Q. How can I tell if my prefinished engineered wood floors can be refinished?
A. You must be able to determine the thickness of the wear layer, which is the "real wood" veneer. In general, if the wear layer is about 3/32 or just under 2.5mm, then your floor can probably be sanded once. You'll need to find a place in the floor where you can see the end or side profile of a board to determine the wear layer thickness. If you happen to have extra material from when the floor was installed this will be the easiest way.
There are many other variables involved also, like levelness of the floor, degree of distressed or hand-scraped, type of finish on the floor, etc...
Q. How many times can you sand an engineered floor?
A. The main factor involved in this discussion is the thickness of the wear layer. The thicker it is, the more that floor can be sanded. Other factors are levelness of the floor, degree of distressed or hand-scraped, depth of bevels, etc...
Here are some general guidelines (assuming the floor is smooth faced and relatively flat):
2.5-3mm = 1-2 sandings
3-4mm = 2-3 sandings
4-6mm = 3-4 sandings
Q. How much wear layer does a sanding remove?
A. In most cases, between 1/32 to 1/16 of an inch. Once again, there are many variables involved such as levelness of the floor, depth of scratches & dents that need to be removed, how deep the previous stain/sealer penetrated (all finish must be completely sanded off), and more.
Q. Can the bevels be sanded out of my prefinished wood floor?
A. This all depends on the thickness of the wear layer. If the bevels are as deep as the wear layer is thick, then no. If the floor already has a thin wear layer, it is not advantagous to sand the bevels out. However if there is substantial wear layer, and the bevels are micro, it may be possible to sand them out.
Q. I have really old & ugly wood floors, can they be fixed?
A. In most cases, yes they can! A highly experienced wood floor refinisher can determine if your floors can be brought back to life. Old floors can be tricky because you need to be able to determine if they've been sanded too many times or not. If a professional finds that they can be sanded, your definitely in luck! If not, your only hope is to screen and re-coat - in order to accomplish this option the floors need to be in pretty decent shape.
Q. How to I choose the right company to refinish my hardwood floors?
A. Good question, you've probably never thought about refinishing your hardwood floors until now! There may be several refinishers in your area, and they may all appear to be quality companies. Sanding & finishing a wood floor is an expertise and should only be done by experienced professionals. Here are a few guidelines to help you choose.
Let's start with qualities you're looking for in a wood floor refinishing expert
Good, long standing reputation in the community
Accredited with the Better Business Bureau with a good rating
Website so you can see pictures of their work and explanation of services
Easily found outstanding online reviews and testimonials from previous customers
Here are the people you don't want to hire
Someone who is inexperienced (i.e. a "hack" or fly-by night type company) Inexperience with sanding equipment can destroy your hardwood floor, which can be an expensive mistake
A contractor that practices other trades and says "sure, I sand & finish wood floors too". Trust me, you don't want this person
Someone who uses rented sanding equipment of any kind. A professional always has their own professional equipment.
Now that you've narrowed it down to the contractors that fit this criteria you should contact a few local sources that have been around a while. Ask them if they have someone they recommend for refinishing hardwood floors. These may include your local hardware store, flooring store, interior designer, or even custom homebuilders. You'll probably hear the same 1 or 2 names come up. Call them!
When a refinishing contractor comes to give an estimate you want to listen carefully and ask many questions. There can be many factors involved in refinishing a wood floor, and you need to know what you're getting into. Every wood floor is different from the next in one way or another. Lastly, the old saying "you get what you pay for" couldn't be more true when hiring the right wood floor refinisher
Q. How long does it take to refinish wood floors?
A. The average time it takes to complete a sand & refinish job is 3-5 days. Timeframe depends on several factors including the square footage of the floor, shape it's in, repair work, is it going stain or neutral, etc... The sanding process is the most time consuming and crucial to the outcome of the job. Once the floor is stained or sealed, it must dry for about least 12 hours before polyurethane can be applied. We prefer to allow a stained floor at least 36 hours dry time before applying top coats.
Q. Everybody sells wood flooring and installs it, how do I know who to shop with?
A. You're right, a lot of stores sell a variety of wood flooring products and offer installation services as well. One issue is many salespeople have never had any first hand experience with hardwood floors themselves. There are many pros and cons to each different product and you need to find someone experienced (and honest) enough to educate you thoroughly.
For example, many engineered prefinished products CANNOT ever be refinished if necessary - this significantly reduces the value and lifespan of the wood floor. If a salesperson tells you that any particular prefinished floor can be sanded and refinished in the future, you should ask them how they know (they probably have never sanded a floor). Check out our Engineered Hardwood Flooring article. You want to find someone who will help guide you to the products that match your lifestyle, wants, needs, and budget.
Proper installation is just as important as the product itself. You want to ensure that you have someone who is very experienced and specializes in hardwood floor installation. It's much different that other floor coverings! Don't just hire the cheapest bidder, it could cost you more in the long run - either they don't know what they're doing, or they're just going to slap your floors down, get paid, and that's the last you'll hear of them.
Q. What's the difference between engineered and solid flooring?
A. Solid Hardwood flooring is just that, solid throughout. It is milled from the log as a solid piece of wood then tongue and grooved on all four sides (in most species). These boards expand and contract with fluctuations in relative humidity within the home. If the environment is too dry, the solid boards can contract (shrink), leaving gaps between the floor boards. If the environment is too wet, boards will buckle. Below grade installation of solid hardwood is not recommended! It must be nailed down to a wooden subfloor, and in some instances can be glued down to concrete. We recommend keeping the relative humidity level in the home between 35%-55%.
Engineered Hardwood flooring is manufactured with multiple cross layers of plywood to increase stability with a thinner real wood "wear" layer. These layers are glued and pressed together under pressure. This construction helps counteracts the natural tendency of wood to expand and contract with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity, allowing engineered flooring to be installed anywhere in the home including below grade. Engineered wood floors are generally nailed or stapled down to a wooden subfloor, as well as directly glued to concrete. Some engineered flooring can also be "floated", which means the flooring is not secured to the subfloor, it is generally glued in the tongue and groove on all sides. We recommend keeping the relative humidity level of the home between 30-60%.
There are pros and cons to both engineerd and solid hardwood floors. Stability is an advantage of using engineered flooring due to the cross layered plywood construction. A disadvantage is that some engineered flooring styles have a very thin wear layer, which cannot be completely sanded and refinished if ever needed.
Lastly, both engineered and solid wood flooring comes in many different species, grades, widths, thicknesses, colors, lengths, etc...
Q. Should I choose a prefinished wood floor, or unfinished that has to be sanded and finished on site?
A. Prefinished hardwood floors have the obvious advantage of already being finished. Many manufacturer's use between 6-12 coats of very durable finishes that can only be applied in a factory, such as Aluminum Oxide. This eliminates the potentially days long process of sanding and finishing a floor. There is a wide range of colors, handscraped, widths, etc... available for prefinished hardwood floors! Keep in mind, prefinished wood floors almost always have beveled or "eased" edges. This helps with installation over slightly un-even surfaces since the floor will not be sanded. The thickness of the wear layer should be a big consideration, if you're conserned about long lasting floors. Basically the thicker the wear layer, the more times a wood floor can potentially be sanded and refinished. Hence, extending the life of the floor. In our opinion, thicker wear layers offer the most value for this reason.
Unfinished (site sanded) hardwood floors have the distinct advantage of being able to completely customize the color of your floor. Additionally, there are no beveled edges with unfinished wood floor. Any un-evenness will be sanded down, creating a seamless look. Beveled edges are essentially dirt traps, on all sides of every board. Because there is no beveled edge, you essentially gain some life on the floor. Here's why! When sanding a prefinished (beveled edge) floor, you must either sand down below that bevel or hand scrape all the finish out of every bevel!
Q. My hardwood floor needs repair, what can I do?
A. This is a very common issue that can almost always be resolved. Let's start with your type of flooring:
Solid hardwood floors are the easiest to repair. The are usually nailed into a wooden subfloor. The damaged area is strategically removed, new boards cut to fit, installed and nailed into place. Note: In older wood floors, the only way to achieve an exact match is to replace to damaged boards with other boards out of the same house. Having said that, an experienced wood flooring installer/refinisher can match old wood with new wood very closely. Once repaired, the new boards (assuming they're unfinished) need to be sanded, stained to match, and finished. This doesn't apply to prefinished.
Engineered prefinished wood floors can be easy or difficult to repair. If you have extra flooring that never got installed, you're in luck! (Note: you should always purchase at least one extra bundle or box of flooring to have on hand when purchasing new wood floors). Most of the time, here in Central TX, engineered prefinished wood floors are glued directly to concrete. The damaged boards are strategically removed, the glue scraped off the concrete, new boards cut to fit and glued back into place. Due to beveled edges, sometimes more flooring must be removed to maintain this bevel.
If you don't have any extra flooring, then hopefully you know the manufacturer of that flooring. Hopefully they still manufacter that same flooring! That's pretty much your last hope. If you absolutely can't find the same flooring, then your chances of finding a different flooring that matches is slim. The flooring must match in width, thickness, color, size of bevel, and size of tongue & groove for a perfect match.
Q. Will my animals damage my wood floor?
A. The simple answer may be yes, but there are measures you can take to help prevent damage. Larger dogs obviously pose the greatest threat of scratching your wood floor. Keep your dog's nails trimmed regurlarly. Cats don't usually scratch floors, but if your cat is the exception then keep it's nails trimmed. Keep mats at the doorways to help catch any loose dirt your animal may bring in the house from outside. If you're looking the purchase new floor you may want to look into the harder species such as Brazilian Cherry. You'll also want to think about commercial grade finishes.
Q. Will I damage my wood floors if I move my piano or large furniture?
A. It is very common for large furniture, especially a piano to damage wood floors. The problem with piano's is they usually have very narrow metal wheels; this coupled with they're sheer wieght is a recipe for denting a floor easily. DO NOT ROLL YOUR PIANO USING IT'S OWN WHEELS! Not if you care about your floor anyway. It will dent the floor so deep that it must be sanded out.
When moving large furniture you need to have to proper dolley's, blanket, etc...The best solution here is to hire professional movers, especially for a piano. They will have special dolley's and casters to move large pieces safely. You also have someone to place blame on if your floor is damaged.
Q. How do I know what floors to choose?
A. This can seem like a daunting task, but help from an experienced hardwood floor expert will make things go much smoother. Check out our Hardwood Floor Shopping Guide, it will outline many questions and concerns you may have.
To summarize, you need to first determine if the area/s your flooring will be installed are concrete slab or wooden subfloor. If you have an older house that is pier and beam, you should be good to go to purchase and install a solid hardwood floor. Many older homes in the Central Texas area have shiplap subfloors, which is suitable for solid hardwood flooring. If your home is constructed atop a concrete slab you will most likely need to look into engineered hardwood flooring.
Q. How do make custom transitions, or do custom installations with prefinished hardwood?
A. The short answer is, you don't. This is one major disadvantage of prefinished flooring over and unfinished product.
Let me elaborate - the issue with prefinished hardwood flooring is that it is usually beveled and if it's engineered, then you can't have the layers of plywood showing in the case of a custom transition.
Example - If you need to change the direction of the flooring on an angle you can:
Eliminate the bevel and just change direction however you need to. You'll just have to be ok with the fact that the flooring looks different where you change directions because there is no longer a bevel.
You could attempt to re-create the bevel and stain it to match (good luck with this one)
Install a transition (t-molding or something of the like) piece at the angle to cover the angle cuts
Transitions - The only way you can create custom transitions (and have it look professional) is in the case where nothing below the wear layer will be visible. Otherwise your options are:
Buy the type of transition needed from your flooring manufacturer
Make your transition out of a solid piece of wood (of the same species) and stain to match