How to Build Bamboo Stairs

June 24, 2011 in Bamboo Flooring Trim and Accessories Tutorial

If you do a Wikipedia search on stairs, you’ll get all kinds of information. Things like an escalator and even a ladder are types of stairs or that stairs are constructed in practically every conceivable way.  Of course, our concern today isn’t about the history of stairs or their philosophical contexts, but how to complete the look of your palm or bamboo floor between floors.

Useful Facts about Stair Contruction

The stairs pictured here have both treads and risers made out of Neopolitan.

Stairs are constructed of a series of steps. Steps consist of a tread and a riser. The tread is the portion of the stair that you stand and walk on. The riser is what makes ascending possible and is the vertical portion of the stair. Sometimes these are left out like in the photo below. Typically, though, in single family homes they are used.

These stairs do not have risers, so they’re considered to be a floating staircase. Floating staircases are usually supported by one or more stringers, which structurally support the treads (and risers when used).

Giving your stairway the Plyboo Touch

Now that you’re armed with knowledge about what makes a stair step, let’s apply that knowledge to continuing the look and feel of your Plyboo or Durapalm floor on the stairway.  There are several options to build a stairway that’s right for your needs.  The first option is to custom build the stair out of palm or bamboo plywood.

Although the most expensive option, it offers complete versatility as you can build the step into whatever you desire. Floating stairways, spirals, any option that there’s a full view stairway can utilize this method.  Work with a professional to design the stairway of your choice.  This way you have full control over the look and feel of the tread, the visual effect and thickness of the whole step, and complete design freedom of what your step will look like.

Smith&Fong Co. offers both bamboo plywood and palm plywood in addition to flooring.  Contact our main office to find your local distributor if you’d like to know how to customize your staircase.

A second, albeit, more common and less expensive option, is to buy a stair step to meet the riser.  Stair steps are yet another solution to completing the look and feel of your flooring choice up the stairway.  They’re simple to install and they have the rounded nose that extends beyond the tread in one easy piece.  Just purchase as many as you have steps and install.

The third and least expensive option is to use stair nosing with any additional flooring you may have ordered.  Smith&Fong Co.’s stair nosing is different from its stair steps.  While both extend beyond the rising, the stair nosing is an economical solution to offer the continuity of a flooring look. You merely lay the flooring down as your tread and clip the nosing piece onto the tongue of the palm or bamboo flooring.

Stair nosing is implemented for both aesthetic and practical reasons. It extends beyond the tread and rounds off the edge of the step finishing it off and giving a traditional (or in the case of Neopolitan non-traditional), yet polished look. The photo below uses Durapalm flooring and stair nosing to finish off the steps. It makes the tread extend beyond the riser beneath much like the stair step.

As you can see, there are many possibilities with bamboo and with palm as a building material.  Each offers a great deal of versatility and  there is a solution for every price range. If you’d like to know more ways to use bamboo, feel free to contact us at

Photo credits in order of appearance: Patrick J. Killen, Margot Harford (Courtesy of Hershon Hartley), Kotaro Mick Miyake (Courtesy of Boora Architects) , and Benny Chan

How to Clean and Maintain Your Bamboo Floor

June 16, 2011 in Maintenance Series

In our last Maintenance Series, we discussed how to avoid cupping. One of the mentioned ways was to avoid wet mopping the floor, which of course leads to the question: How do I clean and maintain my bamboo floor?

First, if you have a prefinished floor, be sure to follow the maintenance instructions included with your installation and warranty paperwork. Be warned, if you do not follow the instructions to the letter, you risk voiding the manufacturer’s warranty! If you have an unfinished floor, follow the instructions from the floor finish manufacturer. If you don’t know whether or not the floor was purchased prefinshed or unfinished, or even who the manufacturer is, then keep reading. This article will outline several alternatives given a few general guidelines.

Nip it in the bud!
Spills on the floor, tracked in dirt, food debris – clean it up immediately! Dirt and debris on the floor can cause scratching. Regular sweeping or vacuuming is highly recommended. If there is a wet or sticky spill, wipe it up when it happens. Hard-to-remove spots can be removed with a damp (not wet) cloth and a little elbow grease. Of course, follow with a dry cloth if there’s any remaining moisture or with cleaning product. You can use a generic wood floor cleaner directly on the stain.

Bust the dust
Using a dust mop, dry Swiffer or a similar dry cloth product, can work wonders at keeping your floor in tip-top shape. If using a dust mop, use an untreated mop. Water-based or petroleum-based treated mops are never recommended. Don’t use spray dust cleaners. Spray cleaners can have incompatible chemicals or oils that can leave a film on your floor. Also, they tend to dull the sheen of the floor and even make recoating difficult if not impossible!

Leave it at the door
Using a mat at the door is a great way to keep from tracking dirt onto your floor. Also, check that the taps on your shoes and high heels are well maintained to avoid scratching or impressions on the floor.

Cover up
Have you been eyeing a fancy imported rug? Well consider protecting your floor a good reason to invest. Using area rugs, throws, and floor protectors on furniture prevent scratching and help protect your floor from surface damage.

Get a system
Find a non-harmful cleaning routine. As previously mentioned, wet mopping is not recommended. You should also avoid using ammonia and products with ammonia on it’s ingredients list. Sweeping, cleaning, and polishing, is a possibility. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Although this isn’t a direct endorsement, products by Bona tend to work well on Smith&Fong flooring. There are some natural products on the market, but check with your manufacturer first to see if it will work with their product. For example, some oil based cleaners work on wood, but are horrible on surfaces with a polyurethane finish. In lay-person’s language: ask first because flooring is not created equal and each can respond differently to the same product.

Recoat? Call in a pro
Your floor’s original shine will eventually fade, even with proper maintenance. This is natural and to be expected. You will need to recoat your floor periodically to revive it’s luster. It’s a good idea to call in a flooring professional to help with this.

Photo credit:
Image: Suat Eman /

How to Use a Bamboo Threshold

June 14, 2011 in Bamboo Flooring Trim and Accessories Tutorial, Uncategorized

So you have finished installing your floor in multiple rooms and now you are looking at the transition between doorways. Not all doorway passages need or require a trim treatment, but when they do you are looking for a threshold molding. These come in two types: a standard threshold and an overlap threshold.

An attractive shot of a standard threshold in Amber Flat Grain

The standard threshold molding is flat on top and tapers on both sides down to the level of your floor. This is designed to fill the gap between the bottom of your door and the surface of the floor.

Palm Standard Threshold

Other advantages of the threshold are to keep the drafty air from coming in under your door, provide a little debris protection from the other side and if installed with caulking underneath the molding, can provide a bit of flood control, say from a bathroom or kitchen area.

An overlap threshold though sharing a name is really a very different type of molding from the traditional standard threshold molding. This product is designed to butt cleanly to a sliding glass door track that can then also receive a caulking treatment to avoid both moisture and debris from collecting between the aluminum track and the installed flooring.

Overlap Threshold, Amber Edge Grain

The overlap threshold also allows for the concealment of the expansion gap that is required around the perimeter of every room.

This is how it works. The overlap threshold at the square nose end is slightly taller than the flooring itself. It is then cut back on the other side to allow the flooring to slide underneath it with the “overlap” coming over and on top of the flooring.

How is it installed? The overlap threshold nose end is squared off to butt to the aluminum framing of the sliding glass door. The flooring is installed to leave both a space for the overlap threshold to drop into as well as leaving room for the required expansion gap between the flooring and the wall. The overlap then coming up over and on top of the flooring, the gap is concealed and the finish is complete.

Smith & Fong Co. offers both types of thresholds, the standard threshold and the overlap threshold.

How to Use a Bamboo Reducer

June 10, 2011 in Bamboo Flooring Trim and Accessories Tutorial

Congratulations! You’ve installed your new Plyboo bamboo floor.  But how will you transition between the vinyl floor in the kitchen and the bamboo floor in your dining room?

With a reducer!

A reducer offers a clean transition to a different type of flooring.  A standard reducer, which is sometimes called a flush reducer or a one sided reducer, is usually used to transition the floor to ceramic, some other type of tile, or ceramic floor. Occasional cosmetic uses, however, can include improving the look of a floor that would but into a fireplace or like fixture.

Pictured above, Durapalm reducer in coconut palm.

In addition to standard reducers, Smith&Fong Co. offers several other types of trim to suit your needs. For example, if the floor needs to transition to a lower floor, try our overlap threshold.

Plyboo Maintenance Series: How to Prevent Cupping

May 23, 2011 in FAQ series, Maintenance Series

Illustration of a cupped floor. Cupping is the accurate description for this particular type of “warping.”

No one wants a “warped floor,” and with these easy-to-follow tips, your floor will stand the test of time.  Any upward facing warping or bowing of the material is best described in the flooring industry as cupping.  Let me tell you, it’s not a pleasant experience nor is it the sort of thing you’d want to happen to you.  We’ll definitely address several areas in this piece, but first, let’s start simply with:

1. What is cupping?

Image: healingdream /

Cupping is when wood, bamboo, or any other similar timber product takes on a curved shape.  This is most commonly caused by moisture.  The moisture can come from several sources.  Common sources of Moisture include:

  • Uncured concrete subfloors
  • Poor drainage
  • Concrete patch or leveler that hasn’t dried
  • Building leaks, leaks at doors or windows, and leaking appliances
  • Cleaning with water (i.e. wet-mopping)

Although the reason for cupping is moisture related, some floors can cup due to extremely dry conditions.  In this case, it’s helpful to know what’s going on with the relative humidity of your location. Anything under 20% is very dry and humidification is suggested in such conditions.

2. How to Prevent Cupping

Image: joannawnuk /

Try these tools and processes to stop cupping in its tracks:

  • The manufacturer’s installation information
  • Using moisture meters
  • Using moisture testing kits (Such as Calcium Chloride)
  • Administering a complete site inspection and review
  • Allowing all wet materials such as concrete, concrete patch, and concrete leveler to fully cure before installing
  • Reviewing maintenance procedures and avoiding wet mopping the floor
  • Installing the floor last on the project to avoid damage or exposure to water during construction

3. Repairing a Cupped Floor

Image: Patou /

So you’ve found this blog a little too late and want to know how to remedy the situation.  The advice taken from National Wood Flooring Association (NFWA) is to “never attempt to repair a cupped floor until all of the sources of excessive moisture have been [eliminated].”  You will need a moisture meter to perform readings on the subfloor under the affected bamboo, palm, or wooden floor.

If the wood isn’t permanently damaged, the flooring should eventually return to it’s original state.  Keep in mind, that this could take weeks or even months.  If the floor does not return to normal after an entire heating season, it is most likely permanently damaged.  You can sand off the cupped edges on the permanently deformed boards, but first check that they are completely dry.  Take a moisture reading on the flooring itself.  If you find there’s a gradient of 1% or more between the top and the bottom of the boards, they probably haven’t finished drying.

Illustration of a cupped floor after sanding prematurely.  This situation is called “crowning.” Always see that the floor is dry before attempting to sand off the edges.

Information taken from National Wood Flooring Association.