I recently had the pleasure of sanding and refinishing a bamboo floor which I have not done for a few years.
Believe it or not, I get a lot of questions about refinishing bamboo floors. So I took the opportunity to create this blog post to answer a few questions and to share my experience.
First, the most common questions I get:
Can bamboo floors be sanded?
In short yes. Just like normal wood floors, bamboo floors can be sanded back to remove the old finish, any dents, scratches and worn areas. The new finish can then be applied to bring out the colour of the flooring and give it some protection. Stranded bamboo floors may need more consideration.
Can bamboo flooring be stained?
Bamboo flooring can be stained yes, however, the stain is absorbed unevenly. Some cells in the bamboo absorb no stain at all, while others absorb a lot. It is good practice to put a sample patch down, maybe in a cupboard, to see how it will come out first. The sample can be removed before finishing.
How much does it cost to refinish bamboo flooring?
Unsurprisingly, if bamboo sands like a wood floor, and it finishes like a wood floor, then it costs the same as a wood floor to refinish, whether professionally or DIY. So roughly $3 a foot for professional refinishing and around $1-2 dollars a foot for DIY depending on the size of the floor.
My experience sanding bamboo flooring
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 every day, I sand wooden floors.
Nevertheless, since no traumatic memories sprang to mind, I just decided to treat it like 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 were smoothed over.
I completed most of the sanding on the first day, leaving a little final sanding and then the finishing to do the next day. Overnight 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.
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.
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Hello Ben,I’m an Irish carpenter living in Australia,Over the years I’ve payed a large amount of timber flooring.I did not lay the floor in my present house but it has cupped probably doe to moisture content or a weaken membrane,in your opinion would it be be safe to sand it and back and re coat or would it be compromised due to cuppingthe board has about a 6 mm rise from top of tongue to top of board.the flooring is bamboo by the way.cheers
6mm is a lot! I think you need to identify the source of the cupping, maybe put a french moat around the property. I think 6mm is too much to sand off.
Also, get a straight edge across the board and measure the drop. It always looks much worse than it is. You might think its 6mm by eye but its actually only 2 or 3 mm
Any chance you would post some Before/after photos? Great article; I have a house from the early 90’s full of high quality horizontal (non-carbonated) – I’m not a pro, just compared it with photos online — and it’s dated , kind of yellow and I want a more modern whitewashed look. How well will this go? Would love to see afters! Thanks so much!
sounds like its going to turn out very well, I highly recommmend using Loba Invisible for trying to keep that lighter washed out look. Unfortunately, I dont have any photos, I think this was the last Bamboo Floor I have sanded
Hello, I have tongue and groove distressed bamboo flooring 5/8 inch thick and I had a flooring contractor tell me that sanding down too far on the flooring will make the upper piece on the “groove” side would make it fragile and unstable. Do you agree?
Yes, that is true, but that’s true of virtually all flooring as all flooring is tongue and groove these days. If it hasn’t been sanded before and isn’t horrendously warped, this shouldn’t be a worry.
Where are you located that you do the work? I’m buying a house with bamboo flooring in the Living room/dining room and office. The office has a 4′ solid circle where the finish is down to bare wood. and another by the doggie door. I personally sanded a whole house 40 years ago after we pulling up 1500 ‘ of nasty carpet with underlay stuck to the white oak floors. It was an enormous challenge but I also talked to my children’s roller rink owner and bought gallons of commercial roller rink verithane (sp). Put down 10 coats with a special oil in between that made it so I didn’t have to sand between coats just make sure dry and clean., no dust. It’s still looking perfect and people say oh, you just did the floors again? Never scratched but too old to do again at the new house or I would. It did darken the wood a bit which was disappointing at the time but… I’m moving near Cape Canaveral, Florida are you nearby? They did leave a box of bamboo. Fix? Replace? Thank you, interesting site. JBT
Im in the UK im afraid!
We have the beautiful cheery/machagany color bamboo floors. They show everything. If we sand them will they lighten? Not sure how deep the color goes. I’m okay with no new stain just a finish.
yes the colour is on the surface, sanding should bring it back to the light natural colour
I have a mahogany stained hand scraped bamboo flooring, it has got several scratches in the finish. How can i strip it off with out damaging the scraped look. I have tried a stripper on it but did not phase the finish.
generally speaking, you cant refinish the floor and keep the scraping in place, unless you have it rescraped (by hand, very expensive)
My husband & I decided to sand our chocolate engineered bamboo floors to a white scandanavian natural color. Do I need to verify how many mm of bamboo there is in order to understand what grit to start ? and how many times to sand ? Or does it not matter ? and we can start with a 60 grit to remove entire surface. Then once we sand the floors and are ready to do a white natural color. Do you have any suggestions for wood floor stain or white wash ?
First of all, great website and resource centre. I’m excited at the prospect of having the option to refinish my flooring.
My family installed 5/8″ vertical bamboo about 14 years ago. Suffice to say, the wood is definitely showing its age, especially in localized high traffic areas. We’ve always been told that it’s impossible to refinish bamboo and that our only option would be to eventually replace it. Which circles me back to you and all of the experiences I’ve read on this message board.
I’m curious, what would be your professional opinion on the best course of action for this specific make and bamboo type:
Also, do we have the option of just touching up the really worn down areas or do we have to refinish the entire surface?
Floor guys I’ve consulted with before have always been adamant that it can’t be done!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
hoe do i know if i have vertical or horizontal. the lines go long ways.the full lenth of the boards.not side to side.and how is a person to know what type of finish is on it from the factory
Is the free ebook not available anymore? I cannot get it to click through to anything.
It should be, I have checked it all, it should be working fine.
Ben, we are getting quotes to refinish our bamboo floor. The quotes seem higher than normal per square foot. ($1000-$1500 for 200-250 sqft) We are being told that is because the aluminum oxide finish that the original Bamboo came with degrades the sandpaper quicker. Thereby having to replace the sandpaper more often. Does that seem to jive with your experiences? Thank you.
If it is an Ali-Oxide finish then yes, its doesnt just require more belts, it takes a lot longer. In all honestly sanding off Ali-Oxide is horrendous. I don’t think that quote is unreasonable.
Bamboo floors thrashed by beach babies. The sand over the years has destroyed in many places. My husband says its a beach house not to worry! I wish to paint these floors high gloss color! Had any one in a commercial business or high traffic area ever seen good results. Send pics!!!! Need a new take on this crazy floor to save money!
Ben your method of refinishing the bamboo floors stepped out in your book?
how do you mean?
I bought a gel stain to put on my bamboo floor that I hate ive read all the comments people have wrote im so glad I’m not the only one that hates bamboo do you think the Gel stain will work
I have no idea tbh, I didnt think bamboo could be stained to be honest.
Hey – I wanted to ask you how does you floor look now – as the time passed?
I am about to refinish mine and just wanted to know if it passed the test of time.
This was a clients floor, but I would expect it to last 8-10 years. Modern polyurethane is very durable!
I recently purchased a house with all bamboo flooring. We are replacing it soon with wood looking tile planks. My question is: I am very sensitive to chemicals and voc’s…..does removing the bamboo pose any health risks with the formaldehyde or is that only when sanding it? Also, the house in vacant now and I’ll be paying someone to do the labor. I will not be in the house until completed. Thank you so much for your time in answering.
I cannot see that being a problem at all!
How do you keep the dust from settling everywhere? Is there a machine that sands and also sucks / collects dust?
How can you tell by looking if bamboo flooring is the carbon kind?
Its not the carbon you have to worry about it’s the Formaldehyde. Most machines sand and extract at the same time, but to varying degrees. If you were sanding bamboo every day I would definitely recommend getting a separate extractor to connect to the machines to suck up as much as possible
I have horizon bamboo flooring and spilt 5 lts of cooking oil on it. do I have to pick up the flooring? I have had it cleaned but nothing is shifting the oil in the kitchen. also can I sand the floor? do you know of and good specialist in London that can take on this job to bring it back to new
Whoa is me I have tried everything. Floor putty to fill gouges (had careless tenants). Nothing works instead of dirty looking Black marks I have same marks just a different color. Looks awful. The floor is blonde bamboo vertical. Instructions say fill holes, done, sand, done, use bamboo specific products, done. Looks like crap don’t want to seal it looking this way. Can someone tell me SPECIFIC products successfully used and how you went about it to get it to look good? The floor stresses me out, it could look wonderful if I knew what to do. I find the instructions very limited. Anyway I would definitely appreciate input from someone who has succeeded in dealing with this : )
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
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
Check out this page about sanding floors with an orbital sander
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.
just key the surface with 120 and paint it with a strong floor paint in my opinion
i need to sand and refinish my bamboo flooring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Yes, get some 100% polyurethane lacquer and use the method outline in this guide
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.
Unless you want to spend a lot of money, yes that’s about the best thing you can do unfortunately.
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?
yes i think i started on 60 on this floor. You can find out what lacquer i used by downloading the free ebook!
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!!
I was going to disapprove this comment, but I want to approve it just to say how terrible this advice is! 38 years???
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.
actually the label says “hardwood” so I am totally confused now. It looks yellowish like teek.
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
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
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.
That does sound strange, i would recommend swapping for a solvent lacquer, maybe Junckers Professional 625, or Sadolin PV 67
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…
Hello Travis, you should use some sort of orbital sander to smooth the floor after sanding with the drum sander and the edger
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?