I have always loved hardwood floors and engineered hardwood makes that dream more of a reality. I can remember walking into my new home and peeling back the corner of the living room carpet, just to check. To my joy, there was hardwood underneath! A couple of hours later, I had the carpet and pad removed and was staring at my engineered hardwood floor. Seeing the scuffs on the surface, I wondered, can you refinish engineered hardwood?
Most Engineered hardwoods can be sanded and refinished. If you have more than ⅛ inch or 2 mm of veneer then you can sand and refinish your engineered hardwood. Most veneers out of the box range from ⅛ to ¼ inches or 3 to 7 mm. This makes it possible to refinish your engineered hardwood 2 to 3 times in the floor’s lifetime.
In this article, we will explore what engineered hardwood is and what makes it different, plus some options available with engineered hardwood and its care. We’ll also discuss how many times can you refinish engineered hardwood floors, how to refinish and stain them, and how much it will cost. Let’s dive in!
What Is Engineered Hardwood?
First, regular hardwood is a full plank of a single type of wood. It can be sanded as many as 10 times in its lifetime. It is not as moisture resilient as engineered hardwood and shouldn’t be used in basements. It is more common in older houses, as engineered hardwood was not invented until the 1960s.
Engineered hardwood is a composite with a solid hardwood veneer on top and alternating strips of wood glued together underneath. The underlying fibers crisscross, giving more strength and resilience to the board. This also gives more moisture resistance. Engineered wood can be used in basements and other mid-range moisture areas. However, it is still not recommended to have engineered hardwood in wet areas like bathrooms.
Engineered hardwood can have a veneer of many types of real wood. Some common woods are oak, ash, cherry, and beech. It can have surface treatments such as Hand Scraped and Wire Brushed. These leave the surface textured instead of smooth.
One thing to be aware of is laminate flooring. Laminate flooring masquerades as real hardwood but isn’t, and cannot be sanded and refinished. Laminate flooring is similar to particle board with a realistic photograph of the imitated material, and a clear moisture repellant barrier layer on top. If it becomes damaged, you need to use a repair kit or replace the board.
Can You Sand and Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?
You can sand and refinish engineered hardwood floors. This allows for much customization. You can choose any color of paint for the walls and can change the colors of your floors to match your vision. The possibilities are endless.
Over time wood floors can be damaged. Direct sunlight bleaches the stain on your wood floors and fades the colors. Time can yellow the finish. In high-use areas, you can see the wear. It may wear just through the clear finish, or through the stain underneath. Pets may scratch, and furniture may leave scrapes.
You could buff and refinish, but much of this damage can only be fixed with sanding and refinishing. This will refresh the color of your stain and remove the yellowing, scratches, and scrapes. Your beautiful floors are back!
Can you Refinish Hand Scraped and Other Specialty Engineered Hardwoods?
Textured engineered flooring can be more difficult to refinish. Hand Scraped and Wire Brushed flooring can be buffed and revarnished, but cannot be stained again.
If you choose to sand it and stain it, it will lose its textured appearance and become smooth. One thing to consider is the thickness of the veneer. It is recommended that the veneer be thicker than ⅛ inch or 3 mm before you sand and refinish textured flooring.
How Many Times Can You Refinish Engineered Hardwood?
The thickness of the top veneer of your flooring determines how many times you can refinish your engineered hardwood. Most veneers are between ⅛ and ¼ inch or 3 to 7 mm thick. The process of sanding down the floor shaves a little off each time. Several sources mention that you can refinish an ⅛ inch or 3 mm veneer twice. With that in mind, if your veneer is ¼ inch or 7 mm thick you should be able to refinish that floor up to 5-6 times.
If you are refinishing a textured engineered floor, you will not be able to refinish it as many times. The first time you refinish it you will have to sand it so it is smooth. This takes off more material. You can only refinish textured once with a veneer of ⅛ inch or 3 mm. After that, you can follow the process for regular engineered hardwood.
There are two simple ways to tell how thick the veneer on your flooring is. First, you may have a box of the original flooring lying around. Simply use that to measure the top layer of the flooring. The second way is to take off the cover of one of your floor vents. Here you can see what the thickness of the veneer on your floor is. This can also tell you if you have engineered hardwood versus regular hardwood or laminate. It can also tell you if the floor has been previously refinished.
How Often To Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors
For most homes, you can expect to refinish your floors about every 10 years. For homes that have heavy wear due to children or pets. You may need to refinish more often, every five years, or when you see significant wear, scratches, etc.
There are a couple of other factors that can influence how often you need to refinish your floor. Certain types of wood are harder than others. Harder woods will be more resistant to dents and scratches. Softer woods are Pine, Fir, and American Cherry. Medium woods are Teak, Oak, Ash, Beech, and Bamboo. Harder woods are Sugar Maple, Hickory, and Brazilian Cherry.
Another factor that influences how long your floor will last before it needs refinishing is the topcoat of polyurethane. The more coats that are applied the longer it will last. It is recommended to apply 3-5 coats especially if it is in a higher use area.
Your topcoat can appear dull if it needs a deep cleaning. It is better to use a cleaner formulated for wood floors. One that I have used successfully is Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner. Others that are recommended are Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner and Pledge Clean It Gentle Hardwood Floor Cleaner. If this doesn’t revitalize your floors, you may need to refinish them.
Can You Stain Engineered Wood Floors?
Engineered hardwoods can be stained like any hardwood floor. However, some wood species, such as Birch, Maple, Poplar, Pine, and Cherry do not accept stains well and can appear splotchy when stained. Other woods stain very well and will give a beautiful result.
How To Refinish Engineered Hardwood
The process of refinishing Engineered Hardwood is similar to real hardwood. It will take between 2 to 5 days to finish a room. Some variables include whether you use oil or water-based polyurethane, and what repairs are needed for the floor. This, of course, takes into account that you can focus on the floor.
There are several tools that will allow you to be able to do a professional job. You may need to rent a belt or orbital sander, an edge sander, and a buffer. These can be rented by the day or week from your local home improvement store. Some other tools that will be helpful are the sandpaper that matches the sanders in 40, 60, 80, and 100 grit. Also needed is a sanding screen for the buffer at 120 grit. You will need a shop vac, a broom, and cleaning cloths. Painters tape and towels may also be helpful.
If you have any areas that need to be repaired, or nails that are sticking up, you will need a hammer and a nail punch for countersinking nails. Other repair items may include wood filler and a spackle knife.
Materials for staining and varnishing may vary for the finish you choose. For a simple stain and polyurethane finish, you may choose to use a foam roller with an extension handle. You may use applicator pads for the edges. You will need to use separate rollers and pads for the stain and the polyurethane.
Preparing your area is essential for a good quality result. Remove all furniture and rugs from the area. Remove base molding (¼ round) or trim. Sweep and vacuum to make sure that you have removed all the dust from the area. Dust the room to ensure that you are making a clean start. Remove the heat register vent covers. Stuff the vent with a towel. This prevents sawdust from going down the vents and being blown back out on your fresh varnish. You may want to use painter’s tape to cover electrical outlets to prevent sawdust from getting in there too. Additionally, you may want to cover doorways with plastic sheeting to prevent dust from spreading throughout the house.
Now we are ready to look at and prepare the floor. The first thing to look for is if there are any staples or nails sticking up. These will rip our sandpaper. Remove the staples and countersink the nails.
If you had to countersink nails or have noticed any other damage to the floor you may need to repair some holes. Small holes, deep scratches, and other small area damage will need to be filled with wood filler. You can use wood glue mixed with fine sawdust to make a matching patch. This will need to be done in between the sanding steps below. Either way, follow the drying times on the packaging to ensure it is ready to sand.
Now that the wood filler has dried, you are ready to begin sanding your floor. If you have rented unfamiliar equipment you may want to practice on a sheet of plywood. This can prevent accidentally sanding too deep and ruining your floor. It can also prevent other accidents with the equipment, which can be costly.
To start, you will want to sand your floors with 40 grit sandpaper with the belt sander. This will remove all the previous varnish and stain, and smooth out scratches and small dents. Sand the room edges with the edge sander with the 40 grit sandpaper. Touch up the corners with 40 grit sandpaper as well. Repeat sanding with the belt sander, the edge sander, and sanding the corners with 60, 80, and 100 grit sandpaper. If you still need to fill holes with a matching color it would be best to do that between the 60 and the 80 grit sandpaper.
After you finish the final sand, clean the floor. Now it is time to pull out the buffer. This will smooth out any imperfections from the sanding. It gives you a professional smooth surface for staining and varnishing. Buff the floor with the 120 grit sanding screen. Now you will need to thoroughly sweep, vacuum and dust the room. You may want to wipe the floor with a damp cloth or tack cloth to make sure you have gotten all the dust. You do not want any dust in the room to settle on your new varnish. Congratulations! You just finished the hardest steps of the job.
Stain and Varnish
At this point, you can see the natural color of the wood and can decide if you want to stain it or not. If you do want to stain the wood, apply the stain in long strokes with the grain of the wood. You want to work in small areas, approximately 4’x4’. Follow the drying instructions on your stain. For most stains, two coats are recommended for the best coverage.
After the stain is dry you are ready for the polyurethane or the varnish of your choice. For this example, I will use water-based polyurethane. Similar to the stain, apply this in long strokes with the grain of the wood. You can use a foam roller and or pads to spread it. Follow the drying instructions on the can. It is recommended to apply 3 to 5 layers of polyurethane with a higher number of layers in high-use areas. Before the last coat, buffer the floor to smooth out any inconsistencies in the varnish giving you a smooth finish. Clean and vacuum thoroughly before applying your final layer of polyurethane. Allow it to dry completely. This may take 24 hrs for light foot traffic and 72 hours before moving in your rugs and furniture.
Can You Stain Engineered Hardwood Without Sanding?
If your veneer is too thin to sand and refinish, it is possible to stain your floors without sanding them. This does not take care of deep scratches and dents. It is less reliable and may not give you a good result, but it may extend the life of your floors.
Much of the process is similar to the one detailed earlier. Clean and prepare your area as above. Buff your floor as we did in the final sanding step. Alternatively, you can use a chemical buffer in a chemical abrasion kit. Buff around the edges and in the corners. The goal is to rough up the varnish so it more readily binds with the stain and varnish you want to put on top. Clean the floor thoroughly as above. Apply your stain and varnish. Let dry.
How Much Does Refinishing an Engineered Hardwood Floor Cost?
To refinish your engineered hardwood floors. It will cost $2 to $8 a square foot. With the average cost for a 1000 sq. ft. being around $2,100. Much of the costs incurred are through the rental of the equipment. The quicker you can use the equipment and return it, the lower those costs will be.
You can refinish Engineered hardwood floors if there is at least an ⅛” or 2mm of veneer. The process is similar to refinishing solid hardwood floors. It takes time to sand, buff, dust, clean, and then apply 1 to 2 coats of stain and multiple layers of a protective coating. The task is well worth it, and the finished floor will look like new. Comment below about your experiences. I would love to hear your thoughts.