Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood floors appeal to homeowners and commercial property owners alike because of the material’s natural beauty, durability, cleanability and environmental benefits. Wood flooring comes in a broad variety of species—oak, hickory, maple, and cherry are just a few of the domestic woods available. There are many exotic species available as well; Brazilian Cherry, Tiger Wood, Ipe and Santos Mahogany just to name a few.

Each type of wood requires a protective finish to seal and shield the surface against moisture stains and daily wear and tear. Finishing also showcases a floor’s natural elements and beauty.

When conducting research for a hardwood flooring project, perhaps the most important option you must consider concerns the merits and shortcomings of prefinished hardwood vs unfinished hardwood.

Prefinished and unfinished flooring

Unfinished Hardwood FlooringPrefinished wood floors comes in hundreds of options with finishes that are applied at the factory, under controlled environmental conditions. This closely-monitored process ensures that the product is properly dried and cured. Most prefinished floor manufacturers offer flooring with slight beveled edge and ends. This feature is probably the biggest difference between these contenders. It creates a slight groove between each board, and makes individual boards more prominent. It is done to off-set the minor height differences from plank to plank. There is no ill effect by this eased edge. The floor still performs the same as a sight-finished floor. The advantages are: the floor is finished when the installation is finished, the mess is lessened and the odors of the stains and finishes are eliminated.

In comparison, manufacturers ship unfinished hardwood wood flooring from the factory in “bare” condition. After installation, the installer must sand the floor to get a nice, smooth and level surface across the entire plane of the new floor—resulting in an uninterrupted floor. The floor is now ready for staining and finishing.

Most people would not notice one floor type from the other unless they were visible side by side. The sight-finished floor is more desirable as it is one continuous block of smooth wood. Most buyers however, will tend to choose the pre-finished versions mainly because they are marketed tremendously in all flooring stores and home improvement outlets. Sight finishing requires much more craftsmanship. It also takes longer to complete which steers many toward the quicker, less painful process of prefinished flooring.

Each type of hardwood flooring product—finished and unfinished—has its own unique advantages.

Job-finished hardwood flooring

Following are some other benefits of unfinished hardwood:

  • Installer can easily add distinctive features like borders and inlays
  • Unfinished hardwoods come in a greater choice board widths
  • Wider variety–exotic wood species, reclaimed wood from older buildings and structures
  • Floors can be custom color stained to match interior features-doors, trims, baseboards

Unfinished hardwood allows the owner to match existing wood floors and creates a seamless transition from room-to-room—a result that may be difficult to achieve with prefinished hardwood.

Many hardwood floor buyers prefer installing unfinished hardwood floors because it offers a more aesthetically pleasing appearance—in their opinion. However, if the property is occupied, it is important to remember that once the boards are nailed in place—the real mess begins. Sanding wood floors produces a lot of dust.

You can seal off the workspace from the rest of the home or commercial space to minimize dust, and use of a “dust-less” vacuum system will help tremendously. But invariably, you can expect to get some residual somewhere. In addition, staining and sealing the floors will create odors.

To avoid the hassles of fumes, dust and other inconveniences of an unfinished hardwood flooring project, it may be necessary to relocate for a day or two.

Factory finished wood flooring

Of course, you can avoid the fumes and the interruption of your lifestyle by availing yourself of the advantages of prefinished hardwood flooring. The project requires less time from start to completion because the flooring arrives on site already sand and finished.

  • No need to wait for the floor to dry and cure—walk on newly laid floor immediately after installation
  • No worries about fumes or toxic odors
  • Factory finish produces a harder more durable surface
  • Prefinished flooring manufacturers offer warranty on the finishes

When evaluating the merits of prefinished hardwood vs unfinished hardwood, remember that you can sand and refinished each floor multiple times.

So if you are in the process of making this decision, prefinished hardwood vs unfinished hardwood, take the above information into consideration. Once you are ready for the next step in making this decision, or if you are looking for more information, contact Just Around the Corner Flooring and speak to a flooring expert.

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