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Refinishing bamboo floors: sanding and buffing

Tips and advice on proper refinishing bamboo floors (both thick- and thin-layered).

Refinishing bamboo floors is such a challenging task, but anyway, it is easier to refinish than replace floor covering. Depending on the bamboo flooring thickness, there are two main ways of refinishing. Thick bamboo floor coating can be sanded, while thin one has to be buffed.

How to sand and refinish thick-layered bamboo floor

Bamboo flooring before and after exfoliationSanding bamboo floor actually means peeling off the top (finish) layer. There is no need in sanding the floor covering itself.

You will need:

  • Disk sander.
  • Sandpaper (60-, 80-, and 100/120-grit).
  • Pry bar.
  • Dust mask and safety goggles.
  • Bucket of warm water and soft clean cloth.
  • Oil-based polyurethane finish.
  • Bristle brush.
  • Optionally you may need surface filler, such as wood putty, and a hand sanding pad.

Polishing the bamboo floor without sanding by using chemicalsRemove the baseboards with the pry bar. Using 60-grit paper, sand the floor in the diagonal direction. Repeat sanding procedure moving straight from one wall to opposite. This sanding method is called cross-directional technique. After that change 60-grit paper to 80-grit pad and sand the room again, first in diagonal and then in the straight direction. Sometimes it’s enough to use 60- and 80-grit paper. In cases, if top covering layer is not peeled off entirely, you’ll have to use fine-grain (100- or 120-grit). Keep a close eye on the dust color; if it becomes darker, then you peel the bamboo itself. In this case stop sanding the floor.

After you finish sanding, you have to clean the floor properly. Wash the floor with warm water and soft clean cloth. Do that at any time as you need to remove all the dust and small particles of the top-coating you peeled off. If there are some deep scratches on the floor, use surface filler to stuff them in. Allow the filler enough time to dry completely. Optionally you may have to polish the floor in the places where the filler is rising above the surface with a hand sanding pad to make the floor flat and smooth.

Now you can apply finishing coat. Start from the furthest corner of the room, so you can leave the premise freely after you get the work done. Using bristle brush, cover the floor with polyurethane finish and leave it to dry. Then apply the second layer, let it dry and coat the floor the third time. If necessary, you also may add one or two more layers.

How to refinish bamboo floors without sanding

Old bamboo floor in need of polishingThin bamboo flooring can not be sanded, so you will have to use a more gentle method to refinish it. Buffing is a less harsh alternative to sanding and can be applied to thin bamboo floor coating.

You will need:

  • Orbital buffer.
  • Nylon abrasive pad (make sure it fits the buffer).
  • Pry bar.
  • Dust mask and safety goggles.
  • Bucket of warm water and soft clean cloth.
  • Oil-based polyurethane finish.
  • Bristle brush.
  • Optionally you may need some surface filler, such as wood putty.

Using the orbital buffer and nylon abrasive pad, buff the floor in cross-directional technique. Repeat the procedure until you completely peel off the top coating. Clean the floor, repair deep scratches with the filler and cover the floor with 3 or more layers of polyurethane finish, as it was described in the previous section.

Tips and advice

Refinishing bamboo floorsIf you are not sure whether your bamboo flooring can be sanded without damages, better contact the manufacturer.
Can you refinish bamboo floors partially? – No, because most probably you won’t make a shrewd guess at new finish color. In result, you will get the floor with darker or lighter marks on the refinishing spots.

Some manufacturers use specific coatings, which can irritate eyes and respiratory tract, so always wear dust mask and goggles. Don’t forget to ventilate the room after sanding; use air purifier if possible.

Can bamboo floors be refinished with wooden floor top coating? No. You have to use special finishing coats for bamboo flooring.

You may want to test the finish to check whether it has appropriate color. If you have some bamboo flooring pieces and cut-offs remained after the last installation, use them for testing purposes. If no, then apply a small amount of finish on the floor in the far corner.

Choosing the finishing, note that dark colored ones may leave some overlap marks on the floor.

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