How to Refinish Engineered Hardwood Floor

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how to refinish enginered hardwood floor

Refinished hardwood flooring is a viable alternative to standard hardwood. If you are interested in the look but don’t want to make the big investment, it could be a good option. 

If down the road, you decide you want to refinish your engineered hardwood, you might wonder how to do it. Luckily, the process isn’t all that different from standard hardwood. 

If you have the basic tools and know-how to do refinishing, engineered hardwood can be done. 

As long as you do a few simple checks, you can get your flooring looking brand new. 

In this article, we have laid out what to look for and what engineered hardwood really is. By understanding this, you can get a clean, fresh look for your home. 

Refinishing Engineered Hardwood Floor: Basic Idea

To refinish engineered hardwood, there are a few steps you need to take. These steps are: 

  • Find the thickness of the wood
  • Sand the entire floor
  • Clean the flooring 
  • Apply your desired stain
  • Add a polyurethane top coat 

What is Engineered Hardwood?

engineered hardwood

Engineered hardwood is a unique type of manufactured flooring. Like laminate, it has layers that are pressed together with a veneer on top. 

Standard hardwood is one piece of wood that is laid on your flooring. Engineered hardwood is usually a plywood core plank that has hardwood veneer pressed on either side. 

Because of this construction, it is usually cheaper and lighter, while still maintaining a rich look. Engineered hardwood can also be installed below ground, like laminate. 

Knowing how engineered hardwood is put together can help you decide if you can refinish yours. 

Determine Thickness

The first thing you need to do before refinishing your engineered hardwood floor is determine its thickness. 

The hardwood veneer that sits on top of the plywood layer is usually quite thin. Because of this, you want to be careful not to sand into it too much. 

To find out how thick the veneer on your floor is, you will have to remove a baseboard in the room. Once you do that, you can look into the expansion gap and measure the layer of veneer. 

If the veneer is 1 millimeter or less, it can not be refinished. 

If it is 2 millimeters, it can be refinished one or two times. If it is 2.5 millimeters, it can be refinished 2 or 3 times. 

As the veneer gets thicker, it can be refinished more and more. However, it is generally best not to refinish too much since it will weaken the top layer. 

Sand the Floor

If your engineered hardwood is thick enough, you can sand down the current finish. 

Use an orbital sander to buff out the stain and get down to the bare hardwood veneer. 

Take care not to sand too far down and make sure you are not gouging the floor. It helps if you sand along the grain and watch for any dents or scratches. 

Thoroughly Clean the Engineered Hardwood 

thoroughly clean the enginered hardwood

Once you have sanded down the floor, you will need to clean it thoroughly. 

Vacuum up any dust that may have come off the veneer and then mop with soap and water. 

Make sure that you dry any excess moisture with a rag and then let it air dry for at least 2 hours. You do not want any moisture on the floor when you begin to apply stain. 

Check for any gouges or scratches after the floor has dried. If there are any that are visible, they will need to be repaired before you move on to the next step. 

Apply Stain 

After the floor has completely dried, you can apply your preferred stain. 

Apply the stain with a rag, wiping off excess as you go. 

For the most part, you will only be able to stain your floor a darker color. Unlike paint, stain lets the grain show through and it is difficult to stain a piece of wood lighter. 

Do at least 2 coats of stain, letting each one dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours before moving on. 

After you have applied your last coat of stain, let it cure for at least 48 hours. This will ensure that there are no sticky areas and that you won’t mark it up by walking on it. 

Apply a Top Coat 

Once your stain has completely dried, add your preferred top clear coat to the floor. 

Polyurethane is a high-quality, long-lasting clear coat. It will not only make the floors shine, it will also protect them from damage like gouging and scratching. 

After the clear coat has been applied with a roller, let it cure for 48 hours

Do not move any furniture back in until the clear coat has completely cured and hardened. 

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to refinish enginered hardwood floor

  • How long does engineered hardwood last?

If properly maintained and cared for, engineered hardwood can last for 20 years. This is less time than traditional hardwood which can last for hundreds of years. 

However, this is still longer than some other flooring alternatives like carpet, vinyl and laminate. 

  • What are the disadvantages of engineered wood flooring?

The main disadvantage of engineered hardwood is that it can only be refinished a few times. The thin veneer can only be sanded so many times before it starts to disintegrate. 

Standard hardwood, however, can be refinished as many times as you want

  • Do engineered wood floors look cheap?

For the most part, engineered hardwood does not look cheap. There was a time when it did, but with advances in technology, it now looks much like regular hardwood. 


Refinishing engineered hardwood flooring is a great way to revitalize your home. By following the above steps, you can be sure to do it correctly.

If you make sure you have enough veneer on top, you can completely change the look of your home’s flooring. 

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Michael J. O’Connor is a writer and marketing specialist from the Bay Area of California. A graduate of Sonoma State’s Creative Writing program, he spent many years as a contractor and carpet layer, learning the ins and outs of flooring and general contracting. When he’s not typing away at his desk, he enjoys hiking with his dogs, woodworking and collecting rare books. See full biography here.

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