Q: I will be remodeling my kitchen soon and I’m having a tough time deciding whether to install a bamboo floor or a laminate floor. I’ve heard commendations from friends extolling the virtues of one or the other. I really like bamboo but heard that it scars easily compared to a laminate such as Pergo laminate flooring. I worry that when my new appliances are installed, the installers may make dents on the floor. Also, my kitchen traffic is fairly heavy. Should I play it safe and go with laminate flooring?
A: Kitchens get more wear and tear than any other room in the house, so it makes sense to use a tried-and-true performer in selecting a floor. No matter how careful you are, count on splashing water and dropping the occasional dish or pot.
Traditional materials such as a good quality vinyl or tile are better choices than wood because they are impervious to water and resist scarring. But wood is so darn pretty.
We don’t have any experience with bamboo, but if we had a floor project coming up we wouldn’t rule it out — we would just do plenty of homework first.
We checked a few bamboo-flooring sites on the Web. Bamboo appears to be the new darling of flooring materials because it looks nice, goes down easily and is touted as environmentally sensible, being manufactured from fast-growing and sustainable plants, which are in fact grass, and not wood at all. Also, bamboo flooring is an engineered, laminate product.
As far as durability goes, proponents say that bamboo is more dent resistant than oak and is comparable to the hardest maple.
We wouldn’t necessarily believe these claims, nor would we necessarily believe your friends who say that it dents easily. We would want to find out for ourselves. A couple hours on the Web and a few trips to your best local flooring distributors are in order. Whether you use bamboo or another laminate product, realize that over time, your floor will show more signs of use than it would if you use vinyl or tile.
We have installed wood floors in kitchens before. They have held up well, but they certainly are not in the same condition as the day we laid them.
Ten years ago, Kevin installed a wood floor in his Idaho home. The kitchen, family room, and dining room share one large area. No walls separate the space. The floor is 1-by-4 tongue-and-groove mixed hardwood. It’s finished with Glitsa, a super-hard epoxy Swedish finish. The mixed hardwood gives the floor a rustic look and hides a lot of scars.
Two years ago Kevin’s dishwasher broke and leaked water between the hardwood and the sub-floor. The hardwood expanded and rose a bit. After several weeks the floor dried and the undulations subsided, but the joints that were tight are now “gap-y.”
Laminate flooring is no different. It has a durable finish, but it’s still susceptible to water damage. Laminate flooring manufacturers warn about exposure to water.
Recently, our youngest brother, Bryan, became a new homeowner. His first project was to renovate the kitchen. He opted for laminate floating floor–no nails. The floor is laid over a foam pad and expands and contracts as a unit. A 1/4-inch gap is left around the perimeter to allow the floor to move. Failure to leave the gap risks the floor buckling.
Kevin was drafted to help with the installation. Laminate flooring lends itself to do-it-yourself installation. The material is packaged in 5-foot-long strips and comes with detailed instructions. The pieces are milled with joints that, when driven together, lock.
Kevin and Bryan learned a few tricks that will make their next installation easier.
Layout is everything. Spread out a few rows of flooring to ensure a random pattern. The first course must be square and the first and last pieces of the floor should be of equal width. The manufacturer recommends buying a few specialized tools: a plastic pounding block and a metal bar used for driving the ends of two boards together for a tight fit. If you’re thinking you don’t need these, think again. Buy them.
When butting two pieces together, start driving them together at the opposite end of the butt joint. This will ensure a tight fit. Be careful as you move around on the finished floor. Use either rubber kneepads or cover the area with plastic or some large towels. This prevents scarring the floor.
Whether you go with bamboo or another laminate, realize that water is a potential problem and dents are a possibility. We can only surmise that the look of wood outweighs these risks. It has for us.
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