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Replacing Planks of Bamboo Flooring

Posted: 01 JUL 2002

In most cases, your bamboo flooring will only suffer minor surface damage – the type that an experienced do-it-yourselfer could handle. However, if it becomes necessary to replace even one plank, and the flooring is nailed down, stapled down, or glued down, then the work becomes very complex and should be left to the pros. Now, before you say, “Aw, it’s no big deal; I can handle it,” there are some financial considerations you need to think about.

You probably spent a lot of money for your floor. Wouldn’t it be a shame to spend a lot more money only making matters worse? Then you would have to pay a professional even more money to correct your mistakes.

Fortunately, not all installation methods inhibit the do-it-yourselfer. If your bamboo flooring is a floated installation – not permanently fixed to the sub-floor – and the planking is the no-glue, click together type, you should be able to handle the repairs. Simply remove the base or quarter round molding on the side of the room closest to the damaged area and start disconnecting planks. But remember, if your flooring is secured to the sub-floor by a nailed-down, stapled-down, or glued-down method, you’ll be better off hiring a professional – an overview of what is involved will reveal why.

If the flooring is nailed down, for example, the nails would have to be driven down further to allow removal of the planks. A typical installation will have nails spaced approximately 6 to 8 inches apart and angled into the tongue side of the planks. However, they won’t be easy to see, which is why it’s called a “blind nailing” technique. If the planks were installed by the “face nailing” technique, then the nails were driven straight down through the top of the planks. To locate these nails, you will have to look closely for the small spots of wood filler that cover the countersunk heads.

The next thing you would have to do is isolate the damaged area from the good part of the plank. The location and size of the damage will determine your course of action. You may want to remove just the damaged area between the two ends of the plank, or you might decide to remove the section of the plank from the damage area to the nearest end.

You would mark your decision by drawing a reference line across the plank – or two lines if you were isolating a middle section – then carefully drill a row of holes along the damage side of the line(s). You would have to drill carefully to avoid accidentally ventilating your sub-floor.

After the drilling is done, you would split the wood between the holes with a wood chisel then pry out the damaged piece. If you decided to remove the entire plank, you would first split it in half then pry out the two pieces.

The next step would be to clean up the ragged edge of any drilled piece that was not removed. You will need a very sharp wood chisel, a hammer, and a steady hand to get a straight, square edge. You would also want to remove any exposed nails at this time or drive them completely into the sub-flooring.

After completing the removal and preparation steps, it would be time to cut the replacement piece. However, this is not just a matter of cutting a precise length. Since planks have separate tongue and groove sides, the piece cannot be simply dropped into the open space. It would have to be modified by removing the bottom lip of the groove side. This would allow the modified side to be tapped into place after the tongue side has been angled into the groove of an adjacent plank.

Since the replacement piece would be missing the bottom half of its groove side it would not be secure. Therefore, you would have to apply glue to the bottom of the piece, or “face nail” it to the sub-floor. If the “face nailing” method is used, you would also have to countersink the nails, apply wood filler, sand, and finish the plank to match the rest of the flooring.

That should give you a good idea of what is involved with major repairs to nailed-down planking, and why hiring a professional to do the work is strongly recommended. Of course, glued-down and stapled-down installations would have their own unique set of challenges.