Prefinished vs. Unfinished

Wood floors are popular due to their rich natural beauty and versatility. They are available in both prefinished and unfinished options, each offering its own benefits and drawbacks. When comparing prefinished to unfinished consider things like budget, installation, maintenance and application to help you make your selection.

Making a choice between prefinished and unfinished wood floors can be a struggle for anyone. A prefinished floor has a durable finish that is applied at the factory and comes with a beveled edge. Prefinished varieties tend to be long lasting and durable. Out of the box, they have a consistent finish that is smooth. They usually are quick and easy to install. Because prefinished floors do not require sanding or finishing, unpleasant odors or messes during installation are avoided.

Unfinished floors also have their advantages. On average, the wood tends to be cheaper, and more widths and wood species are available than when buying pre-finished. When trying to match an existing wood floor, unfinished may be the way to go as more options are available. When looking at your investment, keep in mind that unfinished floors are easier to refinish over time because they do not have the tough surface seals that are applied at the factory on prefinished wood floors. Last, but not least, finishes that are applied in the field penetrate not only the top, but also the sides of each plank. This method leaves fewer gaps where dirt or water can collect in the seams.

When deciding on prefinished or unfinished wood floors, ask yourself these questions:

  • Q: Will this be new construction or an upgrade?
    A: If this is an upgrade to an existing home, prefinished flooring may be easier. However if you are looking to match existing wood, look into unfinished because the wood will be easier to stain to match.
  • Q: Will the floor be installed in either the kitchen or a high traffic area?
    A: A prefinished wood may be more durable, but will have a beveled edge.
  • Q: Do you have children or pets?
    A: When selecting an unfinished wood, be sure to consider your children and pets during the finishing process so as to not expose them to the mess or fumes.
  • Q: Will you be installing wood floors throughout your home or in just one room?
    A: If it is throughout the home, you may want to consider finishing the floors on site to accomplish a consistent color and finish.
  • Q: Are you looking for an unusual wood species or a certain plank width?
    A: Unfinished wood has the most choices and options.
  • Q: Is the floor in a basement or a room with high humidity?
    A: You may want to consider an engineered wood, laminate floor, or we can seal the concrete with a moisture barrier.
  • Q: Are you wanting to maintain the architectural integrity or historical significance of your home?
    A: The appropriate choice in this case may be an unfinished wood.

When in doubt, always ask an installation professional for advise. They will be able to go over the different types of wood flooring and bring samples of different finishes and wood types. It is always better to see samples in your home with the actual lighting your home has along with your furnishings. As you are researching for that perfect choice, write down the names of the woods and finishes you like when visiting your friends houses and looking through magazines. This will help the flooring professional better understand your preferences.

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