Bamboo is technically a grass, and cannot be treated in the same way as traditional hardwood flooring can.
If you try to refinish it in the same way you would an oak floor for example you could end up damaging it permanently.
So, can bamboo flooring be refinished?
Many people will say that you can’t refinish bamboo flooring. This tends to be true of older flooring, however...
It has developed a lot in recent years and it varies a lot according to manufacturers so there's not a clear cut answer and it depends on the flooring type you have.
So, let's look at the different types of bamboo flooring and whether you can refinish them or not...
What are the different weaves of bamboo flooring?
There are 3 main ways bamboo flooring can be made. These are horizontal, vertical, and strand-woven.
Horizontal bamboo flooring (you may prefer Pergo flooring) is the most common. The stalks are glued together horizontally to create a plank.
Vertical bamboo flooring is made from vertically glued bamboo stalks. It has more lines present and has a streamlined look.
Strand-woven flooring is made from shredded bamboo fibers that are bonded together. This is done through the application of heat, pressure, and adhesives to form solid planks.
What are the types of bamboo flooring?
There are 2 main types of bamboo flooring, solid and engineered. They are composed differently and require different care.
Solid bamboo is made of just bamboo. Engineered bamboo is a veneer of bamboo on top of a core made from fiberboard or plywood.
Solid bamboo can be refinished without much hassle, being able to withstand similar treatment to traditional hardwood flooring.
You can sometimes refinish engineered bamboo too, but you must be sure that the veneer is thick enough.
Generally speaking, the veneer must be thicker than 2mm at a minimum. 2mm veneered flooring is likely only able to be refinished once.
There are 2 subsections of bamboo flooring - natural and carbonized. Natural bamboo is also sometimes referred to as non-carbonized.
It is light in color, but tends to scratch and dent easily.
Carbonized bamboo is stained and therefore darker in color. The only issue with this is that it dents more easily.
Carbonized bamboo flooring is softer than natural bamboo and so is easier to refinish. It is a consistent color throughout the flooring and so refinishing will not make the floor’s appearance uneven.
What are the benefits of bamboo flooring?
The benefit of bamboo flooring is that it is a very durable material, making it highly suitable for flooring.
It is moisture and water resistant, meaning that it can hold up well to all weather conditions. Additionally, it is naturally mold, mildew, and insect resistant.
It is as easy to clean and maintain as traditional hardwood flooring. It is harder to damage due to the high density of the material. This is particularly true of strand-woven flooring.
Bamboo is dimensionally stable. This means that it can withstand fluctuating temperatures inside your home. Some modern bamboo flooring can even be laid over underfloor heating.
What are the downsides of bamboo flooring?
The downside of bamboo flooring is that it's not waterproof.
You should not mistake the water resistance of bamboo for it being waterproof. The nature of bamboo means that it will absorb excess water surrounding it.
For this reason we do not recommend installing bamboo flooring outdoors or in bathrooms.
Bamboo is tough, but can still scratch if you are not careful. We advise placing protective pads underneath the legs of any furniture you use to protect the flooring.
What to be aware of before refinishing a bamboo floor
Bamboo flooring will often contain some formaldehyde. This is used as a preservative to extend the life span of the flooring.
There is a chance that this could cause your nose, eyes, and throat to sting when exposed to it.
When you are sanding old lacquer off bamboo flooring there is a chance that some formaldehyde will be released.
It is important to keep your working area well ventilated and to wear a mask. We would recommend a carbon filter mask instead of a regular dust mask to protect yourself.
A lot of dust and sawdust will be generated as you sand the floor.
It is important to protect your eyes from the flying particles. We suggest wearing safety goggles that are sealed all around your eyes for sufficient protection.
If you are thinking about refinishing your bamboo floor, check the wear layer on top before you start sanding.
Remove a door threshold to expose a cross-section of the flooring. Measure the wear layer, only refinish if above 2mm.
How do you refinish bamboo flooring?
What will you need?
- An electric floor sander
- Medium grit sandpaper
- Fine grit sandpaper
- A brush
- Bamboo floor cleaner
- Polyurethane varnish
- Wood stain (the same color as the bamboo)
- New finish
How do you do it?
The first step to refinishing a floor is to get rid of any remaining old finish (lacquer).
Using the electric sander with the medium grit sandpaper attached, run it across the floor. Apply a gentle and firm pressure, ensuring it remains consistent.
Sweep and clean the floor. Run the sander over again with a fine grit sandpaper attached.
Sweep once more and coat the floor with your polyurethane varnish.
If you have deep scratches in the surface of your floor, you will need to purchase wood filler.
Choose one that is as close to the color and texture of bamboo as possible.
Add this into the dented areas and smooth out the surface. Scrape off any overflow and leave the filler to dry.
Run the fine grit-sandpaper over the surface when dry.
If the filled areas are paler, apply some tinted wood stain to ensure the flooring looks even.
If you are concerned about it looking patchy, you can always apply stain to the whole floor.
Leave the wood stain to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once dried, apply your new coating of finish. Allow this to dry too.
Once the finish has dried, use polyurethane to seal it. This helps to protect the floor against scuffs and scrapes. We recommend applying 2 coats.