While there are a dozen types of hardwood species used in the flooring industry, only one is actually a grass that resembles wood. Bamboo is a popular hardwood flooring alternative, but also a flooring style that is somewhat misunderstood. Especially when it comes to cleaning, maintenance, or refinishing.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss the types of bamboo flooring that can be refinished along with the steps and materials needed to accomplish the job. We’re also going to touch on why this flooring is different from traditional hardwood and the styles that can be sanded or stained.
Bamboo Flooring 101
We’ve talked about how bamboo flooring is installed and have even broken down some of the top brands on the market. Before you can begin to think about refinishing bamboo flooring, you’ll need to know a little more about how this mysterious flooring material is made.
Bamboo can be grown in almost any part of the world and is even considered an invasive species in some regions. While it’s listed with hardwoods, bamboo is actually a grass. The main part that’s used in flooring is the culm, which is known for its extreme durability. Well, that carries over to flooring, but how strong the bamboo flooring in your home depends on how it was made.
What type of Bamboo Flooring is installed in your home?
The type of bamboo flooring you have in your home dictates whether it can be sanded, stained, and refinished. With that in mind, there are three main types of bamboo flooring with strand woven, vertical, and horizontal bamboo.
Horizontal bamboo is constructed from thin strips of bamboo which are sliced, boiled, and then dried. Once complete, these strips are glued and pressed together to form a plank. The vertical grain pattern is apparent on the end of each board, and a number of profiles and finishes are available.
Vertical bamboo flooring is made in a similar fashion, but instead of each strip being placed horizontally, they are pressed together vertically. This gives these boards a completely different look with a much narrower grain pattern. They are more distinct than horizontal bamboo which has a natural pattern.
Strand woven bamboo flooring is also unique, and the strongest type of flooring of the three. It’s more durable than Oak or Hickory but made from shredded bamboo fibers which are processed to a pulp before being formed into solid blocks under intense pressure. Planks are cut from these blocks and have a random grain pattern.
Solid bamboo flooring can be vertical, horizontal, or strand woven bamboo. You can also purchase engineered bamboo flooring, however. Solid flooring can be refinished as it’s thicker – not a multi-layered product. Engineered bamboo flooring only has a slice of bamboo on top, which can make sanding impossible.
As a rule of thumb, you should always check the manufacturer beforehand to see if the flooring in your home can be refinished. Engineered flooring with a top layer of 3mm can be refinished, but you’ll need to proceed with caution at 2mm.
Sanding that goes too far or if you accidentally get to the core, the board will need to be replaced. That can be challenging with some types of flooring, especially older styles or planks with click-lock profiles. If you aren’t sure how thick the floors are in your home or aren’t prepared to spend a weekend on a DIY project, you’ll want to consider our next section carefully.
DIY Floor Refinishing vs. Professional Flooring Refinishers
While installing flooring is something many homeowners choose to do themselves, refinishing it is a completely different story. More work is required, there’s more of a mess to deal with, and even the handiest of homeowners won’t be able to finish the job as quickly as a pro.
Professionals can check out the bamboo flooring in your home beforehand, and address any damage or repairs. They’ll also ensure that they only take off as much as needed, so you won’t have to worry about sanding too much from the top layer with engineered flooring. Jobs of this nature are usually priced by the hour, job, or at a range from $3.00 to more than $7.00 per square foot.
If you prefer to take on the job yourself, you’ll need tools and supplies. You should also consider furniture removal in the room, and the time it could take to complete the job itself. The area could be unusable for several days, so plan accordingly before deciding to do it yourself or call in a professional to refinish bamboo flooring.
Supplies Needed to Refinish Bamboo
The tools and various supplies needed to refinish bamboo can cost up to a few hundred dollars with most of the cost coming from the stain and sealer. That’s a personal preference, but we highly recommend using a low-VOC wood stain from a company like Minwax. It’s also important to use a finish in the same class, and there are plenty of eco-friendly options to choose from.
Keep in mind, Strand woven bamboo flooring does not stain well. It can be challenging to stain whereas horizontal or vertical bamboo stains easily. Before applying any stain to the floor, test a small spot of wood after it’s been sanded to get an idea of how it will look. The finish can add a touch of color as well if you prefer to keep things light and natural.
The first step to refinishing is removing the top layer, however, so you will need a sander. Bamboo is hard, and not something that can be hand scuffed, so you’ll need a handheld orbital sander along with both medium and fine grit paper. The next step up would be a dedicated floor sander which can be rented from home improvements stores but can also do more harm than good when not handled by a professional.
Sanding any surface creates dust, which means you’ll need products to clean the floor before it’s been sealed. Drip cloths, dust rags, and a shop vacuum will come in handy along with paint brushes or rollers to apply the stain and finish. Large plastic drop cloths are also essential for messes and to seal off other areas.
Given how bamboo flooring is made, you’ll need a simple half-mask respirator to keep particles out of your lungs and eye protection as well. Make sure the area you will be working in is sealed off from other areas of the home if you don’t have an excellent dust extraction system in place.
- Paintbrush or Roller
- Mineral Spirits
- Drop cloths
- Painters Tape
- Eye protection
Prepping the Room
The first step to refinishing bamboo flooring is actually getting the room itself ready. Removal of any furniture is obvious and may require some assistance but this next step you can handle by yourself. To fully refinish bamboo flooring to the edges, you’ll need to remove any baseboard and trim in the room.
This is an optional step, however, as you can sand, stain, and finish the flooring to the baseboard and simply tape it off. You’ll need to hand sand the section closest to the trim, but it could be easier than removing it. You can follow the steps in this guide to remove any baseboard, trim, or transitions in a room.
It’s also a good idea to seal off the room you’ll be working in to prevent dust from moving throughout your home. Close off any air vents in the room to keep dust from the ductwork and seal off doorways with painters tape and plastic drop cloths.
Refinishing Bamboo Flooring
The most critical step in refinishing bamboo flooring is the sanding process. That’s due in part to the equipment used and the variety of methods applicable depending on the flooring. Remember to wear proper respiratory protection when sanding bamboo flooring and follow the steps in our room prep guide.
If attempting to sand engineered bamboo, remember to go slow and easy on the surface as there isn’t as much to work with.
Take the orbital sander/buffer and use 80 or 100-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer from the floor. It may take more than one pass, but you will clearly be able to see the wear layer or stain being worn away as you go.
When complete, repeat the process with a fine-grit sanding disk of 150 or 180-grit to ensure the surface is smooth. This process overall “should” take care of any light to medium scratches in the bamboo flooring.
If you have any damage to your floor, now is the time to repair it. You can use wood putty and a variety of other fillers to take care of small cracks and damage. Follow the directions on the product, and allow the area to completely dry before proceeding to the next step.
When you are satisfied the floor is sanded and smooth the way you want it, it’s time to clear the surface from debris. Dust from the sanding process can get down into crevices and any leftover residue will keep the stain from adhering. You can clear large piles with a broom or shop vacuum, but need to wipe the flooring down with a rag and mineral spirits afterward.
Take the stain you’ve selected and apply it to the flooring as directed by the manufacturer. Again, this may take more than one coat, and you must allow the flooring to completely dry before proceeding to the next step.
Use a new brush or roller to apply the sealant over the stain according to the manufacturer’s directions. This adds protection for the wood itself, but high-quality finishes also protect flooring from fading through UV rays as well. Apply 2-3 coats as needed.
Wait until the floor is completely dry before attempting to walk on it or put furniture back into place in the room. Now is a good time to add furniture pads to the feet of anything that may scratch the floor as well.
Refinishing any type of hardwood flooring can be a rewarding experience, and can save you a considerable amount of money as well. That’s only for floors that need a light sanding, however, as we highly recommend bringing in a professional for larger jobs, engineered bamboo, or badly worn flooring.