Can You Sand and Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?

can you refinish engineered hardwood floors?

Can You Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?

The short answer is maybe. Engineered hardwood floors can be refinished if they have wood veneer thickness of 3mm or greater. The veneer is the real wood top layer that has been glued down and compressed onto the composite material layer underneath. Not all engineered floors are the same; some may have as little as 1mm of real wood veneer, while others may have as much as a quarter inch. There is no doubt that the thickness of the veneer wear layer will determine whether or how often the floor can be sanded and refinished. If the wear layer is too thin, such as one millimeter in thickness, your flooring will be irreversibly damaged if it is sanded, even if it is the first time sanding them. It is simply not sufficient to sand 1mm of veneer. Thus, engineered floors with 1mm or 2mm veneer layers cannot be refinished. However, it is possible to sand and refinish engineered hardwood floors that are 3mm or thicker. That said, it may be hard to find a company that is willing to refinish them because engineered floors have an aluminum oxide prefinished factory topcoat. Aluminum oxide coating is extremely hard to sand and requires special equipment and sandpaper.

Sanding engineered floors 3mm
Register shows 3mm wood veneer layer profile

What Type of Wood Floor Do You Have?

In order to begin, you must identify your flooring type. Many laminates and vinyl flooring products are designed to resemble wood planks. However, they cannot be refinished, since they are not real wood. Laminate and vinyl flooring are made of composite material and sanding them would result in irreversible damage. Therefore, we cannot stress enough the importance of identifying whether you have real solid hardwood, engineered hardwood floors, or an alternative flooring type. It can be difficult to determine what your floors are made of. You may need to contact the manufacturer, installers, or store where you purchased them if possible. You may also need to contact the previous homeowners if that applies. In the event that none of these methods fail, an experienced professional can assist you.

Engineered VS Solid Hardwood

There are two main types of hardwood floors: engineered and solid. Both have their own pros and cons, making them suitable for different rooms, budgets, and styles.

Unlike solid hardwood, engineered hardwood is constructed from multiple layers of plywood with an exterior veneer of hardwood. This construction makes it more resistant to changes in temperature and humidity than solid hardwood. It can be installed over concrete or below grade, making it an excellent choice for basements and other rooms where solid hardwood is not ideal. You can choose from a wide variety of wood species, colors, and finishes when purchasing engineered hardwood.

Unlike engineered hardwood, solid hardwood is a single piece of wood. Due to its vulnerability to temperature and humidity fluctuations, solid hardwood is not recommended for rooms with high humidity or temperature fluctuations. It is also available in a variety of wood species, colors, and finishes. Solid hardwood can be refinished multiple times, which makes it an excellent choice for rooms that receive considerable wear and tear.

Choosing between solid and engineered hardwood depends on the room where the floor will be installed, your budget, and your preferences. Suitable for rooms with high humidity or temperature fluctuations, engineered hardwood can be installed over concrete or below grade, while solid hardwood can be refinished multiple times and is a good choice for high traffic areas.

Do You Need to Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?

The next question is if your floors need to be refinished. People are often surprised to learn that in certain cases, wood floors may not need to be refinished. If the only problem you’re having is that your floors have become dull and have lots of little surface scratches, and have lost their luster, chances are you don’t need to refinish them. Another service we call a screen and recoat may be all they need. If this description resonates with you, consider a screen and recoat service instead. That said, if there are deep scratches, worn finish in high traffic areas, and stain is wearing off in areas, chances are they will benefit from full sand and refinish service. A screen and recoat is about half the expense of a full refinishing service.


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How to Determine if Your Floor Is Suitable for Refinishing

Having determined that you have engineered floors, the next step is to determine the thickness of the veneer layer. This can be determined by either visually inspecting the profile of the plank from a floor register or return, or by obtaining that information from a receipt, the original box, or by searching online. If the thickness of the veneer layer is 3mm or more, chances are they can be sanded and refinished. The thicker the veneer layer, the better.


How Many Times Can You Sand Engineered Flooring?

It is entirely dependent on the thickness of the wood layer to determine the answer to this question. In the case of floors that are five millimeters in thickness or greater, the wear layer can be sanded up to two to three times before the plywood or composite material beneath it becomes exposed. It will also depend on if your floors have already been sanded before. Depending how they were sanded in the past, you may not have the opportunity to sand them again. An inexperienced wood floor refinisher may have sanded off too much material. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the thickness of the wood overlays and the amount of material removed with each subsequent sanding to determine how many times they can be sanded.

Can You Change the Stain Color of Engineered Wood Floors?

If your engineered floors are a candidate to be sanded, you may have the option of staining them another color once they are sanded. It will depend on several factors, such as the natural color of the wood and how deeply embedded the existing color is. That said, you can only change the color of engineered floors after they have been sanded completely. You cannot, however, stain on top of engineered floors without sanding them.

Should You Recoat or Refinish Your Floors?

If your floors are looking dull and in need of refreshment, you may wonder if they require being completely refinished, replaced, or if there are other options. There are several recoating potential options available. Depending on the extent of your floors’ dullness and dirt, they may simply need a professional hardwood floor cleaning. It is a deep cleaning process in which the dirt and grime are removed using a buffer pad and then polished with a cotton bonnet pad on a 175 rotary buffer. Your floors would benefit from a screen and recoat if they are dull, dirty, and have a lot of surface scratches. The screen and recoat technique is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to rejuvenate your floors. It lightly abrades the surface without completely removing it. After this, several new topcoats are applied. It will be necessary to refinish the floor if it is in bad condition, such as having deeper scratches, a worn finish, and bare wood showing in some areas. The process of refinishing is a more intensive one, which may take several days to complete, depending on the size of the area.


Other Things to Consider when Refinishing Engineered Hardwood Floors

As we briefly mentioned above, it may be difficult to locate a professional service that offers sanding and refinishing engineered hardwood floors. There’s a factory coating on modern prefinished wood floors that’s hard to remove. To sand engineered wood floors, you need powerful equipment and sandpaper that cuts through aluminum oxide. A veneer layer that’s only 3mm thick has no margin for error when using powerful equipment. One mistake, like sanding too deep, can ruin the floor. Due to this problem, many hardwood floor contractors deem refinishing engineered floors a considerable risk factor and refuse to sand them.


Refinishing vs. Replacing Engineer Hardwood Floors

There is nothing more satisfying than saving wood floors from being replaced. Refinishing floors is always cheaper than replacing them. In some cases, though, we encourage homeowners to consider whether it’s better to refinish or replace. Sometimes wood floors are beyond saving, and that’s when we’re upfront and forthcoming about expectations, especially if you’re hoping for brand new-looking floors after refinishing. The lifespan of engineered floors can be shorter than that of solid hardwood floors, and there are circumstances when it’s a better idea to replace them. It’s a promising idea to consult with a professional wood floor refinishing company that just refinishes and doesn’t sell or install new floors as well. Selling new floors is a big-ticket sale for installers who also refinish them, so don’t get suckered into buying new floors when your current floors can be refinished instead. That said, if you’re unable to find a company to refinish engineered floors, new floors might be your only option.


How Much Does It Cost to Refinish Engineered Wood Floors?

If you’re considering refinishing your engineered floors, the cost can be higher than other refinishing services. That’s because there may be significantly more work involved in removing the factory prefinished topcoat. The cost will depend on a few factors, including the size of your floors, whether aluminum oxide is present, and whether special equipment and materials will be needed to sand them.

To get an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to refinish your hardwood floors, it’s best to consult a professional flooring contractor. We will be able to assess your floors and give you a detailed quote. Professional refinishing of engineered floors ranges from $6 to $8 per square foot if it has an aluminum oxide manufacturer finish. Of course, the final cost will depend on the condition of your floors. If your floors are more than 3mm and don’t have an aluminum oxide prefinished topcoat, the estimation will be similar to a non-prefinished solid hardwood floor estimate. You can use our online calculator to get a general idea. Note: this calculator is offered as a free tool but does not provide a binding estimate. Click here to access.


Refinishing Engineered Hardwood Where Aluminum Oxide is Not Present

While refinishing engineered hardwood floors is about the same as refinishing solid hardwood floors, there are a few things we keep in mind to ensure the best results. Here are the steps:

  1. If contaminates are present, start by vacuuming the floors. Remove all the dirt, dust, and loose debris from the surface of the engineered hardwood floors so that you have a clean surface to begin sanding. This can be done with a wet/dry shop vac.
  2. Once vacuumed, the next step is sanding off the existing finish and/or stain. Depending on thickness of the veneer layer, using a drum sander, you may start with 36-grit sandpaper to sand the floors and subsequently use 60 and 80 grit sandpapers with each additional pass.
  3. Use an edger sander to sand the perimeter of the room. You can often use 60 grit edger sandpaper to start as this little machine is aggressive and removes stock faster.
  4. Use a square or rotary upright sander with 120 grit sandpaper as a final sanding.
  5. After the floors have been sanded, we can apply a stain, but it is optional. You can also apply a natural sealant prior to applying polyurethane.
  6. Once the stain or sealer has been applied, it will take up to 1 to 3 hours to dry.
  7. Finally, apply the first coat of polyurethane. Topcoats are available in matte, satin, low-gloss, and high-gloss.

Disclaimer: these instructions are provided as a general synopsis and should not be construed as a literal or complete step by step how to process. There are too many variables to consider when refinishing hardwood floors and you should not rely on these instructions as a complete or partial guide. Always consult with a professional floor contractor before attempting to refinish hardwood floors.  


Can you sand and refinish engineered hardwood floors?
Removing aluminum oxide factory prefinished coating

Refinishing Engineered Hardwood Where Aluminum Oxide is Present

  1. To ensure there is a smooth surface to begin sanding, vacuum larger dirt, grit, and debris from the floors.
  2. AO (Aluminum Oxide Finish) requires a 220v high powered machine with either one single rotating disk or up to 5 or more rotating disks. Due to the high toxicity of AO, removing AO also requires a special dust containment system as well as respiratory protection. Many companies will use diamond blade blocks or special AO cutting sandpaper. The thickness of the veneer will determine which method is used.
  3. An edger sander will be used with Norton Blaze Plus AO sandpaper to sand the perimeter of the room.
  4. You can use a rotary 175 machine or a square scrub sander with 120 grit sandpaper as a final sanding pass.
  5. Once the finish has been removed and the floors fully sanded, you have the option of staining the bare floors with a color of your choice.
  6. If you don’t want to stain the floors, a sealer is applied as the first coat.
  7. After a few hours, the sealer will be dry, and the first coat of polyurethane can be applied.
  8. The second coat of poly is applied.

Disclaimer: these instructions are provided as a general synopsis and should not be construed as a literal or complete step by step how to process. There are too many variables to consider when refinishing hardwood floors and you should not rely on these instructions as a complete or partial guide. Always consult with a professional floor contractor before attempting to refinish hardwood floors. 

About Us

Keystone Hardwood Floor Care, Inc is dedicated to providing premium quality services for Fort Wayne, IN, within a 60+-mile radius. We provide wood floor services such as annual maintenance plans, refinishing hardwood floors, and restoration. Contact us today with your questions.

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