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Refinish Engineered Hardwoods – Bring Your Flooring Back to Life (2021)

If your engineered hardwood floor has passed its prime, and you’re thinking of practical ways to give it a new life, the best thing to do is give your floor a nice refinish. 

However, not everyone understands how to refinish engineered hardwoods. For this reason, our experts will guide you through the various methods to revitalize your hardwood and make it beautiful again.

How to Refinish Engineered Hardwoods

Refinishing engineered hardwoods involves upgrading the damaged floor by sanding off the top coated layer. This offers you the opportunity to apply a new top-coat or decorative coating to your hardwood.

bare room with wooden floor

The process of refinishing hardwood floors is not complicated if you have the required materials and know the steps to get the job done.

Materials You’ll Need

To refinish your hardwood floor, you’ll need the following materials;

  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Putty Knife
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Masking tape
  • Sand Paper (30 - 40 Rough Grit and 50 - 60 Medium grit)
  • 80+ Fine Grit Sand Paper
  • Floor Stain
  • Wood Filler
  • Polyurethane Sealer
  • Mineral Spirits

Below are the steps to refinish engineered hardwood successfully.

Prepare the Room

The first step to hardwood refinishing is to prepare the room. You should take this step seriously because what you do here will impact the output.

Before you can begin the process, you need to determine the floor type, if it can be refinished, and the floor’s thickness.

Determine the Type of Floor

Many floors may look identical, but they aren’t the same. Some floors parade themselves as hardwood but are made of different materials. Laminate plank flooring is an example of such floors. This floor type is made of synthetic materials, decorated with a grain pattern to imitate the look of natural wood. 

wooden floor

Unlike natural wood that’s feels like wood, laminate plank flooring has a texture of hard plastic, making it impossible to refinish.

Another type is the engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood is made of veneer hardwood, bonded to a layer of plywood [1]. This type of hardwood is possible to refinish, but you should ensure that the hardwood is thick enough to sand down without affecting the plywood. Also, the veneer must be about ⅛” thick minimum to undergo refinishing. 

The next type of hardwood is solid hardwood. This is made of a solid plank of wood, making it the best candidate for refinishing.

Like the engineered hardwood, you need to make sure there’s still enough plank left after you have sand the surface. A good amount would be ¾” left. 

How to Know If a Floor Can Be Refinished

Typically, you can refinish hardwood up to four times before thinking of a replacement. But how do you know if a floor can be refinished?

woman using laptop on hardwood floor

As earlier stated, you need to ensure that engineered hardwood floors have a minimum thickness between ⅛” – 3/16″ of veneer before you can refinish them. You can refinish ⅛” options up to two times, whereas you can refinish 3/16″ up to four times.

When refinishing engineered hardwoods, our team advises that you don’t machine or hand scrape the finish. This prevents exposing the wood to more wear, which can make refinishing more complicated.

Determine the Thickness of Your Floorboards

There are several ways you can use to check the thickness of your floorboards. 

The most straightforward way to know how much material is left of your floorboards is to remove the floor grate. This will expose the edges of the floorboard and allow you to calculate the remaining wear layer. 

Another simple method is to remove the door trim to view the wear layer.

Now that you know what you are dealing with, let’s get on with the steps to get your refinishing completed.

  1. Remove the shoe molding around the wood’s perimeter with a putty knife. Insert the knife gently between the floor and trim and pry it away.
  2. Remove doors that will hamper wood thresholds.
  3. Search for nails and other search objects that may protrude from the floor and remove them. These objects will damage the sanding pad.
  4. Tape off any floor registers to avoid scratching them when they bump into your equipment.
  5. Ensure you cover all openings, except the windows, with tape and plastic sheets.

Sand the Floor

After prepping the room, the next thing to do is to start sanding. Here, you’ll need a massive walk-behind sander (drum or orbital) for the large area, a hand-held orbital sander for the edges, and a detail sander for the corners.

wooden floor

Once you have all these, you can begin sanding using the following steps:

  1. Work over the surface with a walk-behind sander and 36-grit sandpaper. Move the walk-behind sander slowly and steady, and don’t halt in one area for more than required. Else, the surface won’t be even.
  2. Work the sandpaper and the sander close to the edges as carefully as possible without crashing into the baseboards.
  3. When you are done using the walk-behind sander, use the hand-held sander and your hands to smoothen the edges. Press as firmly as you can while maintaining a steady movement.
  4. Vacuum the floor area.
  5. If there are any holes in the floor, now is time to fill them up. You can use a wood filler that’s similar to the floor for filling. Alternatively, you can mix the sawdust produced from the sanding process and mix it with some glue to fill up the hole.
  6. Smoothen out the uneven edges with medium-grit sandpaper carefully.
  7. After that, vacuum again.
  8. Use 80-grit sandpaper for the final smoothening, and then vacuum the dust and dirt.

Stain Floor (If Desired)

Once you’re done sanding and cleaning, you can stain the floor if you desire.

Use Floor Sealing

To seal your floor, you can use a water-based polyurethane or oil-based polyurethane.

wooden floor

The con of using oil-based polyurethane is that it leaves an amber coloring on the surface when applied. Water-based polyurethane will be a better option if you hate the amber color. Also, water-based dry quicker but costs more than the oil-based product.

Now, use a quality brush for the edge work and a wool applicator for the large area. Ensure you rub the applicator with a lint roller to trap any loose fibers.

In smooth, even strokes, apply the polyurethane on the floor surface. For best result, apply the coat at least twice (two for oil-based and three for water-based).

After coating, allow drying before reinstalling the trim.


When is refinishing hardwoods necessary?

Refinishing hardwoods is necessary if there are severe, pervasive damages on the floor. 

Also, if the floor displays significant wear via the sealer into the hardwood, it’s an indication that you need to refinish the wood to give it a new appearance.

Some people refinish hardwoods to change the wood’s stain color. This involves removing about 1.5mm of the wear layer.


If you want your engineered hardwood flooring looking alive and beautiful again, refinishing it is the best way to go about it. 

decorated living room with hardwood floor

Thankfully, you can refinish engineered hardwoods successfully with all the steps explained here comprehensively.

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