For anyone considering bamboo flooring for their residential or commercial property, there are a number of factors to consider before deciding who to buy from. We’ve put together the following list of what questions to ask when deciding who to choose as your bamboo flooring provider so as to keep your family and your back pocket safe:
1. Firstly, is bamboo really for you? How does bamboo compare with timber, tiles and other options?
Solidify your decision for bamboo first to ensure you’re using your time wisely on a product you’d love to live on. You’ll want to ask a few comparative questions, such as: what levels of density will meet up with the durability your lifestyle demands, the feel of the floor, maintenance, colour consistency and board variation versus what you see in the showroom, how the colours change with time, and the environmental impact of your choices. Not forgetting, of course, the costs involved, but do be mindful of matching prices with similar board widths and grades in your comparisons with other hardwoods.
2. Is the product specifically designed for the local climate?
Bamboo has copped some flak from time to time over the years due to some unstable products being introduced to the market that are not suitable for local conditions. These are typically the earliest board designs that are now usually sold off as cheaper solutions that look fine when they are first installed, but soon show signs of boards warping and cupping as the seasons change. Much care is actually needed to design the boards to suit their destination.
Bamboo is exported from China all over the world and the moisture content they are produced with is typically the same regardless of the country it is being shipped to, whereas it really needs to be matched to each city’s climate to avoid the boards drying out or expanding. Once this and several other factors are done correctly, the boards become even more stable than local timbers and will look great for many years to come.
3. Have the boards and glues been tested for any potential health risks?
When it comes to health, it pays to ask about how your floor – and anything you have in your home for that matter – is impacted by the F word… Formaldehyde. Well not just formaldehyde, but any nasty compounds that may leach off into your breathing space.
It is not uncommon for overseas manufacturers to cut corners in order to make the cheaper products often demanded by retailers, which can result in some unhealthy practices. You’ll want to know what tests have been done and how safe your family is going to be.
4. Can the floor be glued directly to concrete?
In short, the answer should be yes. This simple question can be quite enlightening though – offering insights into the calibre of product, long term value, familiarity with installation and how much experience a company has had with bamboo.
Suppliers that have had challenges maintaining stability in their floorboards will get to a point of frustration with warranty claims and begin spreading the word that bamboo can’t be glued down and can only be floated (i.e. installed onto a foam underlay without being glued down – much like a laminate floor) – to do so drastically reduces the life of the floor and how it feels to the touch (much louder to walk on, for instance). The reason they do this is to overcome board expansion that results in a cupped and warped floor, which shouldn’t happen in a product that is genuinely suited for the local climate. A floating floor will only last 10 years on average and cannot be sanded again later down the track. Compare that with 50-60 years to the life of a premium bamboo product that is glued down (giving it the ability to be sanded many times) and you can clearly see where the value lies for your investment.
The more confidence you have in the product before it’s installed in your home will give you greater peace of mind for years to come.
5. Who will install my floor – contractors or your staff? Who coordinates that?
It is standard industry practice for a flooring provider to supply the necessary materials and then just refer a selection of preferred flooring installers. This often means the task of coordinating the installation is handballed back to the homeowner and accountability is contested between two parties (i.e. the installer blames any faults on the product and the supplier in turn points the finger at the installation.)
It takes more than a handyman to lay an outstanding floor, especially when it comes to finishing touches and staircases, which become the work of a true flooring craftsman (giving particular credit to those from cabinet making or shipwright backgrounds). The installation of a product can be the difference between a good-looking floor and a great-looking floor that will impress for years to come.
Go meet the person who will install your floor and ask to see floors they’ve finished or are currently working on. The time invested will pay off in the long run.
6. What kind of maintenance is required to keep the floor looking good? Can the floor be sanded and stained like timber?
Information on regular cleaning should be pretty standard out there. As far as longer term maintenance, you may come across some misinformation floating around that bamboo can’t be sanded like timber, thus reducing the life of the floor overall. However, for a quality bamboo floor they should be telling you it can be sanded over 4 times, which is done roughly every 10-15 years depending on your lifestyle. If they suggest it can’t be sanded, or can be sanded fewer than 4 times in total then what you’d be paying for may not be a premium product, nor represent good value.
7. How long is the warranty and what does it cover? What is the process of making a claim and who handles it?
10-year warranties are pretty standard. More than that is a bonus and extra peace of mind, given that the company has a solid track record. What you want to be weary of is whether the warranty is covered and managed by your local supplier and not just the overseas manufacturer’s product warranty (as they rarely have any value when it comes to the crunch). Always read through the terms carefully and challenge anything you find questionable. The longer the warranty offered – the more confident the supplier is likely to be in relying on their product to stand the test of time, provided they fulfill it. Long-term family businesses are often found to have a history of better honouring warranty claims.
Don’t rely on the warranty for your choice though. Do your research into the company’s background, looking for experience and competence versus being over-promised at the front end of a transaction. Listen to your instincts as to who you can trust.
8. What is the lead-time for product supply and installation?
Some flooring providers may not carry stock locally and will need to import it. This of course can cause delays if you are seeking a more immediate solution, or can open you up to scheduling challenges even if working in advance. Delays in you getting into your home is one of the most inconvenient and upsetting challenges for both those who build and renovators. The amount of stock the supplier has available locally can also give you an idea of how consistently they have experience installing bamboo and how many others trust them for the task.
9. What does the price include and what are the payment terms?
It is standard industry practice for flooring providers to mention prices for only boards, glue and installation. What you really want is a price inclusive of extra product as an allocation for waste/offcuts, edging for where the floor meets walls (beading or skirting), delivery (also worth asking if the goods will be hand-delivered into your home or just left outside the property), stairs, and the cost of removing offcuts and packaging. That way you can get a true budget for the project. Also worth asking how much waste is allocated (as it shouldn’t be more than 5%) and if they are charging for the installation of it – because they certainly shouldn’t!
Payment terms are an interesting one too. They can give you a good indication of integrity. Requesting deposits over 6% of the total investment may be unlawful and untrustworthy. There have been cases of large deposits having been paid and floors never arriving. Following that, payment for all the materials should only be due upon delivery and labour costs upon completion. It is not your job to cash flow a company that cannot afford to complete the work required.
10. How much flooring do you really need?
You may find seemingly more competitive prices out there. Beware of crafty pricing shenanigans though. A company may quote you based on a cheap rate, but will measure your floor as a larger area than it actually is. This is far more common than you might think and even getting a number of quotes doesn’t keep you safe from it, as several companies can both be well versed in the same practice. Best precaution is to measure your plans yourself to verify (just break up the areas into rectangular parts you can measure length by width).
11. How is the bamboo finished on edges that meet with carpeted and tiled areas? And who is responsible for finishing that?
Some installers will use metal trims or rubber strips that cover the joining area, much like what is used for laminate or lino flooring. These options won’t require any specialised carpet finishing, so are the quicker choice when carpet is installed prior the bamboo. Your more experienced installers are more likely to finish the bamboo area without any joining strips and will alter the height of the joining board to meet flush with other flooring. It comes down to the look you prefer and what is going to be easiest to clean.
Hopefully we’ve given you some more insight into what you should be asking any potential bamboo flooring salespeople. Feel free to ask us a question or come into our showrooms either in Osborne Park or Myaree and tell us about your project!