Can You Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?

refinishing engineered hardwood floor

Yes, you can often refinish engineered hardwood floors, but the feasibility and number of times depend on the thickness of the wood veneer layer. A thicker 4mm wear layer allows for multiple sandings and refinishings over the floor’s lifetime. However, floors with a thin 1 to 2mm veneer may not withstand aggressive sanding required for refinishing. Engineered hardwood typically has a real wood veneer bonded to a stable core that provides the look of solid hardwood at a lower cost. To refinish engineered hardwood floor, you should check if the wear layer has adequate thickness per the manufacturer. You should stop sanding once hitting the core layer below the veneer. Thinner floors may only allow re-coating with a compatible sealer and finish without aggressive sanding.

Refinishing engineered hardwood floors is a process that involves sanding down the top layer and applying a new finish. There are three main types of refinishing methods. They include screen and recoat where the top layer is lightly abraded before a new coat is applied, full sand and refinish where the top layer is completely sanded down to the bare wood, and board replacement where damaged boards are replaced entirely.

The primary benefit of refinishing engineered hardwood floors is that it can restore the floor’s original beauty and extend its lifespan. However, one limitation is that engineered hardwood floors have a thinner top layer compared to solid hardwood, which means they can only be refinished a limited number of times.

A screen and recoat is less invasive and can freshen up the look of the floor while preserving the thickness of the top layer. Full sand and refinish can address deeper scratches and stains but reduces the life of the floor. Proper selection and execution of the refinishing method is vital for maintaining the beauty and longevity of engineered hardwood floors.

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What Are Engineered Hardwood Floors?

Engineered hardwood floors are made by bonding a thin layer of real hardwood (usually 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick) to a core composed of layers of plywood or other wood materials like MDF cross-banded together. The hardwood veneer provides the classic wood look and feel, while the stable core gives dimensional stability.

Unlike solid hardwood planks made entirely of wood, engineered floors have a layered construction. The hardwood veneer sits on top of the engineered core, providing real wood visuals while the core prevents issues like warping or buckling from moisture and temperature fluctuations.

One of the main benefits of engineered floors is they can be installed in places solid wood can’t – like basements, over concrete slabs, or areas prone to moisture issues. The enhanced dimensional stability and moisture resistance make engineered wood suitable for these applications.

Many engineered wood floors utilize a tongue-and-groove click-lock design that allows for floating installations without nails or glue. This makes installation quicker and easier compared to traditional nail-down methods for solid wood. Glue-down and staple-down installation methods are also options.

While real wood veneer provides a durable surface, engineered floors generally cannot be refinished as many times as solid hardwood before the top layer wears down and needs replacement. However, a quality engineered floor with a thicker veneer can often be refinished 2-3 times, prolonging its lifespan.

Engineered wood falls between solid hardwood and lower-cost laminates/vinyl in pricing. Exact costs depend on factors like wood species, plank width, veneer thickness, and quality of the core layers used. But you get natural wood looks and performance at a lower cost than premium solid hardwood options.

When evaluating engineered floors, consider the subfloor conditions, expected moisture levels, desired lifespan, and budget. Plank thickness, wood species, finish quality, and brand reputation all impact appearance and durability. With proper care and maintenance, engineered hardwood provides a great wood look.

Can You Sand Engineered Hardwood Floors?

Yes, you can sand engineered hardwood floors, but it depends on the thickness of the top veneer layer called the wear layer. How thick should the wear layer be to allow sanding? If the wear layer is 4mm or thicker, you can typically sand and refinish engineered hardwood floors multiple times, just like solid hardwood floors.

If the wear layer is very thin, under around 3mm, sanding is generally not advisable. Aggressive sanding could go through the thin veneer and into the composite core, ruining the floors.

To determine if your engineered floors can be sanded, check the manufacturer’s specifications for the wear layer thickness. You can also remove a vent or piece of trim to inspect the layers.

Can You Stain Engineered Hardwood Floors?

Yes, you can stain engineered hardwood floors to change their color. The top veneer layer is made of real hardwood that can be sanded and stained similar to solid hardwood planks.

The existing finish needs to be removed through sanding. Use a progression of grit sizes like 60, 80, and 120 grit sandpaper to fully expose the bare wood veneer. However, be cautious not to sand through the veneer layer, which is typically thinner than solid wood at around 2 to 4mm thickness.

You can apply wood stains designed for floors – oil-based stains provide a durable finish but have stronger odors, water-based are low VOC with faster drying time, while gel stains offer rich, even color.

Fresh protective top coats like polyurethane must be applied for staining. Water-based polyurethane finishes like Bona Traffic HD are recommended for engineered floors.

Why stain engineered floors? Staining can update worn or dated floors at lower cost than full replacement. However, it requires careful execution.

Engineered hardwood floors with very thin veneers under 2mm may not be suitable candidates for the heavy sanding required for staining.

Plank construction (beveled/distressed edges may get removed), floor age, and area size also determine whether professional refinishing is advisable over DIY staining.

How Many Times Can You Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floors?

The number of times engineered hardwood floors can be refinished depends on the thickness of the wear layer or hardwood veneer. This wear layer typically ranges from 1mm to 8mm thickness.

To answer directly, you should not refinish engineered hardwood floor if the wear layer thickness is less than 1mm. You should refinish engineered hardwood floor with a 2mm wear layer only 1 to 2 times. For a 2.5mm wear layer, you can refinish 2 to 3 times. With a 4mm wear layer, you can refinish 4 to 5 times. If the wear layer is 6mm thick, you can refinish 6 to 8 times. For the most durable option of an 8mm wear layer, you can refinish 8 to 10 times before replacement.

The main reasons for refinishing are removing deep scratches, stains, discoloration from foot traffic, or changing the wood color by applying a new stain after sanding off the old finish.

Refinishing involves sanding through the existing finish and wear layer to expose fresh wood, then reapplying stain and protective polyurethane coatings. However, sanding too aggressively risks sanding through the veneer into the composite core, damaging the floor. This is why thicker wear layers allow more refinishing opportunities.

Before refinishing, check the remaining wear layer thickness by exposing an edge or having an expert inspect the floors. If the floor has been previously refinished, exposed to moisture, or has extensive damage, replacement may be needed instead of refinishing.

While engineered wood floors can often be carefully refinished, the number of times is limited compared to solid hardwood planks. Choosing thicker wear layers when installing provides flexibility for future refinishing, if desired.

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What Finishes Work Best on Refinished Engineered Hardwood Floors?

Lacquered finishes work best for refinished engineered wood floors. They are easy to apply and highly durable. The refinishing process involves stripping the existing finish, sanding down boards, then applying new lacquer coats. Lacquered finishes resist scratches, splashes, sun damage.

There are two main lacquer options: satin and matte. Satin has a slight sheen. Matte provides a natural flat look popular for engineered floors. Proper cleaning with pH-neutral hardwood cleaners maximizes their lifespan. Consider recoating lacquers every few years if dulled.

Oiled finishes like hardwax oil offer a classic matte appearance highlighting wood grain. However, they require reapplying oil typically twice yearly. Oiled floors provide less UV protection than lacquers. Refinishing oiled floors is labor-intensive – deep cleaning, even oil application, long drying times.

The wood veneer thickness determines if sanding is possible for refinishing. Most makers recommend against sanding veneers under 3-4mm to avoid exposing underlayers. If veneer is thin, use floor abrader tools designed for refinishing without sanding through top layer. Or opt for compatible water-based systems adhering to factory finish without sanding.

Ultimately, both lacquer and oil finishes work for refinished engineered floors. Lacquers are lower maintenance while oils offer traditional aesthetics despite more upkeep. Have a professional evaluate if your floor’s veneer allows safe sanding and refinishing based on thickness specifications.

Can You Refinish Distressed and Hand-scraped Engineered Hardwood Floors?

The answer is: It’s possible, but challenging and risky, to refinish distressed and hand-scraped engineered hardwood floors. The feasibility depends mainly on the thickness of the real wood veneer layer.

Most engineered hardwood floors have a veneer thickness ranging from 2mm to 4mm (0.08 to 0.16 inches). This thin veneer limits refinishing options, especially for hand-scraped floors with deep textures created by skilled craftsmen.

For standard engineered floors without distressing, refinishing 1-3 times may be feasible depending on veneer thickness. However, hand-scraped floors pose extra difficulty due to the depth of scrapes, grooves, and waves in the surface.

Aggressive sanding needed for refinishing risks sanding through the veneer layer in the deepest valleys of the hand-scraping texture. Many professionals advise against DIY refinishing attempts.

If veneer thickness is under 3-4mm, hand-scraped engineered floors may only allow one refinishing before replacement is required. Thicker 4mm+ veneers could potentially allow 2-3 refinishes by experienced professionals using proper techniques.

Key considerations include: veneer thickness, depth of hand-scraping, installation quality, desired look after refinishing, cost comparison to replacement, and acceptance of potential imperfect results.

Proper maintenance like recoating finishes can maximize floors’ lifespan before major work. In some cases, replacement may be preferable to risking refinishing issues on hand-scraped engineered wood.

If pursuing refinishing, expect to work with an experienced professional familiar with engineered and hand-scraped floors. They can evaluate feasibility and set realistic expectations based on your specific floors.

Examples of challenges faced when refinishing hand-scraped engineered wood include sanding through veneers, struggling to achieve smooth finishes, and transforming colors/sheens.

How to refinish engineered hardwood floors?

If you’re considering refinishing your engineered hardwood floors, here’s what the process typically involves:

  1. Floor Preparation Before any refinishing work can begin, we thoroughly clean the floor surface to remove any dirt, debris, or existing finish. This step ensures that the new finish adheres properly to the wood.
  2. Sanding Once the floor is clean, we use specialized sanding equipment to remove the top layer of the existing finish. It’s crucial to exercise caution during this step to avoid sanding through the veneer layer.
  3. Stain Application (Optional) If you’d like to change the color of your engineered hardwood floors, this is the stage where we apply the new stain. We offer a wide range of stain colors to complement your home’s decor.
  4. Finish Application After staining (if desired), we apply a new polyurethane finish to protect the floors and enhance their appearance. This finish can range from a matte to a high-gloss sheen, depending on your preference.

DIY vs Professional Refinishing of Engineered Floors

Engineered hardwood floors are a popular flooring choice due to their durability, aesthetic appeal, and ability to withstand humidity and temperature changes better than solid hardwood. They consist of layers of plywood or high-density fiberboard topped with a thin hardwood veneer, typically between 2-4mm thick.

What is DIY refinishing of engineered hardwood floors?

DIY refinishing involves sanding away the old finish and scratches from the engineered hardwood floor, then applying a new finish like polyurethane or hardened oil. The feasibility depends on the veneer thickness – veneers over 2mm can be lightly sanded, while those over 4mm allow more extensive sanding and refinishing.


Cost-effective, allows color changes through staining (if veneer is thick enough), restores appearance of scratched/faded floors.

Significant time and effort (up to 10 days for 1,500 sq. ft.), steep learning curve with potential costly mistakes, difficult to achieve flawless finish, physical strain, dust management challenges.

What is professional refinishing of engineered hardwood floors?

Hiring professionals is recommended, especially if veneer thickness is uncertain or floors show significant wear. Professionals use expertise, equipment, and experience to properly sand, stain (if possible), and refinish without causing damage.


Ensures high-quality flawless finish, efficient timely completion, proper dust containment with HEPA vacuums, expertise in assessing refinishing suitability based on floor condition.


Higher cost around $5/sq.ft. in Pacific Northwest, limited control over process and timeline.

Is engineered hardwood refinishing more expensive than solid hardwood?

The short answer is that refinishing engineered hardwood floors can be more expensive in the long run compared to solid hardwood floors.

Let’s start with solid hardwood floors. They are made from solid wood planks that can be sanded and refinished multiple times – typically 5-10 times over their lifespan of 30-100 years. The initial installation cost is higher at $8-$15 per square foot. However, you can repeatedly refinish solid hardwood as needed to restore its appearance, making it more cost-effective long-term.

Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, consists of a thin hardwood veneer layer (around 0.6-5mm) on top of a plywood or high-density fiberboard core. The thickness of this wear layer dictates how many times it can be refinished – usually only 1-2 times before the veneer becomes too thin. While engineered wood costs $4-$7 per sq ft installed (cheaper upfront), you’ll likely need to replace the entire floor sooner since refinishing options are very limited after the first 1-2 rounds. Once the thin veneer is sanded through, the core cannot be refinished.

So in the short-term, installing and first refinish of engineered hardwood is cheaper than solid wood. But long-term, you’ll probably have to replace engineered floors more frequently after just 1-2 refinishes max, whereas solid hardwood’s multiple refinishing capability makes it more cost-effective over decades if you plan to stay in the home long-term.

That said, high-quality engineered floors with very thick 4mm+ wear layers can sometimes be refinished 2-3 times, somewhat closing the gap. And engineered wood is better suited for moisture-prone areas like bathrooms. So the ideal choice depends on your home’s conditions, expected traffic levels, and renovation budget over time.

Refinish Your Engineered Hardwood Floor Now

We specialize in refinishing engineered hardwood floors in the Philadelphia area. Our team of experts has extensive experience in handling all types of hardwood floors, including engineered hardwood. We use state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to ensure a flawless finish, and we offer a range of services, including dust-free sanding and eco-friendly finishes.

If you’re considering refinishing your engineered hardwood floors or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation and quote, tailored to your specific needs.

Revitalize Your Hardwood Floors with Expert Care!

Ready to transform your floors? Get a FREE On-Site Estimate from our experts!

We’ll provide a detailed cost breakdown so you know exactly what to expect. No obligations, just professional advice!

We serve nationwide in all cities. Call us now, toll-free!

Call Now: +1 (877) 417-3933 Get Your Free Estimate