Pre-Finished vs. Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring

As builders of luxury homes, we usually find that our buyers prefer to have site-finished flooring installed in their homes. But when someone is considering remodeling, they will often ask about the pros and cons of both pre-finished and site-finished flooring.

Wood flooringPre-finished hardwood flooring definitely has its advantages such as:

  • Ease of installation. Installers usually only need a day, depending on the floor area size, to complete the job with no sanding and no finishes used onsite.
  • Because the pre-finished floor already has been coated, usually multiple times at the factory and therefore does not have to be sanded and finished onsite, it is more convenient to install.
  • Since the multiple coats of finish are applied at the factory, pre-finished wood flooring has a very durable wear layer and the finish itself is under warranty by the manufacturer. Pre-finished flooring is accomplished with 3-9 coats plus an ultra-violet cured urethane finish.
  • No drying or curing time is required. Floors are ready to walk on immediately after installation.
  • No toxic fumes or strong odors are produced during installation, nor is dust from sanding.
  • No need to relocate family and pets during the finishing step.

Even with these strong advantages, pre-finished flooring has it disadvantages such as:

  • Pre-finished floors can be dirt traps and very hard to clean between the cracks since the cracks are not sealed at the job site.
  • When refinishing pre-finished flooring, it is necessary to remove a lot more wood to get a level floor, so in effect, you are losing more wood and more life of the floor in the very first refinish than with a solid ¾” hardwood floor.
  • Although pre-finished floors are convenient in that they install without sanding and finishing, most have a beveled edge on the wood strips which some people find unattractive. A custom, sanded, hardwood floor has a table-top appearance and is perfectly flat looking.
  • A pre-finished floor will maintain height irregularities of the substrate. In short, a bump in the subfloor means a bump in the pre-finished floor unless the subfloor is fixed first. Site-finished flooring is sanded flat, so it is more forgiving of slight irregularities or slight height variations.
  • If your pre-finished floor gets damaged, it means ripping out a whole section of flooring and completely replacing it to correct it. Whereas, site-finished hardwood flooring can, and in most cases, be easily fixed with a quick sanding and finish.
  • When installing hardwood flooring, it is necessary to top nail the boards along the perimeter, near walls or cabinets, to start the floor.  In site-finished flooring, these small nail holes are filled, then sanded and finished and are usually not very visible. In pre-finished flooring, these small nail holes are filled, but not sanded, so they may be a bit more visible.
  • Over time, and possibly over homeowner changes, many people don’t know or forget the actual manufacturer of their pre-finished flooring product, which makes it much more difficult to get an exact match if board replacements are necessary at some point, or if they want to add additional flooring to other rooms of the home and want an exact match. Additionally, some of the flooring may be discontinued in time, eliminating the availability of ordering more if it becomes necessary to match.

In the end, only you, the homeowner, can make the decision about which flooring is right for you.

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2 Responses to “Pre-Finished vs. Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring”

  1. Great ideas. Hardwood flooring would make a great touch to any room, even your basement! Thanks for sharing.
    Wayne@ Palatine Hardwood Flooring

  2. Great article. I am definitely a traditional site finished flooring guy myself. However, their are many great new prefinished floors available these days..

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