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Can You Refinish Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors?

Can You Refinish Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors?

Pre-finished hardwood floors are highly convenient, but can you refinish pre-finished hardwood floors if you want to change the look or update your floor?

Yes, you can refinish pre-finished hardwood floors usually up to as many as five times throughout its lifetime. To do so, you will need to sand down the finish to the natural hardwood and then have it refinished and sealed.

Before attempting to refinish a pre-finished hardwood floor, just make sure your floors are actually pre-finished and not engineered. You cannot refinish engineered floors.

What Are Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors

Pre-finished hardwood floors are, as their name implies, made of hardwood that has a coating, or top layer finish, applied at the factory as part of the manufacturing process. The finish that is used is aluminum oxide urethane, and it fully cures to the wood.

Pre-finished hardwood floors are pre-sanded in the factory, and a coating is applied as part of the manufacturing process. They typically have open seams or bevels.

Is My Floor Pre-Finished or Engineered?

Some people mistake engineered floors for pre-finished hardwood. However, engineered floors cannot be sanded. To make sure your floors are made of real wood that can be sanded, check a few things.

  • For starters, if it is a floating floor, it is probably engineered.
  • Also, check for thickness. Solid hardwood is usually about 3/4” thick. You can check for thickness by removing a heating or cool air register so you can get a good look underneath the carpet.
  • Look at the width of the boards. If they are 2 1/4” wide, it is most likely made of real wood. Whereas, engineered wood has many layers that are laminated together.
  • If the flooring has been installed in a basement or sitting on concrete, it is probably engineered and not pre-finished since the moisture and temperature changes in basements would make real wood start to buckle.

Advantages of pre-finished hardwood floors

Pre-finished hardwood floors have a lot of pros. Some of the reasons why home-owners choose pre-finished hardwood floors include:

  • Made from real, solid hardwood
  • Easy to find for purchasing
  • No odor
  • Able to be sanded
  • Can be used immediately
  • Extremely durable
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Easy installation
  • Non-toxic
  • Depth of Color and natural wood texture

Disadvantages of pre-finished hardwood floors

Of course, every flooring option comes with some disadvantages as well. some cons to purchasing pre-finished hardwood floors include:

  • Some say that when a pre-finished floor becomes scratched, it is quite noticeable
  • Most pre-finished hardwood floors have a bevel in between each board, some prefer to sand this flat since dirt tends to get stuck in the bevels
  • Some think pre-finished floors look fake
  • Difficult to repair or refinish
  • Flooring can become damaged during installation
  • Open seams

How To Refinish Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors

The factory-installed polyurethane coating must be completely removed before refinishing. To do so will take a lot of work and tends to kick up a lot of dust. Following is a short step-by-step guide on how to refinish pre-finished hardwood floors, including maintenance afterward:

  • Remove any molding gently using a pry bar. Be sure to wear knee pads and gloves.
  • Fix the squeaks and creeks in the floor before you start sanding by putting a shim into gaps, and nail a piece of wood along any warped joists. Use construction adhesive to fill small gaps.
  • Sand the floors starting with coarse sandpaper and moving your way up to fine sandpaper with each new pass.
  • Sweep and vacuum between each sanding using a broom, dustpan, and a vacuum
  • Be sure to sand and clean up edges and corners of dust and debris before applying the finish. Use a sanding edger and a clean, damp cloth to wipe off dust and debris that the vacuum misses in the corners.
  • Screen sand using a floor buffer fitted with a fine-grit screen pad to level out all minor unevenness.
  • Remove dust with a tack cloth and vacuum before moving on to the next step.
  • Stain the floors starting in the farthest corner and moving back as you go, towards the door.
  • Always stain your floors in the direction of the wood grain.
  • Finish the floors by going over the floor with a wood finish. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the stain to dry before applying the wood finish. Apply the finish with a lambswool applicator.
  • Make sure they are completely dried and cured before setting heavy furniture or walking on the floors.

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Usually, after about 4 passes, the wood is ready to buff
  • Use a HEPA filter on a vacuum, so you don’t inhale the aluminum airborne particles
  • Spray the entire floor with water to check for any spots you may have missed. This process called water-popping allows the stain to penetrate deeper into the grains of the wood.
  • After the floor has been stained, it’s ready for sealer and coats of finish
  • If you choose not to sand down the bevel, do not fill it in with wood filler or putty because it will crack and peel within about 6 months. When this happens, you will need to refinish the entire floor again.
  • When your finish starts to look scratched or dull every few years, you will want to re-coat the floor using polyurethane. To do so, you will first need to sand down the original finish until you reach the hardwood.

Hardwood Floor Maintenance

If pre-finished hardwood floors have been well maintained, they will last for quite a while. But, no floor is meant to last forever. Proper maintenance begins with cleaning the floors properly.

Never use acidic cleaners, like vinegar, or a steam mop that creates moisture on wood floors. Both can cause serious damage to the floors or the finish. Store-bought cleaners can also leave the floors looking dull.

Ask a hardwood flooring professional for recommendations of cleaning products that are safe to use on the floor.

Final Thoughts

To refinish pre-finished hardwood floors, treat it as you would any other finished wood. First, make sure your floors truly are pre-finished and not engineered flooring, since you cannot sand engineered flooring. Sand down your pre-finished floor to the real, hardwood surface.

Some prefer to sand down the bevels of their pre-finished wood floor as well. Just, keep in mind that if you do this it will limit the number of times you will be able to refinish your floor since you will be sanding off more on the first round.

From there, choose a finish and enjoy the new look of your hardwood floors once they have been allowed to completely dry and cure.