How Can I Tell If The Hardwood Floors In My Home Are Thick Enough to Refinish?

Perhaps you are considering the installation of new wood floors to better match the look and feel of your home. Maybe you have existing hardwood flooring that is starting to appear worn out or scuffed up. Perhaps you are about to move into a new home, and the existing wood floors simply don’t suit your unique tastes. Regardless of the reason, many of these issues can be addressed by sanding down, staining, and refinishing the existing hardwood floors. 

Refinishing your hardwood floors allows you to truly customize the wood and make it flow with the look and feel of your home. However, not all floors can be sanded down and refinished. In this article, we will help you determine whether or not refinishing your hardwood floors is the right decision for you or if it is even possible.

What Type of Wood Floor Do I Have?

The first course of action is determining what type of wood flooring you have. You will need to determine whether the wood floors in your house are solid hardwood or engineered wood. That is an essential distinction because engineered flooring cannot be sanded and refinished in the same way solid wood floors can. 

The easiest way to determine if your wood floor is made of hardwood or engineered wood is to remove a loose plank and look at its cross-section. If the wood is solid with a continuous grain, it is solid hardwood. If different layers of wood are visible, almost like layers of plywood pressed together, then you are looking at an engineered wood floor.

Removing a plank from your existing floor may not be feasible, so looking for any vents or registers on the floor and removing the cover is another way to make the determination. From this vantage point, you should see a cross-section of the wood. You can also perform this check at an exterior doorway, removing the metal saddle from the floor and exposing the wood that way.


Is My Wood Floor Thick Enough To Refinish?

This method of determining if your floors are hardwood or engineered is also a great way to tell if the boards are thick enough to refinish.

When it comes to engineered floors, the thickest types can be sanded and finished between three to five times because of their 4mm to 6mm wear layer. Engineered wood flooring with a wear layer of 2mm or less cannot be sanded down entirely but can take a light scuff-sanding using a buffer and then refinished.

A plank of hardwood at full thickness should be able to withstand between 6 and 10 refinishes over the course of its lifetime. Generally, these are 3/4 of an inch thick. However, homes built before the 1920s often have historical wood floors that are only 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch thick due to different milling standards at the time. As a result, these floors can only handle a complete wood floor sanding and refinishing two or three times. If your floors are made of older hardwood and have already been refinished once or twice, they typically are not suitable for a full refinish because they are likely too thin.


What If My Wood Floor Is Too Thin For Refinishing?

Sanding wood floors that are too thin can lead to splintering and other types of damage. Since most hardwood planks are manufactured with tongue and groove to interlock, it is necessary to leave at least 1/8 of an inch of wood at the top of the board, above the tongue and groove, for a complete refinish. It may be possible to refinish the floors if the boards are thinner than 1/8 of an inch.

One way to assess the thickness of your wood floorboards is by performing what is known as the “business card test.” If there is a gap between any floorboards, place a business card in the gap. Use a pencil to mark the spot on the card where it meets the edge of the floor. That will show how much thickness exists between the top of the board and the tongue and groove.

Regardless of the thickness and type of wood, hiring a professional, rather than attempting to do it yourself, is always your best bet when it comes to refinishing a wood floor.

Another option when dealing with floors that are too thin for sanding is floor screening. A floor screening simply removes the existing finish layer and doesn’t take off any of the wood. Once the finish is removed, the floor is given another few coats of finish to breathe life into them and keep them looking new.

Even if they are thick enough to refinish, if your hardwood floors have sustained any water damage or have been stained by pet urine or other messes, the affected boards may need to be entirely replaced. A sanding and refinish will not eliminate urine stains (or the odors) from the floorboards, and it likely won’t be able to fix warps from the moisture of extended water damage. However, you may be able to remove less significant stains as part of the refinishing process. It should go without saying that when caring for your wood floors, you must always clean up any liquid or pet messes on a hardwood floor as quickly as possible to prevent long-term damage. 

Do I Need A Professional To Refinish My Wood Floors?

Whether you can determine if your floors are thick enough to hold up in a refinishing project or not, sometimes it is best to call in a professional to ensure that you will not damage the floors by trying to take on the job by yourself. 

When it comes to wood floors, it is crucial that you never start refinishing your floors before you are absolutely sure that the boards have enough wood to handle the refinishing. That is especially true if you refinish a hardwood floor in an old home. When you refinish floors that are too thin, you not only risk splintering the wood, but you can expose nails. A botched refinishing job can also lead to floors that are unsafe to walk on, and you can even cause enough damage to warrant an entire new floor.

Replacing your entire wood floor will undoubtedly cost you a whole lot more than it will cost to have a professional come in and examine your floors first. When you contact the PA wood floor sanding and refinishing experts at Artisan Wood Floors, you can trust that you are reaching out to a wood floor professional who can help you decide if a repair or sand and refinish is the best course of action. 

Call Artisan Wood Floors today at (215) 515-7355 and ask for Steve!

1 Comment

  1. Joanne Singh

    Thank you for such a great write up. Refinishing is easier to do than replacing the flooring, requires less time and is less expensive. Not only will it increase the value of your home, but if you plan to sell it at some point, beautiful refinished flooring is attractive to potential buyers and will allow you to establish a higher price for your home.


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