrectly, it can cause all sorts of problems later down the line. That's why choosing the right bamboo installer isn't just about getting the cheapest quote. It's essential to delve into the experience and qualifications of a professional, and even ask for references to make sure they've carried out the work before. Also, make sure to ask different companies for quotes and compare the levels of service they provide before settling on one.
How to find professionals to install bamboo flooring in Australia
Most bamboo suppliers will offer to fit your bamboo flooring for you. If you'd rather find an independent bamboo installer, it's easy enough to find experts near you using a search engine. Local marketplaces like Oneflare and Airtasker make it simple to connect with an installer near you and compare quotes from different people.
What questions should I ask a bamboo flooring installer?
- Have your glues and boards been tested for any potential health risks?
- How do you recommend installing the flooring?
- What experience do you have with bamboo flooring?
- Can I see a portfolio of your previous work?
- Do you have a warranty, and what does it cover?
- When will you be able to install the flooring and how long will it take?
- Can you provide me with an itemised quote for the job?
How to negotiate with a bamboo flooring installer
Most flooring installers will be happy to negotiate a price with you, as long as you're respectful in your haggling. Being knowledgeable about the market and current prices will put you in a better position to negotiate too. To do this, remember to carry out some market research and collect quotes from different companies.
Expert tips about bamboo flooring
By Chris Stead, Finder's expert DIY and home renovations writer
Can I install the flooring myself or should I have it professionally installed?
If you're going for a hardwood bamboo floor, then it's best not to do it yourself. It's usually around 18mm thick and uses a tongue and groove system for connecting the boards together. For the best finish, you want to be able to use a hidden nail installation where the nails holding one board to the next are in the tongue. This way they can't be seen, but this process requires a specialised tool.
In addition, you'll want to ensure an even spread of glue onto the subfloor (which is likely to be yellow tongue or a similar product) and then be able to accurately measure your levels to keep that floor flat. Finally, it will need to be sanded back (with another specialised tool) and polished.
If you're going for a laminate or floating floor using engineered wood, it's a bit different. It's often MDF or ply with a bamboo finish and it's thinner at approximately 8mm. These use a clip in mechanism, so you don't need to do hidden nails, and in many cases also don't need glue. These are more straightforward to install as a result, as long as you have the tools to cut lengths to size and ensure a level floor.
What are the most important costs to consider when installing bamboo flooring?
Flooring costs are closely tied to surface area. The space in question defines not only how much bamboo you require, but also the amount of glue you'll need. And glue is expensive. The more intricate the space, the more off-cuts you're likely to have to provision for, too. Doors, nooks, crannies, island benches, fireplaces and things like that will need to be cut around. That takes time and impacts wastage.
Another common cost issue is a shortage of flooring. If you cut your order close to the mark and end up short, sourcing the exact same timber to finish the job can be challenging and costly. Especially if you need to ship it quickly to the site. You're better off having extra bamboo on hand and then if it's not used, making a little coffee table or chopping board, or similar, to match your floor
Depending on the kind of bamboo flooring you opt for, you'll need it to be sanded and polished. This often requires the space to be vacated while it dries for a good 24 to 48-hours, which can have a knock-on effect with other trades depending on timing. This makes trades grumpy. And grumpy tradies charge more.
Do you have any tips to stop bamboo flooring from getting scratched?
Don't have kids! Or dogs with long claws! But mostly kids. Seriously though, if you're family orientated you know offspring and damage are just a part of life. The most important thing you can do is buy little boots for your furniture. They're often referred to as furniture pads or furniture flooring protection.
You can buy large squares of padded material from Bunnings and co. that have a sticky back. They don't cost much. You can then cut out of that bigger square the exact size booties you need to place on the bottom of chair legs, table legs and so forth. You can even get caster cups for beds as well. This is strongly advised.
Also, once the floor is finished, make sure you always have moving blankets over it when other trades come to finish off your house. You don't want them dropping tools, dragging ladders and so forth. And before you lay down that rug, triple check there are no screws or other such things lying on the ground.
Finally, if someone comes over to your house with high heels on – maybe for your housewarming - ask them politely to take them off. Especially in the first few months. Otherwise your floor will look like a golf ball and that can never be fixed.
What are the biggest problems you might face with bamboo flooring?
Once laid, hardwood floors are truly lovely underfoot and make your home feel so solid. They're good blocking sound and temperature extremes, too. However, they are a wood and they will shrink and swell with the seasons and the weather. Especially bamboo, being it's technically a grass.
Your installer should put expansion joints at certain intervals depending on your floor size to counter this, but your biggest problem is likely to be cupping caused by heat and moisture. This is where boards swell, push into each other, and one eventually pops up to relieve the pressure. So, keep your floor as dry as possible.
Bamboo isn't the strongest of flooring options, either. It's more likely to dent than harder woods like Spotted Gum, as well as fade if it sees a lot of direct sunlight.
The only other major problem you may face comes in further renovation requirements in the future. If you need to install a new pipe, or an air-conditioning duct, or something similar through the floor, you're going to have to cut through a chunk of wood to do so. Just make sure the tools being used are sharp and easy to control.
Should I buy pre-finished bamboo flooring?
It's always a risk getting pre-finished flooring of any sort when it exists in high traffic areas or spaces close to open doors and windows. Pre-finished flooring is more cost effective, it's true. However, as a polish isn't put over the whole floor after it's all installed, there is nothing filling up the little gaps between each plank of wood. As a result, pre-finished floors tend to gather more dust and grit, making upkeep harder.
About Chris Stead
Finder's expert DIY and home renovation writer, Chris Stead, spent two years as an owner-builder. He was involved day-to-day from the groundwork up in constructing a two-story family home with a pool and separate granny flat. Working alongside every trade on the journey, tools in hand, he went through all the successes, failures, stress and financial decision making required to renovate in Australia.
Pros and cons: Is bamboo flooring a good choice?
- Very hardwearing material
- Easy to clean
- Cheaper than other types of wooden flooring
- Can last for up to 25 years if maintained properly
- Easily scratched by furniture and pets.
- Shrinks and swells with the levels of humidity
- Requires maintenance such as sanding every three years
- Prone to warping when damp
With a 25-year shelf life, a durable nature and an environmentally-friendly background, bamboo flooring can be a great addition to your home. To make the most out of your flooring, and to prevent problems down the road, it's essential to install it properly or have a professional install it for you.
Frequently asked questions about bamboo flooring
What's the best way to clean bamboo flooring?
You can clean bamboo flooring just like you would any other wooden flooring, being careful not to scratch the surface as you go. To do this, use a dust mop or a vacuum with a soft brush attachment. When mopping the floor, don't use excessive water as bamboo is prone to warping when damp.
Does bamboo floor scratch easily?
Like other floorboards, bamboo flooring is prone to scratching. To reduce the chance of scratching your floor, lay down rugs in heavily trafficked areas and use furniture pads on the feet of chairs, tables and other furniture.
Is bamboo flooring good for kitchens?
Bamboo flooring is very durable, which makes it a great material to use in the kitchen. However, this type of flooring can be problematic when wet, so extra care should be taken around the sink.
Can you steam mop bamboo flooring?
No, bamboo flooring should not be steam mopped under any circumstances as it is sensitive to water damage. Steam mops drive water deep into the material and can cause warping.
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