Traditional hardwood flooring is installed unfinished and then the boards are sanded and finished in your home. Prefinished hardwood floors are finished in the factory and then installed in your home. There are benefits to both types of finishing.
You will want to explore what the pros and cons are for each method before choosing your flooring. There are also some considerations you might want to make beforehand, including what type of wood species you want, what your budget is and if you want any special techniques, like hand scraping, applied.
Hardwood floors have been used for centuries. Traditionally, unfinished wood planks are installed and then they are sanded, stained and sealed. Typical finishes are wax, water-based polyurethane or oil-based polyurethane.
Wax is the most traditional finish, but it takes more upkeep and refinishing. It is not as durable as polyurethane, so it stains and imperfections are more likely. Wax is easy to apply, low odor and not as shiny as polyurethane.
Both water-based and oil-based polyurethane are fairly durable, with oil being slightly more durable than water-based. Benefits of a traditionally finished floor are that existing finishes or flooring are easier to match this way. Custom staining and design are also easier with a floor that is finished on-site. This type of flooring can be sanded and refinished many times, leaving room for change or updating down the road. When comparing solid species to species unfinished and pre-finished boards, unfinished flooring will be less expensive as well.
Factory finished hardwood is becoming increasingly popular for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that pre-finished hardwood floor installation is much quicker and easier than traditional on-site finishing. Once the flooring is installed you can immediately walk on it. There is no mess and no odor.
Pre-finished floors can still be sanded and refinished if needed, but they are less likely to need refinishing because the factory finish is harder and more durable than finishes that are put on unfinished boards on-site.
Choosing Your Finish
Weigh the pros and cons for each type before you choose. You should also take a look at what styles are available in pre-finished boards and what is available in unfinished boards. You might want to also consider your lifestyle and what is most important to you in a floor.
If you really like pre-finished flooring but you don’t like the price tag, you can always consider engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood is pre-finished, but it isn’t made of a solid piece of hardwood so it is generally a little less expensive.