Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

August 3, 2023

There are a variety of details to consider when shopping for new flooring. From choosing a specific type of wood flooring to the finish type, there are so many options to consider to find the best flooring option for your home or business. Something that many homeowners and business owners may not consider is the difference between prefinished hardwood flooring and unfinished hardwood flooring. We’re here help go through the details, pros and cons of the choices and why one may be better than the other for certain projects and high traffic situations.

Reclaimed Rustic Oak Floor - Clear UV Finish

What is Prefinished Flooring?

In recent years, prefinished hardwood flooring has become a popular option among homeowners, installers and interior designers. Prefinished hardwood floors are exactly what they sound like: hardwood planks that are stained and sealed with a polyurethane topcoat prior to installation. Each board is “prefinished” prior to hitting the store shelf. The boards are manufactured from real hardwood and often sealed with a highly durable and scratch-resistance coating. Prefinished flooring comes in a wide range of stain colors, finishes, and sizes.

Ready to Discover More?

Your next project is just around the corner. Browse our product galleries for more inspiration.

Timeless character enhanced with natural finish
A Floor You Can Live On Everyday
Traditional Walnut Wood Flooring
Factory Finished Hardwood

Benefits of Prefinished Wood Flooring

1. Quicker Installation
Because the boards have already been stained and sealed, the installation process is a lot faster and easiest. Prefinished planks are even DIY-friendly for the savvy homeowner who is interested in tackling their own home improvement project.

2. Safer for Inhabitants
Prefinished hardwood flooring has already had the stain applied so inhabitants of the home won’t be exposed to any fumes while the floors are curing. Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) are used in many adhesives and finishes that can put off harmful fumes as they dry. 

3. Durability
Prefinished wood flooring is typically coated with layers of a very durable finish known as aluminum-oxide-infused polyurethane and then cured under UV lights. The finish on these hardwood planks is incredibly strong and scratch resistant. 

4. Multiple Options
There are a wide variety of options to choose from when it comes to prefinished hardwood flooring. These wood planks are available in many wood species, colors and textures. 

Challenges of Prefinished Flooring

1.  Less Customizable
While there are a wide range of options, one of the challenges of prefinished hardwood flooring is that it does have some limitations in regards to customizations. There may be limitations such as plank width, lengths, grain, and specific sheen levels of the sealant.

2. Difficult to Resand and Refinish
Prefinished hardwood floors are not immune to damage, and due to the durability of the surface, it may be difficult to repair a single board. It also may be more difficult to refinish the entire floor if you decide to refresh it years down the road.

3. Subfloor Issues May Show
If the planks are installed on a perfectly level subfloor, prefinished hardwood flooring will look just as smooth as any traditional hardwood floor. However, since prefinished hardwood flooring is not sanded as part of the installation, any uneven subfloor spots could cause visible gaps between the planks or unevenness.

What is Unfinished Wood Flooring?

Wood flooring that is finished on site is the more traditional way that hardwood floors have been installed for decades. This involves installing the unfinished wood flooring first, sanding the floor, and then applying the stain and sealants to the installed floors. While this is how floors were installed in homes historically, it is still very common practice in many homes today. 

Benefits of Unfinished Flooring

1.  Many Customization Options
nfinished hardwood floors are a blank slate and can be made into whatever the homeowner invisions. Installers can also incorporate custom elements like inlays, medallions, or borders. 

2. Refinishing is Easier in the Future
You can refinish your hardwood floors as desired much easier than with prefinished hardwood flooring. Solid wood floors last for years, but if you need to refresh the appearance in the future, it’ll be much easier to complete on a site finished hardwood floor.

3. No Beveled Edges
Prefinished planks have a seam or beveled edge due to the nature of the product. With site finished hardwood floors, the floor is sanded as part of the installation removing any beveled edge and creating a seamless look.

Challenges of Unfinished Flooring

1.  Time Intensive Installation
The biggest con to choosing a site finished hardwood floor is the time it takes to install. After the solid hardwood is installed there are a variety of steps including sanding and staining. You also have to wait some time for the floor to cure and the homeowner will have to be careful not to cause any damage to the floor during the process.

Prefinished and Unfinished Hardwood Flooring are both available at Elmwood Reclaimed Timber!

While there are several ways a floor can be finished, ultimately it is a choice that depends on your specific needs. Site finishing is a great choice for someone who desires the ultimate customization options and when there is ample time and smell is not an issue. When time is more critical and disruption needs to be considered, a prefinished floor makes good sense. Elmwood Reclaimed Timber carries a wide variety of wood flooring options to choose from.

We know it can be overwhelming to make a final decision. Let us help you explore all your options. Please feel free to reach out to our team for assistance with choosing the right flooring type, surface texture and finish for your project. 

You can also send us your wood flooring project specifications and we will send you a free quote!

Contact Us

Ready to Discover More?

Your next project is just around the corner. Browse our product galleries for more inspiration.