One of the biggest benefits of solid wood flooring is that it can be refinished time and time again to give your flooring a new lease of life. So, it’s no wonder why we’re often asked if the same applies to engineered wood flooring… Well, the short answer is yes, engineered wood flooring can be refinished (in most cases) but it’s important that you know how, why, and when it can be refinished. Otherwise, you could end up going further than intended and ruining your whole floor. So, on that note, our experts are here once again to make sense of it all!
While we have briefly covered this already, not all engineered wood floors can be refinished. This will depend on the thickness of the wear layer on your chosen floor. So, if you’re looking for a floor that can be sanded and refinished, you should be looking at engineered wood flooring with a minimum wear layer of 3mm. The wear layer (also known as the veneer) is the top surface layer of engineered wood floors. This layer consists of solid wood to give our engineered wood floors their beautiful appearance. Here at Flooring365, our wear layers vary from 1.2mm to 6mm. While the engineered wood floors with thicker wear layers do tend to be more expensive (because there is more solid wood involved) they also have the ability to be sanded and refinished more times during their lifespan.
Image source: Alpha Floor Sanding Ltd.
Yes, it is possible to refinish your engineered wood flooring yourself, but we wouldn’t advise it. Unless you have the knowledge and tools to do so, it will likely cost you a lot more time and money to attempt a full resand and refinish for yourself. Therefore, it’s often best to leave it up to the experts.
While we advise that you do not sand and refinish your own flooring without any prior knowledge, we will cover how it's done for those who are curious or fancy a challenge.
You’ll need a lot of space, regardless of whether you plan to carry the work out yourself or not. Therefore, the first step is to take everything out of the room. We mean everything since it’s practically impossible to work around anything when your focus is the floor itself. It’ll also save your furniture in the long run. Now would also be a good time to cover any vents or doors that lead to other rooms.
When it comes to flooring, preparing the surface is often just as important as any work to be carried out. So, before anything can be sanded or refinished, you’ll need to give the full floor a sweep to remove any dust or debris that’s lying around. Then, you should follow up with a quick mop. Remember, engineered wood flooring is not waterproof and can only manage minimal amounts of liquid so you will need to rinse the mop regularly and use a mild detergent. Try to avoid any water from sitting on the surface of your floor for long periods.
The next step is to sand your flooring. This step will require a lot of care because you do not want to end up sanding too far or not far enough. This is particularly important with engineered wood flooring because you don’t want to sand down to the structural sublayers. You’ll also want to make sure that the whole floor is sanded evenly, which is the tricky part. The best way to do this yourself is using an orbital sander. However, you could also manually sandpaper the floor if you have the patience or have a smaller room to cover. Or, if you have the skillset, you can speed up the process with a belt sander, or floor sander. Remember, the goal of this step is to remove any old finish, not the entire wear layer. Therefore, you only need to remove approximately 1mm.
If you are attempting to sand and refinish your own floor, always wear safety gear during this step.
Image source: Alpha Floor Sanding Ltd.
By this stage, you’ve probably got quite a mess going on. So, grab a vacuum or sweeping brush and remove any of the leftover residue from sanding. If that’s not quite doing the trick, you can also grab a mildly damp cloth to remove any remaining dust.
Whether you’re going for an entirely new look, or simply replacing the finish that was already there to give your floor a well-needed ‘refresh’, you’ll need to apply some sort of finish to your newly sanded floor. After all, finishes are what help to protect your flooring, keeping it intact. While some do choose to apply a stain first, we find that this can often be achieved with oil or lacquer alone, depending on the colour you want to achieve. Alternatively, if you like the new look of your flooring, you can get invisible oils and lacquers which will provide the same level of protection as a standard oil or lacquer, but without any visible changes.
To apply the finish, all you will need is a brush or roller (as you would with paint) and some patience. For the best results, you should apply one layer, allow it to dry completely, and then apply another layer. This will make your flooring much more durable, allowing many more years of use before needing to be refinished again.
Now all you have to do is wait. This is probably the most important step of all because not only does it allow time for the finish to cure, but time for you to ventilate the room too. While we cannot advise how long it will take you to ventilate the room, typically, most engineered wood floors will require at least 48 hours after a finish has been applied for it to be fully cured. However, ventilation will depend on your home, so try to open as many windows as you can allowing air to flow through. If you have pets, you should keep them out of the room too, as some finishes can be hazardous for pets to breathe in, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Image source: Alpha Floor Sanding Ltd.
This will depend on the finish you use so it’s always best to check the manufacturer's instructions. However, as a rough guide, you should be able to move around the room as long as you take care after approximately 5 hours with oiled floors or 2-3 hours with lacquered floors. It is also advisable to follow a ‘socks only’ policy during this period as shoes may cause damage.
Again, this will depend on the finish you use but with most oiled finishes you’ll be fine to reintroduce some light furniture back into the room after around 24 hours, with the rest of the furniture okay to go back in after 2-3 days. With lacquered floors, we suggest still waiting 24 hours, even though it’s likely it will dry quicker than oil. If you have rugs to place, we advise waiting a week before putting them back down due to the close contact.
While it is possible to stay in your home during your floor refurbishment, you may not want to. Here are a couple of reasons why:
Dust is often the main concern, and understandably so. Sanding can produce high levels of dust, particularly if there’s a large area to cover. Sadly, there aren’t many ways you can avoid this either. Our best advice is to choose a contractor that you can trust, that will clean up along the way. Otherwise, your only option is to isolate the dust in one room or area. You can do this using plastic sheeting.
Another side effect of sanding is the level of noise that it can produce. Again, finding a contractor you trust can help with this. If you are happy to leave them to sand while you go to work then this is a great way to still live at home but avoid the worst of it.
You may think the worst of it is over once the sanding is complete. However, it's during the finishing process where you must be the most careful. Many of the flooring finishes used in the industry are particularly hazardous to pets and children, so keeping them out of the way is a must. Children and pets aren’t the only ones though, with many adults struggling to tolerate the strong odours too. The best way to avoid this is to sleep as far away from the room as possible and keep the house well-ventilated. If you feel ill at all, then it’s worthwhile getting out of the house until all the work is complete.
Unless you plan on moving out of your home until any work is complete, then we highly suggest you stick to one room at a time. Not only will this be better for your health and way of living, but it’ll make it much easier to move any furniture and furnishings out of the way in the meantime. Whereas attempting all the rooms at once, will leave little space (if any) for furniture to go.
Image source: Alpha Floor Sanding Ltd.
If you are planning on hiring a professional to refinish your flooring, it’s important to note that plenty of factors will play a part in pricing. For example, it often costs more to sand and refinish with oil than it does for a lacquer varnish. However, according to Check A Trade, you can expect to pay around £25 per square metre on average in the UK.
Realistically, the answer to this question will depend on what floor you have already, and what floor you would want to replace it with. However, generally, it is more cost-effective to refinish them since most engineered wood flooring can cost anywhere between £20-£150. To give you a direct comparison, our cheapest engineered wood flooring at the time of writing is £21.99 per square metre. However, after this, you are looking at paying a minimum of £29.99 per square metre, with our most premium floors being priced at around £85. So, it is possible to get a new floor for less, however depending on the quality and thickness of your current floor, it may not be worthwhile replacing just yet.
While you cannot ‘refinish’ your flooring without sanding first, you can recoat it. Recoating is the process of adding a new finish, without any prior sanding. While it is much less messy to opt for this process, the hard part is getting your new finish to adhere to the old finish.
That said, you will need to work out if recoating your floors is a viable option. For instance, when noticeable dents, wear patterns, or permanent cupping are present, a full sand down is essential to fully restore the finish. In this case, we wouldn’t advise trying to hide the issue with a recoat. It’s also worth noting that while scratches can be recoated, they may still be visible (if not more so) after a new finish has been applied but this will depend on the floor type and finish used. However, if that’s not the case then a recoat should be enough to give your flooring a completely new lease of life.
Image source: Alpha Floor Sanding Ltd.
In order to make sure that your new finish can adhere to the existing finish, you may need to go through a process called ‘mechanical adhesion’ or ‘chemical adhesion’. Both will ensure that your new finish stays in place but using different methods.
To follow out a mechanical adhesion, you must first make the surface a little rougher, giving the finish something to adhere to since smooth surfaces will not allow adhesion. The micro-scratches left behind from abrasion will allow the new coat of finish to bond to the old finish.
Chemical adhesion doesn't require any sanding or abrasion whatsoever. Instead, a bonding agent is applied on top of the existing finish to help with adhesion. This works like glue and allows the new finish to simply stick to the floor.
If you’re looking to avoid mechanical adhesion or chemical adhesion, then a restoration may be required. For this, the flooring must be prepped. This includes cleaning the floor and repairing any scratches. It is then usually followed up using a specialised buffing machine to lightly sand the floor before a polish can be applied. While this method is successful and cost-effective, it’s very easy to get wrong so we highly advise bringing an expert on board to follow out the work. Inadequate floor preparation, excessive polish application, or attempting to cover a large area in one go can lead to disastrous results, leaving you back where you started.
If your oiled engineered wood flooring doesn’t have any damage and simply requires a recoat, then you’ll be happy to know that this is the easiest and most budget-friendly way to revitalize your floors. If this is the case for you, all you need to do is clean your floors to ensure they are dry and dust-free. Then, shake your maintenance oil before applying it to your floor. You will only need a thin layer of this (approximately 1 litre of oil per 50m² of flooring) which can be distributed using a clean microfibre cloth. Allow the oil to absorb and then grab another clean microfibre cloth to remove any residue. Now all that’s left is to wait for it to dry. We recommend waiting a minimum of 12-24 hours.
Refinishing is the process of sanding your entire floor and applying a new finish. Whereas resurfacing is just another name for recoating.
When it comes to refinishing your flooring, chances are you’ll want to choose the same finish you had before. However, if you are fancying a change, it’s always good to know your options, so we’ve listed them below:
Oiled floors will require more maintenance but will provide deeper protection by seeping into the wood. While the external layer will inevitably get worn at some point, especially in high-traffic areas, oil is brilliant at protecting the deeper layers, keeping any knots and other features intact. This is perfect for future refinishes, however, will make your flooring more susceptible to liquids since oil doesn’t create a barrier in the same way that lacquer would.
Lacquered floors are extremely durable and will make your flooring more impermeable against spillages. They also help protect your flooring from fading by working as a UV filter. However, lacquered floors are notorious for showing scratches more easily which may lead to you refinishing or recoating your floor sooner. It’s also worth noting that with lacquered floors, the full floor must be sanded before it can be refinished, unlike with oiled floors.
Typically, lacquer provides a glossy finish whereas oil provides a more natural finish. However, that’s not always the case anymore. With options such as invisible oil, or matt lacquer, there really is no limit in terms of appearance. Therefore, we suggest you find the most functional finish first, whether that be oil or lacquer. Then, find the style you like best. For a full description of each, take a look at our engineered wood flooring finishes guide.
We highly recommend that you resurface your oiled floors every 6-12 months to keep them looking their best. However, you shouldn’t need to do a full refinish for quite a while. Most engineered wood floors are extremely durable and last for decades, so refinishing them unnecessarily won’t help anything. However, it will never harm to do a refinish as long as you have the wear layer for it. So, if you notice any scuffs that you’d like to be gone, why not?
Lacquered floors do not need resurfacing regularly therefore it is up to you when you refinish them. However, we would suggest leaving it until you feel it’s absolutely necessary so you can get the most from your wear layer. Most engineered wood floors do not require a full refinish for at least 7-10 years.
Sanding the top layer of engineered wood flooring usually removes around 1mm of surface. You’ll also need a minimum of 1mm leftover for protection. However, it would be impossible to give an exact number since we cannot estimate how much you (or your contractor) have removed each time. What we can do, however, is provide you with an estimate based on your wear layer. So, we’ve included a general guide below:
3mm: 1-2 times
4mm: 2-3 times
5mm: 3-4 times
6mm: 4-5 times
Please note: This guide will only apply if you know the history of your flooring. Always make sure you know the wear layer thickness and how many times the floor has been sanded before proceeding. That way, you can avoid any costly mistakes.
Now you should know everything there is to know about sanding, refinishing, resurfacing, and restoring engineered wood floors. So, chances are you want someone to complete the work. If that’s the case, you should take a look at Rated People, the number 1 marketplace for finding tradespeople. It is completely free for homeowners and allows you to post multiple jobs, get multiple quotes, and contact workers directly with any questions. You can also view their profile which will provide you with previous ratings, photos, and more.
Please note: This blog should only be used as a rough guide. Always check the manufacturer's instructions for your flooring and flooring finish before proceeding.