Refinishing Bamboo Flooring

   | | Floor Sanding Blog | 35 comments

Click here to learn how I sand and refinish wood floors.

I recently had the pleasure of refinishing a bamboo floor. I have to say I was a little apprehensive as I hadn’t sanded bamboo in several years. In fact, I know I have sanded bamboo before, but I really can’t remember it.

I couldn’t remember if there were any special considerations I needed to take into account or if there were any problems we experienced last time. The first thing that popped to mind is that little fact that everyone tells you; bamboo is not a wood, it’s a grass! I don’t sand grass floors everyday, I sand wooden floors.

a bamboo floor after sanding with a rough grit

Nevertheless, since no traumatic memories sprang to mind, I just decided to treat it as any other floor. What I found was that despite being a fairly tough material, the belts and discs were lasting very well. I have to say it was a pleasure to sand because of the ease with which the previous finish came off, dents came out and lumps and bumps where smoothed over.

I completed most of the sanding on the first day, leaving a little sanding and finishing to do the next day. Over night I decided to have a little look on Google about what other people were saying about refinishing bamboo flooring. As it turns out, bamboo flooring is often fortified with formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, as far as I know, is just a preservative.  I do know that solvent lacquers used to contain formaldehyde and that when I used to use them they would make my eyes, throat and nose sting. I did experience this, if only briefly when I was edging in the hallway. I assumed it was just the lacquer on the surface.

refinishing bamboo flooring

When I returned the next day I told the customer about the formaldehyde and that I would keep on top of the dust extraction as much as possible. With that said, it was enjoyable to sand and it finished very nicely. Once the lacquer had gone down it gave the floor a warm Oak kind of color.

If you have bamboo floors and are thinking of refinishing them, I would seriously consider either hiring a professional, or renting professional floor sanding machines. The floor sanding machines that you hire from your average tool hire place will literally fill the room with plumes of dust. Also make sure you use a carbon filter mask. You really are just taking a risk with the average dust mask.

Formaldehyde is now banned in europe, i’m not sure of its status in America, but it wouldn’t suprise me if it was going the same way there.

bamboo floor

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See also: How To Refinish A Wood Floor Without Sanding


Comments

  1. Was this horizontal bamboo or strand-woven? I have been reading that there is a difference between the two versions of bamboo in terms of sanding and refinishing. I am planning to purchase strandwoven because I had it once before and never had any problems with it. It was only pulled up after the entire downstairs was lost to water damage.

    1. Unfortunately I don’t know if this was horizontal or strand woven. I wonder if this is why some people report that it can’t be sanded.

      Out of interest why do you want bamboo?

  2. Thanks for this article, very helpful. I am purchasing a house with bamboo floors and considering having them sanded and refinished with a darker stain. Did you stain these floors? What did you use for a finish, polyurethane. Based on your pictures it appears that the floors you sanded were horizontal, based on my recent research. I too have heard that vertical (stranded) are better for refinishing since that are solid pieces top to bottom.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I didn’t stain the floor, it just 100% clear polyurethane. If you do want to stain the floor I definitely suggest you do a small patch first to check that it takes the stain well. If it doesn’t you can just sand it off.

    2. Hello arog.. I am curious if you ever did try to sand the floors? I just bought a house with bamboo floors and I hate the color — like a yellow with black stripes and I want to refinish it.

  3. That is a horizontal bamboo floor. They and the vertical floors are much softer than a stranded bamboo. I too have sanded horizontal but have yet to sand stranded.Stranded is not straight laminated strips like you see in the vertical and horizontal but random shreds giving a wide amount of “grain” variation.

  4. We have a stranded bamboo floor with the darkest stain available. I do not recommend the dark stain if you have kids, pets, a dog, a husband, or if you wear shoes in the house. The floor has been down for almost a year and we are already needing to sand and restain. It shows every scratch, every, scuff, every dog hair, and every speck of dirt. The natural bamboo is great. Our friends have had theirs for over two years and not one imperfection is showing. Just some helpful advice from experience.

  5. DId you have problems with scratches from the edger? I am doing a floor at the coast and it is having green toned stain done and we are usining water base poly. Im just having issues with swirls…

    1. Hello Travis, you should use some sort of orbital sander to smooth the floor after sanding with the drum sander and the edger

  6. Interesting reading. Wish i could say i am having any luck with sanding my bamboo floor. There are definitely laminated strips of 3/4″ bamboo. On my TEST PIECE i can sand and get a nice finish from water based poly –no matter if i sand deep or just the surface finish. On the floor itself, however, i can get nothing but white patches which refuse to finish to anythng but white. I had planned to spot sand and finish, but it is not working. I have sanded sucessive failure coats and tried numerous operations–damp wiped and air dried, wet wiped and air dried, hot wiped and treated–with both the poly and with a sanding sealer. I am about to paint the floor and call it quits. So any help would be more than appreciated.

    1. That does sound strange, i would recommend swapping for a solvent lacquer, maybe Junckers Professional 625, or Sadolin PV 67

  7. I believe my floor is an engineered bamboo floor because: (a) it uses no glue I locked the individual flooring planks with interlocking joints that click precisely into place but I remember I had to hammer a bit; (b) I see some knots in the vertical grain orientation, each plank has three strips of parquet rectangles offset from each other; (c) on the label it states it is pre-finished with a solvent free lacquer that meets EI standards suitable for radiant heating system but it also says “finish: 6 coats of UV Acrylic lacquer” (I believe it is consistent with normal finish for bamboo which is finished with an UV curing lacquer applied to the boards?).

    It is called DONGWHA Parquet New Wood Creator and I bought it in Floors 2 Go some 10 years ago (it is no longer sold there). What worries me is that bamboo engineering flooring normally uses urea-formaldehyde (UF) adhesive in the lamination process as you described and these emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) harmful to indoor air quality although in small quantities.

    Do you think that when I sand the top using 120 paper (I hired the machines from builders merchants) today I will get huge and toxic dust? and also, as I am covering it with Bona Traffic HD Silkmatt, do you think I will experience any problems. I was planning to sand the top with 120 because I only have 3.5 mm of top layer (it is a 3 layer structure). Thanks in advance for any ideas or warnings or information you may provide to me before I start this job.

    1. Honestly just wear a mask. You won’t get anywhere with 120grit, you need so start with at least 60 grit just to fully remove the previous finish. You won’t sand through 3.5mm i promise

      1. as long as you dont stay in one spot lol and its not wood so stop reading that label lolyou can sand 60 then 80 drop grits to smoth big sanding lines

  8. I wanted to ask what grit sand paper you used. Did you start at 60 and move up at all. Also which poly did you use. I have heard that the poly can make a difference in overall wear and tear of the floor. Is there a more durable formula that would fair better in the long term?

    1. yes i think i started on 60 on this floor. You can find out what lacquer i used by downloading the free ebook!

    2. Terry 38 years refinishing floor. 60 grit both drum and edger. Then 120 grit screen on polisher and orbital around perimeter. Then vacuum and 3 coats poly sanding with a maroon pad between 1st two coats. Done!!

  9. I have not got bamboo floors but a two-drawer bamboo unit that has got a few scuffs on it where it seems the surface has come off with a nail-polish remover pad (to remove marker pen marks). There are areas like the handle (also Bamboo) that have gone rough. I want to try get this restored smoothly and perfectly and I wonder what ONE sandpaper I should use to sand it down as I heard my grandfather say a fine grit sandpaper, and I remember somewhere online saying a Polyurethane Coating after wiping away the sand and dust/debris. Do you think it can simply be sanded down, wiped then sealed with the polyurethane finish.

    1. Unless you want to spend a lot of money, yes that’s about the best thing you can do unfortunately.

  10. We recently (month ago) put down a stranded bamboo floor but the installers got glue on many of the boards and when they went to clean it with mineral oil, it didn’t work. We tried several other cleaners but it was already stained in the wood. When we wipe the floor with a damp wet cloth, the floor looks great but when it dries, all the glue marks and handprints from installation show. We thought of possible lightly sanding or buffing and putting some shiny coat down to cover the stains (like when we wipe it with a damp cloth but something that will be permanent). At our witts end with this floor…beautiful when you don’t have light shining on it…please advise. thank you.

  11. I live in Florida and have had bamboo flooring for 6 years now, only because I cannot afford to replace them. It is a nightmare to see all the scratches and dents that I have in this flooring. But what has become even more alarming is to find only dead roaches in my house. Also, I never had allergies or bronchitis until after they were installed. This is something that I never attributed to the flooring until now.

    1. people buy bamboo to be green when its anything but ‘green’ and it looks terrible compared to some of the stunning woods you can buy

  12. Well, finally! We have been going round and round about whether to refinish our bamboo floor (put in over a radiant heating system) OR put a new floating laminate floor on top of it. Of course if we top it with a laminate, we don’t know how that will affect heat distribution this winter in the mountains of North Carolina. Everyone has advised us NOT to try and sand it and refinish it, but it looks as though it is viable. Our question relates to staining after it is sanded. We do want a darker (almost dark gray going to black) finish. From what I read, we should try to do that. Am I reading you correctly? We just don’t like like that yellow look to the floor. And yes, we have three large black labs who eat, sleep, run, and occasionally pee on the floor. We would treasure any advise about how to finish it after we get it sanded.

    1. I definitely wouldn’t use a ‘stain’ but rather a coloured finish. Stains soak in and don’t leave a film on the surface. Coloured finishes sit on top and provide a film and the colour is in that film. I think staining a floor like this would just look terrible.

  13. We have had the “blonde” bamboo flooring since 2008 now. It was beautiful when first installed & then about 3 months later a guest came over with stilettos & you can still see every step she took! That was just the beginning of numerous scratches/dents. I had read warnings about this prior to purchasing it but I was too stubborn to head the warnings. The thing to remember is that bamboo is a GRASS not a hard wood. And the beautiful blonde color turns orange when exposed to the light. Needless to say we are very disappointed with it and now have to either refinish or just get rid of it all together. I also heard that the top coat that they put on when they refinish it is not as “hard” as the original coat. That concerns me. My opinion of bamboo flooring is that it should be reserved for walls- it is just too soft to stand up to everyday use.

    1. Unfortunately there is no wood hard enough or finish hard enough to stand up to stilettos. With a woman of any size the pounds per square inch can range in the tons.

      Im not a fan of bamboo, so personally I would replace it.

  14. I don’t know what kind bamboo floor we have but it looks terrible in the high traffic areas. It was our TV room but now I want to make it into a sewing room/craft room and would love to paint the floor. Any ideas how I can prepare it so paint will adhere to it? It’s a light pine color, DIY click in place product.

  15. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for your site. I read all the comments and your personal articulates over the last few days which changed me from a no hope about refurbishing my standed bamboo floor, to confident about doing so. Having read more I am now doubting that sanding the surface is not a good idea. Maybe just to much information.
    Did you use a cylinder floor sander with the 60/80/120 grit abrasive sheets with success? I am only hoping to take the minimum off the top to remove dirty edges,where the planks have become con-caved. Do you think I could get the work done with an industrial orbital sander? Look forward to your advise. Kind regards
    Francis

  16. I have bamboo floors that have become a nightmare of cleaning.Floor is chocolate brown It’s been down for about a year full of scratches. I absolutely hate it.Do not redo bamboo dark it shows everything.You have to keep room dark for it to look nice

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