Comparing Engineered Wood Floor Finishes for Refinishing

Sep 28, 2023

Mastering Engineered Wood Floor Refinishing: A Comprehensive Finish Comparison Guide

When it comes to maintaining the lustre, longevity, and aesthetic appeal of engineered wood floors, Wood Floor refinishing is a topic that inevitably surfaces. Engineered wood flooring is revered for its durability, cost-effectiveness, and uncanny ability to replicate the look and feel of solid hardwood. However, one area where homeowners might need guidance is in selecting the best finish for refinishing these floors.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the various finishes available for engineered wood floors, comparing their benefits, drawbacks, and ideal applications.

1. Introduction to Engineered Wood Flooring

Before we dive into the finishes, it’s important to understand the basics of engineered wood flooring. These floors are composed of a veneer or top layer of real wood, which is adhered to several layers of plywood or other wood products. This construction provides stability and reduces the natural wood’s tendency to expand and contract with humidity changes.

Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

2. The Importance of the Right Finish

Choosing the right finish is not just about aesthetics but also about:

  • Protection: A good finish will shield the wood from spills, dirt, and daily wear and tear.
  • Maintenance: Some finishes are easier to clean and maintain than others.
  • Longevity: The right finish can extend the life of your engineered wood floor.
Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

3. Types of Finishes and Their Comparisons

3.1 Polyurethane (water-based and oil-based)

  • Pros:
    • Durability: Both water-based and oil-based polyurethanes offer excellent protection against daily wear and tear.
    • Appearance: They leave a smooth, clear finish that enhances the natural beauty of the wood.
    • Maintenance: Easy to clean with standard wood floor cleaners.
  • Cons:
    • VOCs: Oil-based polyurethanes contain higher levels of VOCs, which can be harmful in enclosed spaces.
    • Drying Time: Oil-based versions take longer to dry.
    • Cost: generally more expensive than some other finishes.

3.2 Hardwax Oil

  • Pros:
    • Natural Look: Hardwax oil penetrates the wood, enhancing its grain and texture.
    • Repairability: Easy to spot-repair if a section of the floor gets damaged.
    • Environmentally Friendly: Typically made from natural materials and low in VOCs.
  • Cons:
    • Maintenance: It requires periodic reapplication to maintain its look and protective qualities.
    • Durability: May not hold up as well in high-traffic areas compared to polyurethane.

3.3 Aluminium Oxide

  • Pros:
    • Durability: Among the toughest finishes available, it is resistant to scratches, dents, and general wear.
    • Maintenance: Requires minimal upkeep.
    • Lifespan: Can last up to 25 years before needing Wood Floor refinishing.
  • Cons:
    • Refinishing: Difficult to refinish due to its toughness.
    • Appearance: Can appear slightly cloudy or less natural than oils or polyurethanes.
Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

4. Factors to Consider When Choosing a Finish

4.1 Traffic Levels

High-traffic areas like hallways or living rooms might benefit from a tougher finish like aluminium oxide, while bedrooms or studies might be better suited for hardwax oils.

4.2 Aesthetics

If you value a natural look and feel, you might lean towards hardwax oil. However, if durability and a shiny finish are your preferences, polyurethanes could be ideal.

4.3 Maintenance Commitment

For those looking for low maintenance, aluminium oxide or polyurethane are excellent choices. However, if you’re prepared for periodic upkeep for the sake of a richer, more natural appearance, hardwax oil is worth considering.

4.4 Environmental Concerns

If sustainability and low VOCs are priorities, opt for water-based polyurethanes or hardwax oils.

Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

5. Preparing for Refinishing

Before applying any finish, it’s essential to prepare the engineered wood surface properly.

  1. Clean the Floor: Ensure it’s free from dirt, dust, and debris.
  2. Sanding: Lightly sand the surface to ensure the finish adheres correctly. Remember, the veneer on engineered wood is thin, so be careful not to sand through it.
  3. Vacuum and Wipe: Remove all dust post-sanding.

6. Tips for Applying Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

Applying a finish to your engineered wood floor isn’t just about selecting the right product. The method and care taken during the application process are equally critical. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

6.1 Test Before Applying

Always test your chosen finish on a small, inconspicuous section of the floor or on a sample piece of the same engineered wood. This way, you can ensure the finish imparts the desired colour, sheen, and texture.

6.2 Ensure Proper Ventilation

Regardless of the finish you choose, make sure the room is well-ventilated during and after the application. Even low-VOC finishes can emit fumes that you wouldn’t want to breathe in for extended periods.

6.3 Use the Right Tools

Invest in high-quality brushes or applicators specific to your chosen finish. A good brush can make a significant difference in achieving an even and smooth finish.

6.4 Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Different finishes might have unique application methods. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for best results. This includes recommendations on drying time, the number of coats, and post-application care.

6.5 Watch Out for Bubbles

When applying finishes, especially polyurethanes, be cautious of leaving behind bubbles. These can harden and leave an uneven surface. Gentle, even strokes and not shaking the finish can help avoid this.

6.6 Consider Professional Help

If you’re unsure about refinishing your floors on your own, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. Their expertise can ensure the job is done right, saving you from potential mishaps and long-term regrets.

Engineered Wood Floor Finishes

7. The Impact of External Factors

Environmental conditions can significantly influence how a finish sets and lasts. Here’s what to keep in mind:

7.1 Humidity

High humidity can extend the drying time of some finishes and even affect their final appearance. Always check the recommended humidity levels before application.

7.2 Temperature

Temperature fluctuations can impact the drying process. It’s best to apply finishes when the temperature is stable and within the recommended range by the manufacturer.

7.3 Direct Sunlight

UV rays can cause certain finishes to discolour over time. If your engineered wood floor receives a lot of direct sunlight, consider finishes with UV protection or use window treatments to shield the floor.

By paying attention to these application tips and considering external influences, you can ensure your chosen finish not only looks great but also stands the test of time.


Engineered wood flooring offers a beautiful and durable flooring option for various settings. While they don’t require frequent refinishing like traditional hardwood, when the time comes, choosing the right finish can make all the difference. By comparing the benefits and drawbacks of each finish and considering factors like traffic, aesthetics, maintenance, and environmental concerns, homeowners can make informed decisions that will keep their floors shining for years to come.


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