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How to look after bamboo poles & gutters

Maintenance of Bamboo Poles – OUTSIDE

Keeping your bamboo poles looking as good as they can for as long as possible requires that you keep an eye on the structures where you have used them.  Inspect the poles regularly. These are possible issues you might encounter:

  • Sudden mould growth – black  or greyish spotting
  • Hairline cracks – usually between nodes (joins)
  • Fading of the out skin colour – can occur on any part of the stem.

How to troubleshoot these problems:


TIP: It is always best to attend to mould before too much has built up! The more mould you allow to build up the greater the chances are that it will have penetrated past the outer skin of the bamboo. Once past the outer skin, staining of the stem is very difficult to eradicate, even with a chlorine wash. This mould staining will happen more rapidly where the skin has weathered down, but can happen on relatively new bamboo.

  1. On a dry, still day, apply a vinegar solution with a sponge and wipe away the surface mould. Alternatively you can use a specialist mould and mildew cleaner such as Barrentine Mould & Mildew Spray.
  2. Allow the bamboo to dry away from direct sunlight – or choose a cloudy but dry day.
  3. Wipe down with your chosen cleaner a second time. Leave to dry completely.
  4. Consider applying a coat of wood preservative, varnish or wood oil – adhesion may be effected depending on how much of the outer skin is intact. But certainly if the poles are turning a silver-grey, it is time to add a protective waterproof layer!


So, you might not be able to stop the symptoms of the natural drying process completely, however to up your chances of keeping most of your poles crack-free you can try a combination of things:

  1. Prior to creating your structure (or afterwards if you forgot!), knock through the nodes along as much of the length of the bamboo pole as possible. You can use a sharp spike or a broom handle – knock just enough material out to allow good airflow.
  2. Drill a small hole (2mm-3mm) at a right angle immediately below each node/joint – it’s rather like a tight belt around a waist, and this hole can go some way to alleviate the pressure.
  3. Keep the poles moisturised! Again, it’s best to do this while creating your project. Some of our customers have actually soaked their poles (knock the nodes through first!) in a tub of coconut oil! But linseed oil or wood preservative (for outdoors) will do.

Maintenance of Bamboo Poles – INSIDE

Luckily without the weather to cause the build up of mould, at least this is one factor you should not have to deal with when using poles inside. You’ll still best to inspect your poles regularly. Really the main issue particular to bamboo indoors is that over time you may get splits and cracks. This is because the stems contain some moisture and will continue to dry out over the months and years. Sometimes nothing will happen for years and not all your poles will suffer the same fate, but common causes of splits and cracks are:

  • Central heating – the most common culprit! e.g. If your poles are sat next to the radiator you’re accelerating the drying process.
  • The bamboo has been moved from one room to another – sudden atmospheric changes can cause the internodes to “pop”.
  • Knocks and falls – if you’ve moved your structure and bumped it along the way.
  • Direct sunshine – heat on one side of a pole can cause sudden, uneven expansion.
  • Drilled holes and bolts change the wall of the stem – a hairline crack may develop and begin to ‘run’ as the bamboo dries and moves.


Maintenance of Bamboo Gutters (Split/half Poles)

Bamboo “gutters” as the name suggests are sometimes used on sheds, summer houses, and other out-buildings as an alternative to the plastic variety. Certainly they look authentic on a Japanese Tea house or Tiki Bar and can be used to collect and carry rainwater. As these are half poles the incidence of splitting and cracking is less frequent as there are no pockets of air. Here are some tips for keeping your split poles looking good for longer:


  1. Clean and apply varnish, wood preservative or fish-safe oil at least once a year.
  2. Only apply varnish to either the inner wall or outer wall – not both, as this can trap in moisture and cause mould that will stain.
  3. Fill any hairline cracks with clear silicone sealant.


  1. Whether indoors or outdoors wipe clean with mild detergent or if mould has built up, a suitable mould cleaner.
  2. Indoors: an occasional polish with furniture spray or beeswax can be applied; Outdoors: Varnish, wood oil or even a stain can be applied after around 1 year to 18months depending on the level of weathering of the bamboo.

TIP: To preserve the original colour of the bamboo as much as possible, use a wood stain or varnish with a UV-protector.

PLEASE NOTE: Bamboo is a giant species of grass. It is a natural material, which inevitably will age and change over time.