Replacing Carpet with Bamboo Flooring
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
When we decided to buy our current house about two years ago, it was ideal for us in many ways. One of its few flaws was the carpeting that had been installed in many rooms including the entire upstairs. The carpeting was clean and in great shape (something that couldn't be said for some of the other houses we'd looked at) but it definitely wasn't ideal in certain places. One such room was an extra upstairs room that we had set up as a sort of home gym. Although we tried to cover the carpet with rubber matting, it never really worked well and there was always the danger of dripping copious amounts of sweat onto the carpet (did I mention that the air conditioning doesn't really work up there?). My mom and stepdad Chris recently undertook the massive project of replacing all of the carpeting in a property that they own with bamboo flooring. They had some leftover flooring- almost exactly enough to replace the carpeting in our workout room. We decided to purchase the extra material from them and start our own home improvement project. Below are some pictures from the early stages of the project. We managed to give away the old carpet and underlayment in only a few hours to a grateful person we found on the internet! Below are some pictures of what the room looked like as I got it ready for the new flooring. I removed all the doors, pulled up the carpet (surprisingly easy), and pulled up the underlayment. After that, it was just a matter of pulling up about a hundred staples and doing a thorough sweeping. Finally, I put down a simple plastic vapor barrier.
Chris was gracious enough to spend a few hours helping me start the flooring process since he had learned quite a few tricks over the course of their own recent flooring project. We spent some time making sure that the first row of flooring planks were truly straight. Chris showed me how to use a second row of planks to help make sure everything was square. This was important because the walls in our house aren't perfectly straight and simply pressing the boards against the wall may have resulted in problems later on.
After using a jigsaw to accommodate a vent near the door, the process moved more quickly and Chris left me to chip away at it on my own. I learned how to cut the starting board in every other row to provide a staggered pattern. I used a hammer and a piece of scrap to make sure the tongue of each new board was snug in the groove of the adjacent board. Then I used the finishing nail gun to secure the new board, shooting nails at a 45 degree angle through the tongue. I got significantly more efficient as I went and eventually got to the next tricky part- the closet and the far wall.
I was worried about the final boards because I knew I would have to rip these length-wise so they would fit properly against the wall. The gap I had the fill was remarkably consistent along the length of the wall so I actually used a table saw for two of the boards. I used a jigsaw to rip the final board as it needed to be wider at one end than the other.
With the boards installed, the last job was to install quarter round moulding along the perimeter of the room to "hide my sins" (as my carpenter friend Steve would say!). This went fairly quickly although sometimes getting the required angles where the moulding pieces met in corners tested my visual reasoning abilities. I found that making lots of marks on the pieces before cutting them helped me to remember what sort of cut I wanted once I got to the saw (shading the cutaway portion and sketching an "up" arrow to help me stay oriented).
The last step was to install a threshold where the hallway carpeting meets the new flooring. I had to place a small piece of flooring near the door and remove extra carpeting and underlayment. The threshold I purchased was a pre-shaped piece of oak from Lowes.
I put a few layers of clear polyurethane on it to protect it and used some thin pieces of wood to support the carpet so that the threshold would be stable when stepped on. Finally, I installed the threshold with some screws.
Overall, the project was very satisfying and a great way to make this space more usable for us. It was economical too; the materials came in at less than $500 (it helped that Chris gave us a great price on his leftover flooring). I'm interested to see how the bamboo holds up. I was impressed by how easy it was to work with and how affordable it was. Bamboo is also better for the environment than other materials because it grows so quickly. Besides installing the moulding, this project didn't really require any skills that I hadn't already practiced on other house projects. But it gave me more confidence in the use of my table saw and jig saw. I'm already eyeing some other carpeted areas in our house as candidates for replacement with bamboo flooring in the future. Maybe next summer?