Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo flooring is extremely durable but tricky to install.

Q: I really like the look of the new bamboo flooring, but will it hold up in an area with a lot of traffic? Is it difficult to install?

A: Even though bamboo is technically a grass, flooring made from it is extremely durable, with about the same hardness as maple. Just a few years ago, bamboo flooring was popular mainly with "green" building advocates because bamboo is ready for harvest in five years, compared with the decades of growth required for some woods.

As for installation, some flooring contractors find bamboo more challenging to work with than wood because it can be difficult to install properly. Because bamboo is so hard and unforgiving, flaws and imperfections on the subfloor may radiate through the bamboo to the surface. That means the subfloor must be smooth. Unlike wood, bamboo splits at the ends, so extra care must be taken when cutting it. Also, bamboo is very susceptible to moisture and therefore should not be laid over a concrete slab without some sort of waterproofing.

Once installed, some manufacturers suggest running an air-conditioner or dehumidifier during extremely muggy days so the bamboo doesn't absorb moisture, which could cause it to expand and then to buckle or warp. To be sure this product is suitable for a particular climate and for a particular room, you should seek the advice of a flooring professional.