How to Refinish an Engineered Hardwood Floor
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Lavonne in Iowa on the line with a floor-refinishing question. How can we help you today?
LAVONNE: Yes. I have 1,350 square feet of engineered hardwood floor. It has been refinished twice and you know what? It’s looking pretty tough. And I want to refinish it again and I’ve thought about doing a gel with a lacquer over the top of it but I’m afraid if I sand it any more, I’m going to be into the plywood.
TOM: You know, it’s very unusual that you’ve been able to refinish it once. Engineered floors have factory-applied finishes and they’re very difficult to refinish, which you may have discovered.
One thing I can suggest, Lavonne, is this. Is the floor physically damaged or is it really just the finish is kind of worn a little bit?
LAVONNE: You know what? There is some physical damage because of water issues, like where I had my Christmas tree, right? The ring, where it – because it wasn’t a very thick poly on it, I think.
TOM: Right. Right.
LAVONNE: And then there’s scratches, of course.
TOM: OK. Well, here’s what you could do. What you could do is you could rent not a sander but a floor buffer. And you get a floor buffer with a sanding screen. So it’s a very fine screen that takes the place of sort of the buffing pads. And it will take off just the upper surface of the floor finish and kind of dull it out and smooth it out. And then on top of that, you can refinish it. So it doesn’t really sand the wood; it really just sands the finish, so to speak.
TOM: And that might be enough for you to get a new finish to take. But I’ve got to tell you, you should just count your blessings because having refinished this two and now maybe three times, with engineered you’re really far exceeding what it’s designed to do. You’re treating this like it’s a solid hardwood and not an engineered hardwood.
LAVONNE: I know and you know what? I’ve priced out laying new over the top of it, engineered, because to – the cost to remove what’s already there, the existing, is out of this – out of the – it’s just out of the roof. And to lay over the top of it, is that wise to lay another engineered over the top of it?
TOM: But that said, I don’t understand why somebody wants to charge you so much to take out what’s there. It’s not attached to the floor underneath. It’s not glued down, is it?
LAVONNE: You know what? That’s what I don’t know. It’s the unknown.
TOM: In most cases, you would not glue down engineered floor; it would float. And so if it’s floating, all you would do to remove it is you would set the depth of a circular saw to the thickness of the floor, you’d put a bunch of cuts across the floor in a grid-like pattern, you start prying it up and throwing it away. The only thing that’s hard to get out is where it gets to the edges under the molding. But it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to take up engineered floor, as long as it’s not glued.
That said, there’s no reason you can’t put a second layer over that.
LAVONNE: So would you lay something in between? Would you float the floor or would you staple it?
TOM: Yeah, it’s always floated; engineered always floats. And a lot of engineered hardwoods today have a backer on them already, so they’re kind of cushiony.
LAVONNE: We’re thinking about – we’re going to list the house. It’s a 5,800-square-foot house. It’s huge and it’s just my husband and I rattling around in this thing and so – you want to do something …
TOM: Well, if you’re going to list the house, you’re never going to return on investment by replacing the floor. My advice is to sand the floors with a floor buffer and a sanding screen, put another coat of urethane on it and then put the “For Sale” sign in the front yard, OK?
LAVONNE: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.