Bamboo Flooring Cost Guide: Cost, Installation & Free Contractor Quotes
In our bamboo flooring cost guide you will find all the information related to bamboo flooring cost, installation cost and we also included free contractor quotes.
Yes, bamboo flooring is becoming very popular as a sustainable substitute to hardwood and as a biodegradable substitute for vinyl. Bamboo flooring has all the style, look and feel of hardwood flooring but without the rainforest depletion connotations that surrounds the use of hardwood.
Before we find out a bit more about bamboo’s properties as a flooring material, let’s find out something about bamboo in general.
What is bamboo?
Although bamboo looks like a typical hardwood, it is in fact a species of grass and is classed as a perennial evergreen. What this means is that it doesn’t die back and continually grows irrespective of the season. Although you can grow bamboo in just about any part of the world that is warmer than arctic, the largest and most common plants grow in southern and eastern Asia. In these regions bamboo is used as a construction material, food crop, fuel, roofing thatch, you name it; it is an important sector of the local economy!
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth so it is a highly renewable natural resource. Most hardwood trees can take anything from 20 years to 120 years to grow to maturity, but bamboo grass will reach its full height in as little as 3 to 5 years. It is a hardy plant and easy to tend and when it has reached maturity it can be harvested without damaging the roots. The plant does not have to be replanted and naturally spreads itself increasing the size of the annual crop.
How about bamboo flooring?
There are a few ways of constructing a flooring material from bamboo. We will just go through each of them in turn and then focus on those most commonly used in the West.
Traditional method. This method involves slicing the bamboo stems into thin flat planks. These are then nailed to joists made from larger wooden or bamboo beams. Usually it doesn’t really matter if the gaps between the planks are close up as the idea of this style is to make a floor through which fresh air can circulate during the summer. This type of flooring is most commonly found in the hot and humid regions of Asia.
Strand woven. This method involves slicing the bamboo into thin strips. They are then treated to get rid of various types of insects and other vermin. The treatment often consists of boiling or dipping in boric acid (this is made from a commonly found mineral, which when dissolved in water has fire retardant, anti-fungal, anti-woodworm and pesticidal properties). The treated fibres are then shredded and mixed with an adhesive after which they are pressed under heat and pressure. The blocks are then cut into standard sized planks, sanded, stained and varnished.
Solid bamboo. First the bamboo stalks are sliced into thin strips. The outer skin is then removed and the remaining strips are treated by boiling in boric acid to remove starches and any pests (see strand woven paragraph). The strips are then laid out straight to completely dry before moving onto the next stage. The bamboo strips are then steamed with a controlled blast of heat to produce carbonisation which darkens the fibres. The strips are then kiln dried.
The dried strips of bamboo are coated with an adhesive resin, laid horizontally or vertically and subjected to pressure while the adhesive cures. The two different arrangements (horizontally or vertically stacked) will give a different style and appearance to the finished product. The applied pressure and adhesive turns the bamboo fibres into a solid and durable board. The bonded fibres are then pressed inside heat presses to cure the adhesive and join the strands. The boards are then planed and sanded to form the planks needed for flooring. The finish can be applied at this stage.
Engineered bamboo. The same process occurs as with ‘solid bamboo’ flooring but the finished planks are then sliced into very thin layers. The layers are then mounted onto a backing board such as plywood, hardboard or fibreboard and bonded in place with adhesive, heat and pressure.
Note about the resin adhesive. The adhesive used in the above processes is a urea-formaldehyde compound. This compound emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when used and can contaminate the air if used within a confined space. The amount of toxic effects will vary depending on the amount used in the process which in turn depends on whether the manufacturer is reputable. In some cases the VOCs are no more than those emitted when manufacturing carpet. It is therefore very important to buy your bamboo flooring from a reputable dealer who can guarantee that the flooring has been made in compliance with the proper environmental standards.
The benefits of bamboo flooring
There are many benefits to using bamboo as a flooring material. It shares many of the advantages and disadvantages of hardwood floors. If you are to make an informed choice when it comes to buying your flooring material, you will have to know how bamboo compares to other flooring options. We will now work through each of the points in turn and see how bamboo compares.
Ecologically friendly material. Bamboo is a grass that never stops growing and can reach maturity in as little as three to five years. In comparison, hardwood trees can take anywhere from twenty years to reach full maturity depending on the species.
So, let us assume that you have decided you want to choose an ecologically sound flooring material. Yes bamboo is a natural and renewable resource but there are a few more factors to consider if you want a truly ‘green’ material.
- Able to be recycled
- Responsible and reputable manufacturer and manufacturing process
- Transport distance
- Life cycle
Let us just have a quick look at some of the more common existing ‘environmentally friendly’ flooring materials and see how they compare.
Like bamboo, this is a naturally renewable resource. It is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and grows back after harvesting. Cork provides insulation from heat and cold and is a repellent to insects and fungus. Average price is from $1.50 to $4 per sq. ft.
Linoleum is made from the following substances:
- Linseed oil which comes from flax plant seeds.
- Ground cork dust.
- Wood flour. This is a powder made from ground hardwood sawdust.
- Rosin. This is harvested as sap from the trunks of pine trees.
- Limestone. Ground limestone dust.
- Pigments. Natural and eco-friendly colouring agents are used to provide a range of colours and patterns.
Production is not significantly environmentally negative and linoleum floors can last from 25 to 50 years. When the flooring has finally reached the end of its life, it can be burnt as fuel. The energy produced when burning a given amount of linoleum is approximately the same as the energy needed to make the same amount of linoleum. Its lifecycle is therefore a closed loop. Beware! Linoleum is not the same thing as vinyl flooring, even if some retailers insist on using the terms interchangeably. Average price is $2 to $5 per sq. ft.
As mentioned previously this is one of the fastest growing plants needing 3 to 5 years to reach maturity. The big drawback, as far as the people in the West are concerned, is that bamboo is mainly produced in the Far East around the Pacific Ocean. It therefore needs a lot of transportation to get it to any of the western countries. Bamboo flooring also uses formaldehyde in its manufacturing process so there may be concerns about VOC emission levels. Check with your retailer before purchase. Average price is from $2 to $8 per sq. ft.
Hardwood flooring is a completely natural product that if managed properly is one hundred per cent sustainable. It is entirely biodegradable and at the end of its life can be used as a recycled wood source or burned as a fuel. Before buying, ensure the wood comes from a source that is certified as ‘well-managed’ by the Forest Stewardship Council. Average price is from $3 to $12 per sq. ft.
This material has already been used in previous flooring or building applications. Many scarce types of hardwoods that would be prohibitive to buy as new can often be found when cleaning out old buildings during a renovation project. Using recycled materials like this cuts down on energy and transport usage and prevents using a living tree as the source. Be aware that the recycled hardwood may be of such an age that it was commonplace to treat the wood with toxic materials before and after installation. Average price (if you can find it) is from $5 to $35 per sq. ft.
Bamboo flooring pros
Water resistant. Bamboo flooring is more resistant to water damage and staining than hardwood.
Easy to maintain. Bamboo flooring is easy to maintain. All it needs is a sweep or once over with a vacuum cleaner. It will benefit from a damp mop or a clean with a non-wax hardwood or bamboo floor cleaner.
Price. The cost for this type of flooring is comparable with both cork and hardwood floors. Be aware of what type of quality you are purchasing as some cheaper options are of lower quality or may be damaged.
Durability. Surprisingly and considering that bamboo is a grass, certain varieties can be extremely strong and hard. In fact bamboo that has been harvested correctly can be as hard wearing as red oak. Even more incredibly, strand woven bamboo flooring can be even harder than that.
Style. Bamboo has all the appearance and feel of a hardwood floor yet is distinctive and can increase the elegance of a room immediately.
Refreshing & refinishing. As a bamboo floor becomes older it may become discoloured and scratched. The surface of a typical bamboo floor can be refreshed by sanding and applying more refinishing coats to give it a new, fresh look.
Bamboo flooring disadvantages
Using bamboo isn’t all about how good it is. Bamboo flooring has some disadvantages as well.
Volatile organic compounds. As stated earlier, bamboo flooring is made by slicing bamboo grass into strips, followed by bonding the strips back together using heat, pressure and adhesive resin. The adhesive can release VOCs into the atmosphere over time and if this is in a confined space, can seriously pollute the indoor atmosphere. Some floors will emit less VOCs than others depending on the manufacturing method used.
Scratches. Although a bamboo floor is relatively easy to keep in good shape, it can be easily damaged by various everyday items such as high heeled shoes, dog claws, and chair and table feet. Not only that, but if the surface is not regularly cleaned it can become scratched by particles of grit and sand continually brought in by shoes.
Water damage. Although bamboo is more resistant to water damage than hardwood, it is still susceptible to warping and fungal growth if excessive moisture is present.
Humidity. Depending on the humidity of the surrounding area, the planks can expand or contract. Cracks will then form not only between the planks but also within the bamboo planks themselves.
Quality control. There is no independent grading system for the quality of harvested bamboo or the manufacture of flooring planks. Retailers will often grade their stock into arbitrary ‘good’ and ‘not so good’ categories but the grading criteria are purely subjective.
Environmentally ambiguous. Although bamboo is a sustainable crop, there are a few environmental concerns about the manufacture of the flooring.
- The adhesive used in its construction gives off toxic fumes which can serious affect an internal space.
- Forests are being cut down to make way for commercial bamboo fields.
- The long distances that bamboo has to travel to reach the western customers, increases its carbon footprint considerably.
Where can I buy bamboo flooring?
There are a range of different retail options you can consider when choosing bamboo flooring.
Local retailers. Visit your local home improvement store for a wide variety of different styles of bamboo flooring. They will also sell DIY kits and cheaper alternatives if that is what you want. Specialist flooring companies are a good place for high class bamboo flooring products and they often have samples you can bring home to decide on whether the flooring will look good in your house. Flooring stores can always recommend contractors able to fit the flooring professionally.
Online. There are many online hardwood flooring specialists who will supply many types of bamboo flooring options.
Discount stores. If money is a factor then you can find cheaper options in discount warehouses.
Bamboo flooring cost factors
There are many factors that can alter the cost of having bamboo flooring laid. Leaving the cost of material aside, the labour involved in laying the flooring planks or machined boards will not be very different to the cost of laying comparable sized hardwood planks. Obviously the smaller the plank, the more they will have to be handled to fill the available area so therefore more labour is involved. From this we can see that factors include:
Type of flooring. Whether you use solid bamboo flooring, strand woven flooring or engineered flooring will greatly affect the cost.
Size of flooring plank. Handling fewer, larger planks should cost less than many, smaller planks.
Distance to the job. If you live in a remote area, then don’t be surprised if the contractor includes a proportion of his travelling time into the quotation.
Other work. Often, when flooring is being installed, the planks or boards will have to be cut around existing fixtures and fittings. Common obstructions include:
Hazardous substances. When renovation of older properties takes place, you may require testing and removal of lead,asbe or other hazardous materials.
Fungal & insect remediation. When stabilising the existing floor of older properties in preparation for the installation of the new flooring, you may find evidence of fungal and insect infestation. These areas will need to be treated and repaired before being covered up by new flooring.
Repairing subfloor. When stabilising the floor prior to installation, often the floor joists will need to be replaced or repaired.
Insulation. You may decide to install heat insulation under the new flooring. Now is the best time to install it.
Underfloor heating. If you have ever wanted to have underfloor heating then obviously it would make sense to have it installed before the new flooring goes in.
Permits. Some work may require permits and inspections. Contact your local town hall to find out if permits are required and how much they will cost.
Removal of old floor. If you are removing an old floor prior to installing the new one then you will have to factor in the cost of removal and transport.
Additional Cost Considerations
Whenever you have a new flooring system installed you always have to check that the existing subfloor is in good condition. It is no good installing a bright new bamboo floor if the joists and other structural elements are faulty. Even if they look ok from above, it is always worth lifting a few of the existing floorboards to visibly check the condition underneath. Dry rot and insect damage can go unnoticed for years until suddenly the floor gives way.
If the condition of the existing floorboards is sound but uneven then you will need to have sheets of plywood laid to provide a smooth and level surface for the new flooring. If the top level of the floor is being raised significantly then the doors which open into the room will have to be adjusted to accommodate the raised flooring.
If you decide to lay your new floor over a concrete subfloor, it is better to use a ‘floating floor’ system. To do this properly you will have to lay a damp proof membrane on the concrete followed by sheets of polystyrene insulation. On top of the insulation you will require a layer of flooring grade chipboard glued on the joints. On top of this you can install your bamboo flooring.
The average cost of having new bamboo flooring installed in an average home of approximately 1,000 sq. ft is as follows.
|Average cost to install bamboo flooring|
|Typical range||$2,500 to $6,500|
|Carpenter hourly rate||$35 to $60 per hour|
If your existing bamboo flooring has been damaged due to high levels of moisture or rot then it may be more cost effective to have it repaired rather than replaced.
|Average cost to repair bamboo flooring|
|Typical range||$400 to $1,300|
|Carpenter hourly rate||$35 to $60 per hour|
If your bamboo floor is just scratched and chipped but otherwise sound, then all it may need is to be refinished. Refinishing includes sanding the damaged areas until smooth followed by sealing with a suitable floor finishing compound.
|Average cost to refinish bamboo flooring|
|Typical range||$1,100 to $2,400|
The cost of the required amount of bamboo flooring is not the only cost you will have to pay for. There are other materials required, depending on whether you intend refinishing, repairing or installing new.
|Bamboo flooring||$2 to $8 per sq. ft|
|Levelling plywood||$25 per sheet||4ft x 8ft sheet|
|Flooring grade chipboard||$4 per sheet||8ft x 2ft sheet|
|Polystyrene sheet||$76 for four sheets||4ft x 2ft x 1” sheet|
|Damp proof membrane||$280 per roll||4m x 15m|
|Wood floor satin finish||$70 per 1 gal|
If you decide to refinish the floor yourself then you will need a floor sander and other accessories.
|Floor refinishing equipment hire and purchases|
|Drum floor sander||$60 per day|
|Edging sander||$40 per day|
|Belt sander||$60 to $100|
|Tools for varnish application (rollers, brushes etc)||$50|
|Respirator and dust mask||$30|
|Knee pads||$10 per pair|
DIY or hire a professional?
Unless you are an extremely experienced DIY enthusiast, I would always advise hiring a professional if you want to install new flooring or repair existing flooring. A professional will have the required skills and tools necessary to ensure your bamboo floor looks first class.
As well as requesting an accurate quotation from three or four prospective contractors there are certain questions you need to ask to ensure the professional knows what they are doing.
Certification. Most states require carpenters to be licenced and certified before being allowed to trade. Ask to see their licence and check that it is current. Don’t be afraid to check with the city hall if you aren’t sure.
Insurance. The contractor you employ will need at least two types of insurance
General liability. This will cover any damage done by the contractor which results in damage to your property or injury and fatality to you, your family or any member of the public.
Employee compensation. This will cover the contractor and any member of the team against injury or death while on your property.
Experience. Ask the contractor what experience they have that is relevant to doing the work you require.
References. Ask the contractor if they have any references they can supply. Nothing is better than talking to someone who has already had work done by the contractor. They will be able to give you an idea of the person’s professionalism as well as their quality of work.
How many workers? Ask the contractor how many people will be working on the job. The answer will give you a good idea of the scale of the contractor’s business.
Who will be doing the work? Once again, this will tell you a lot about the contractor and his company. Expect a qualified and licenced professional to be on site at all times, even if a trainee is doing some of the work.
How long does the job take? You need to know how long your home will be in upheaval and you certainly need to know how long you will be allowing strangers into your home.
Core hours. You will need to know what daily hours the contractor will be working. You obviously want the work completed as quickly as possible so you don’t want your contractor taking unnecessary time off. If they are intending to be late the following morning, then it is only polite to let you know beforehand.
Preparation. You need to know what preparation will be required before the real work starts. How will the room be emptied of furniture? Is that a job for you or the professional? If you require the contractor to does this work then expect to be charged for it. Who is delivering or collecting the bamboo flooring? You may be able to save some money here by organising this yourself.
Cleaning up. Who is going to clean up after the workforce? This doesn’t only mean removing scrap and debris, it also means the day –to –day vacuuming and sweeping needed to remove dust and other mess from the house.
Payment conditions. Make sure that both you and the contractor are aware of when each payment is due. It is inadvisable to pay everything up-front as this can lead to you being scammed. On the other hand the contractor is entitled to have a level of commitment from you to prove that you are able to pay the invoice. The contract should specify the payment terms. It is acceptable for the contractor to ask for a deposit to show your commitment, followed by stage payments (depending on the length of the job) and the final payment when everything is finished and you are happy with the work done.
As stated previously, flooring installation and repair should only really be done by a professional if you want to be sure of a top quality job. The refinishing could however be done as a DIY project. Floor sanders are easily rented from tool hire centres which you will find in most towns. You must be aware however that unless you have used a floor sander before you may leave deep gouges in the floor. If in doubt get a professional to do this job as well.
Refinishing a floor will always be slightly different as no two floors are ever the same. The following steps will guide you through the basic procedures for a general refinishing job.
- Screen the floor. This step is not always needed as some floors cannot be screened. If it does need screening and the floor damage is not too extensive then it may be that this is the only step that needs doing before a fresh coat of polyurethane finish is applied. Screens are basically ant-clog sanding disks that will remove the existing floor finish without abrading into the bamboo plank itself. This step can only be done on a floor which has a non-wax finish. Screening is only done if the existing surface is worn, dull or scratched but without any damage to the underlying bamboo. If you decide to ask a professional to do this step it will cost you in the region of $1 to $2 per sq.ft.
- Sanding. If there is a coating of floor wax over the polyurethane finish or if the damage goes deeper into the bamboo, you will have to sand the surface until you have removed all scratches, gouges and chips. Do not stay too long sanding in one place otherwise you will produce a depression in the floor which will be noticeable.
- Staining. This step might not be needed if you already have the colour that you want. Bamboo floors are not usually stained at finishing stage anyway, so you will only have to do this if you have proper tree wood.
- Finishing. The commonest finish used for flooring is a polyurethane varnish. This type can cope with heavy foot traffic without suffering too much and is resistant to almost everything. There are two kinds of polyurethane finish, oil based and water based.
- Oil based. This will eventually turn the surface into an orange colour. This takes about 24 hours to completely dry. The price for oil based polyurethane is about $25 per gallon.
- Water based. As this dries it remains clear and so does not alter the colour of the underlying flooring. The drying time is much faster than oil-based but will depend on the humidity of the room. The cost for this type of polyurethane is about $40 per gallon.
Other types of surface finish include water based and acid cured. The water based varnishes do not have the VOC fumes that other finishes have but they are also not as strong as other types of finish. The acid cured finish is a process which leaves an exceptionally hard coating. It also dries very fast so it is sometimes possible to apply more than one coat in a day. The fumes produced by the acid cured process are very strong and volatile so the householder is advised to move out of their property until the job has been is completed.
Every time you take on a DIY project you risk making a mistake. Some of the mistakes are not noticeable but others, including installing hardwood and bamboo flooring will always be noticeable unless you decide to cover the mistake with a rug. If you do that then what is the point of having your lovely new floor?
The commonest mistake when refinishing a floor is not controlling the various sanding machines properly. If you are not careful you can end up with a gouge right in the middle of your floor. DIY enthusiasts also tend to take longer, make more mess and produce more dust than a professional would.
If you are hiring someone to do the job then you should leave all the safety considerations to the professional. As long as you know that the contractor is certified and insured then don’t worry too much about it, they know what they are doing.
If you are doing the job yourself, then you will need to comply with a few common sense safety codes. If you don’t then you run the risk of causing damage to yourself, your family and your property so it is always worth being safe.
If you are producing dust, use a dust mask and safety goggles and ventilate the room. Isolate the room from the rest of the house by putting masking tape around door jambs.
If you are producing volatile or toxic fumes, ventilate the room and wear a respirator. Make sure that no one else is at risk from the fumes.
If you are drilling holes, inserting screws and nails or cutting wood, make sure you know for certain that there are no electrical cables or plumbing hidden in the walls or beneath the floors.
Be careful when using powered sanding machines that you do not damage the electrical cable.
Make sure that children and pets are not in the work area.
If you are intending to lift or carry heavy materials or equipment, make sure you have someone to help you or buy a sack truck to assist with carrying.
If handling chemicals, varnishes or paints make sure your skin does not come into contact with it.
Read the Safety Data Sheet before using any chemicals or floor finishes.
Dispose of empty containers in accordance with your local and national waste disposal regulations.
Today we talked about bamboo flooring and how it can give your home the expensive feel of a hardwood floor but with the distinction of having something different from your neighbours and friends.
We talked a bit about what bamboo is and where it comes from. Surprisingly bamboo is not made from wood; it is a species of grass. Bamboo is a very versatile material, with uses ranging from a construction material to a food crop to fuel. We found out that bamboo is more sustainable than hardwoods because it grows to maturity much faster and when harvested the roots are not affected. We looked at the various criteria we need to consider if we want to say that bamboo is a truly ‘green’ material. We compared bamboo flooring with other types of sustainable materials and compared not only their properties but also their cost. It appears that the cost of bamboo flooring is comparable with other less expensive materials.
We talked a bit about the different types of flooring that can be made from bamboo and touched on how they are made. We also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of bamboo flooring and how the manufacturers and manufacturing process lacks an independent quality control system.
We looked at the various places where we can buy this type of flooring and how the costs can vary accordingly. There are many other cost factors inherent in the purchase and installation of bamboo flooring and we discussed a few of them. We also talked about other cost factors which must be considered when laying a new floor, such as making sure the subfloor and flooring joists are in good condition. We talked about other things you can do before installing your new floor such as laying insulation or underfloor heating.
We then moved on to the costs of hiring a contractor to install a new floor, repair an existing floor that had suffered damage and refinish an existing floor that had accumulated scratches and scuffs. We also found out some costs of hiring the equipment to refinish the floor as a DIY project. We then talked about the steps you would take to refinish the floor yourself.
We listed the questions you should ask a prospective contractor to decide whether they would give you value for money.
Finally we talked about some common sense health and safety considerations that every DIY enthusiast should consider if they want to do a job properly.