How To Tell If Wood Floor Is Sandable

This article may contain some affiliate links and if you make a purchase after clicking on any of teh links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

When your wood floor starts looking worn out with lots of scratches and dents, refinishing it will help to give the floor a new life.

But before you begin refinishing your flooring material, it’s imperative to learn how to tell if wood floor is sandable so you don’t sand a floor that is way too thin, which ends up ruining the floor.

In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to know if the wood floor in your home is sandable.

Let’s get started!

How to Tell If Wood Floor Is Sandable

To determine if your wood floor is sandable, you first need to determine if your floors are solid hardwood or engineered.

This is because the refinishing process of hardwood flooring is quite different from that of solid hardwood floors.

The top layer of the thickest engineered hardwood floors is about 4 to 6mm, so it can be sanded and refinished between 3-5 times.

But engineered wood flooring with a wear layer of 2mm or less cannot be sanded down fully; they can only be lightly scuff-sanded with a buffer, and a fresh coat of finish is applied. 

To determine whether you have solid hardwood or engineered wood floors, look for the vents or registers on the floor and remove the grille.

You should be able to see the cross-section of the wood as well as the center of the board next to the register.

If the floor is an engineered wood floor, you will be able to tell by the layers of plywood the plank has.

You can also carry out this inspection at an exterior doorway after removing the metal saddle from the floor.

Recommended: How To Seal Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

Determine the Floor Thickness

How To Tell If Wood Floor Is Sandable

Locate an area with a slight gap between the floorboards and stick a gift card or credit card all the way into the crack.

Use a pencil to mark along the floor edge, then take out the card and measure from the marked line to the edge of the card.

If the thickness is less than 3/4 inch, the floor is too thin and worn out to be sanded.

If you are persistent about sanding it, maybe due to deep scratches or dings on the floor, you need to hire a professional.

Residue buildup such as old carpet or tile adhesive can be removed using scrapers and does not need to be sanded.

Sanding wood floors that are too thin can cause the boards to splinter.

Most hardwood planks have an interlocking design with a tongue and groove, so at least 1/8 of an inch of wood should be left at the top of the board above the tongue and groove for a full sanding to be safe.

Although it is quite possible to refinish floorboards thinner than 1/8 of an inch, such projects are best left for professionals, so do not attempt to do it yourself.

This is due to the high risk of damage associated with sanding thinner floors.

However, even if your floors are too thin to sand, screening can still be used to achieve a refinished look, as it takes off the existing layer of finish and without removing any of the wood.

So you can give the floor a few coats of finish to give them a new look.

If you are unable to determine if your wood floor is thick enough to be sanded yourself, you can call an expert to measure the floor thickness so that you will not damage your floors

If you take on the job, do not refinish your floors until you are absolutely certain that the boards have enough wood to sand down.

Refinishing floors that are too thin not only lead to the splintering of wood but also expose nails, making the boards unsafe to walk on.

You can even damage the floors to the extent they need total replacement, which will cost you far more than hiring a professional to inspect your floors first.

Check for Water Damage

Even if the floorboards are thick enough to be sanded, if your floors have sustained substantial water damage or stains from pet urine, you may need to fully replace the affected boards.

Sanding and refinishing will not clean urine stains and stench that has become deeply embedded in the boards out.

Sanding also won’t be able to fix warps due to moisture buildup from extended water exposure.

However, you can remove less destructive stains by sanding.

This is why it is crucial to clean up any liquid spill on a hardwood floor as soon as it occurs. 


Now that you know how to tell if wood floor is sandable, you can go ahead and inspect your floors, checking the thickness, type of wood floor, and presence of water damages before determining if your floor can be refinished.

Recommended: How to Remove Vinyl Flooring In Bathroom