Can You Refinish Prefinished Hardwood Flooring?

Thinking about buying some prefinished flooring but wondering about the lifetime of the product? We were too and decided to look into it.

Can you sand and refinished pre-finished hardwood flooring?

It was important to us that if we were going to spend multiple thousands of dollars on nice hardwood floors that we could refinish them at a later time if we wanted. After all, this is a bigger investment in your home, so you want to make the right decision.

What we found is that generally the answer is that yes you can refinish your pre finished hardwood flooring. The one caviot here is that they need to be solid hardwood floors.

Your Home

When you are moving in to a new home, more than likely there is something about the house you are going to change. Many times, people are moving into new homes that already have pre-finished hardwood in some of the rooms. It may be that you do not like the sheen (matte or how shiny they are), or just want to change the color. Older floors typically have a higher sheen than most other pre finished woods and thus will show scratches and look a bit outdated.

In our case though, we do not have any wood flooring in the entire house and are simply trying to examine our options for long term home use. Check out the ugly carpet we will be replacing! After consulting multiple people and many websites online, there was a lot of people that just prefered site finished floors over any pre finished floors. The reasoning? Nothing of substance. We kept running into an answer that pre-finished hardwood looked fake, but if you look at any of the decent jobs done on Pinterest for example, you will not be able to tell the difference.

So if your pre-finished floors do not match the rest of your home, you dislike the color/sheen, or you are just looking at how long they will last, you are probably asking yourself one question that lead you here. Can you refinished pre-finished floors?

The answer is almost always “Yes” but the site finished or pre finished flooring needs to be solid hardwood. If the flooring is something called “engineered hardwood” then more than likely you will not be able to refinish the flooring.

Engineered hardwood has become more popular in the last few years as their is generally a lower cost associated with them. The downside is you usually cannot refinish them.

How do you know if you have solid hardwood flooring or engineered hardwood flooring?

Really quickly, let’s go over the difference of each of these.

Solid hardwood is exactly what it sounds like. It is a single piece of wood that is solid throughout and is generally about 3/4″ thick.

Engineered hardwood you can think of like a cake, which has different layers. You have a top layer that is a hardwood veneer and then right below that small top layer, you have different plies, or layers of wood. These are typically laminated together. Think of the way you would plywood. Since below the veneer top layer you have these laminated pieces of wood, the cost is generally much lower than solid hardwood.

So now that we have that out of the way, how do you know if you have engineered hardwood flooring versus solid hardwood?

  • If you have a wood flooring in your basement or anywhere that is below grade, then you most likely have an engineered floor. Below grade simply means that it lower than the ground level outside. The reason why if you have a floor that is wood below grade it is probably engineered is that you should not be installing solid hardwood below grade. The temperature and moisture changes can make your flooring buckle. It is very rare, but there is always the case that someone made a mistake, but the general rule of thumb is if below grade, it is engineered.
  • Thin flooring? If your floors appear to be thin, they are probably going to be engineered. Typical solid hardwood is 3/4″ thick where as engineered hardwoods are almost always thinner. If you have any flooring left over from the previous owner stored somewhere you can easily determine that way. If not, the easiest way to check is by taking a look at transition points such as in the closet or taking off your heat registers to look at the thickness of the wood.
  • Sitting on top of concrete? Then most likely, your flooring is engineered flooring. Solid hardwood must be nailed down into a plywood base and you cannot nail this into a concrete base. Engineered flooring is different.
  • Floating Floor? This means you probably have engineered flooring as well. If you are not familiar with what a floating floor is, it means that it is not actually attached to the subfloor beneath it. If your floor moves when you are jumping up and down or depresses when you walk, this means it is a floating floor. These cannot be sanded because not only is the finish too thin in the first place, but if you were to try and sand them, the floor would move and bounce up and down not allowing an even finish.
  • Width is 2 1/4″ inches wide. If the width of your boards are 2 1/4″ inches wide then you probably have solid wood flooring as this is the standard side for any solid hardwood. Enginereed wood typically does not come this narrow.

The easiest way to tell is just to check the floor registers around your house and remove them to take a look at the wood. However, if you are unable to tell if you have solid or engineered floors, then you should either get in touch with the old home owner or get a local flooring contractor out. You do not want to make the mistake of trying to do something to the wrong type of flooring!

Can you remove bevels from pre finished floors?

If you have pre finished floors and are looking to refinish them, then the first thing you will be doing is sanding everything down. This means that most of the bevels are going to be removed during the process.

Bevels are simply the grooves in between the wood that are sometimes a bit too deep and you are looking for a more uniform look throughout your home.

Here is a video that I found on youtube that goes over the process of refinishing pre finished floors and how you can reduce or sometimes simply get rid of the bevels during the process.

Wrapping It Up

So to conclude this article and to answer the question “can you refinish pre-finished hardwood flooring?” the answer is generally yes, but it has to be solid hardwood!

Best of luck in your next flooring adventure!


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