Prefinished vs. Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Category: Flooring

Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood

When building your new house there are many decisions to be made. One of these decisions is selecting flooring and in particular hardwood flooring. But once you have decided on hardwood flooring there are many other decisions to make; smooth vs hand-scraped, solid vs engineered, wood species, width and finish. We have discussed solid vs engineered in a previous post. In this post we will define and discuss the differences between finishes.

The finish is the protective top coat that is applied to the hardwood flooring to protect the hardwood from damage such as wear-and-tear, moisture and stains. Prefinished flooring has the finish applied at the factory. Whereas unfinished flooring has the finish applied on-site after installation.

Prefinished flooring has any stain and finish coatings applied in a factory controlled environment. Typically the finish consists of several coatings of an aluminum oxide urethane which is cured under ultraviolet lighting which helps preserve color and create an extremely durable finish. Site finished flooring on the other hand typically only gets two or three coats of polyurethane which is air dried. The resulting finish isn’t as durable against scratches or stains as prefinished flooring.

Advantages of Prefinished Flooring

  • Less time to install: flooring is delivered already sanded and finished
  • No drying or curing time required: flooring can be walked on immediately after installation
  • No sanding dust or finishing odors
  • Typically comes with a manufacturer’s warranty
  • Can be sanded and refinished in the future
  • Usually more edge/bevel options

Advantages of Unfinished Flooring

  • Easier to match existing hardwood flooring or other interior décor
  • Custom color staining
  • Easier to do custom inlays
  • Can be sanded and refinished in the future
  • Some exotic wood species or plank widths are only available unfinished

With the breadth of prefinished flooring offerings from the manufactures most new home buyers will find a prefinished option that meets their needs and delivers exceptional performance. However there will be those applications where a site finished hardwood is more appropriate.

~the Brennans

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