Refinishing Engineered Hardwood Floors
Few of the more common engineered floors sold over the last twenty years cannot be successfully refinished in the traditional fashion.¹ I am speaking of more familiar brands in the likes of Bruce, Mannington and Hartco or the millions of budget floors that have been installed in that time period. This procedure should only be considered by a seasoned professional familiar with the application. On the other hand, finding someone willing to refinish your engineered floors may prove to be a daunting task. Many want nothing to do with it, fearing they may sand through the wear layer.
For a better understanding of the wear layer, check our page that details the characteristics of engineered hardwood floors.
Thin Wear Layers - Common Engineered Floors
Those with thin wear layers can be screened and coated² to improve the appearance, if wear of the original finish is an issue. Removing deeper scratches with these types is not possible and replacement may be necessary.
Another key in determining whether or not your engineered floor can be refinished is the condition of the subfloor. If it was installed without attention to proper floor preparation, or there are considerable high and low areas throughout, the finishing equipment will remove more material opposed to a floor that is very flat.
Most engineered floors are beveled to some extent. This will present a problem in having them completely refinished unless the product is of higher quality with a thicker wear layer. Some better manufacturers falling into this category include Muskoka Lauzon and Mirage that also present smaller bevels.
See my page on refinishing beveled floors that includes a video analysis. The information deals with solid 3/4 inch hardwoods but much of it can relate to engineered as well.
Higher Quality Engineered - Thick Wear Layers
Any quality engineered product with a thick wear or veneer layer, can be successfully refinished at least two times, possibly more. However this will depend on the workmanship, finisher knowledge, and the overall flatness of the floor itself.
As with any type of refinishing the dust factor will depend on the people doing the actual work. I find some folks impressed with lower bids for their jobs, discover after completion, the contractor didn't place much care on what the condition of the jobsite would be during and after the project. There are methods for controlling dust. Some will, and some will not place the care one would expect. Protecting areas from dust is important before and during this procedure.
Super...But...What Do I Have In My Home?
Determining how thick your wear layer is gets a bit complicated unless you can actually see the side view or know what product was originally installed. Let’s take it another way; the surface visual. A large number of thin engineered hardwoods that cannot be refinished have a wider grain pattern seen below. Thicker wear layers have a tighter grain.
Thick wear layer
Thin wear layer
Where Did You Buy It?
If appearances haven’t helped I’ll go a few steps further. If it was purchased at any big box home improvement store, chances are good it cannot be refinished. These stores have rarely sold any thick veneer engineered products.
Another possible key. If you live in a tract neighborhood (concrete sub floors) most builders over the years have used Bruce or Hartco products. Chances of finding a thick wear layer engineered product is slim.
How Long Will It Take To Refinish? ³
If you've made it this far and determined your floor can be refinished, based on a 400 square foot example, any water based finishes used will usually take two working days, but depends on the number of finish coats applied. With oil based finishes three working days may be required. Water base finishes will cure quicker than oil. When to move furniture back can be better determined by the finisher. Placement of area rugs should be postponed until the finishes have cured properly. If in doubt consult with your floor finisher as he is more aware of conditions that can affect total curing time.
Any Allergies To Be Concerned With?
Much will depend on the professionalism of the one doing the work. Some will pay strict attention to dust control, while others may not. It's best to discuss with potential candidates how they plan on handling jobsite dust. Water based finishes are more friendly over oil based and other types, not only for the environment but the customer as well. Depending on how sensitive one is to any types of finish or dust, staying away may be the best option during the procedures.
Refinishing Engineered Floors With Aluminum Oxide
You’ll find an array of methods mentioned to refinish these floors, but not an actual onsite demonstration performed by a professional that takes his trade seriously. Avi Hadad located in the San Francisco bay region of Northern California talks about refinishing one of these floors in a two part series. The task was large, as it was also a hand scraped product with a thin wear layer.
¹ Newer developments in refinishing technology has provided a less aggressive method of handling thinner wear layer hardwoods. However, the bevel depth issue remains where the procedure may not be possible. The Lagler Trio three disc sander is often the tool of choice along with the newer Bona FlexiSand.
² Requires a thorough cleaning of waxes, older cleaners and other contaminants prior to work.
³ Examples are based on an empty room ready to go.