Prefinished Vs Site Finished (Unfinished) Hardwood Floors: Which Is Best?

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Hardwood floors can either be finished by the factory or by the homeowner. This difference is known as prefinished or site-finished (unfinished) floors. The debate between the best among prefinished vs site finished hardwood floors is never-ending.

Prefinished hardwood flooring is typically more cost-effective as it requires only installation, with no additional work necessary. On the other hand, site-finished hardwood flooring arrives unfinished, requiring additional steps of sanding, staining, and finishing post-installation, which makes it a pricier option.

difference between prefinished and site finished hardwood floors
difference between prefinished and site finished hardwood floors

One major difference between pre-finished and site-finished hardwood flooring is plank beveling. Typically, pre-finished planks feature beveled edges, unlike site-finished ones which have square edges, making the latter’s edges less noticeable.

However, both prefinished vs site finished hardwood floors have pros and cons. So stay tuned until the rest of the article to make a wise decision.

What Are Prefinished Hardwood Floors?

Prefinished hardwood floors are the ones which have been given a factory finish of a sealant which gives the floors a protective coating against all the factors of wear and tear.

These floors are sanded in the factory and finished simultaneously, so you do not have to carry out these procedures separately.

In the last decade, prefinished floors have gained popularity and turned towards these as they are much easier to install and relatively cheaper.

What are prefinished hardwood floors?
What are prefinished hardwood floors?

Besides, having refinished hardwood floors makes the process super-fast as you do not have to wait for the floors to be laid down and given all the necessary treatments, then wait for them to cure until you can finally walk on them.

Most of these procedures are done in the factory, making the overall installation process much simpler and more convenient.

Another big reason for the popularity of prefinished floors is that storing them is much easier in showrooms and houses.

Moreover, you won’t have to do any special preparation for the floors except cleaning them so they can be installed easily on the surface. Besides, the prefinished hardwood is much cheaper than other types of flooring.

Perhaps one of the greatest reasons for the popularity of these floors is that they are very easy to install and do not require any professional assistance.

Prefinished hardwood floors can last longer if taken care and cleaned properly.

What Are Site-Finished Hardwood Floors?

Site-finished hardwood floors are the ones which have not undergone any type of treatment and are present in the rawest state possible.

Neither have they been treated with any chemicals nor coated with stain or covered with a varnish.

What are site finished hardwood floors?
What are site finished hardwood floors?

Hence, you will have to do all of these steps yourself. This is the old and traditional approach many homeowners still prefer as it yields many benefits to the user, such as customizing them according to their likeness.

Moreover, as they are not sanded, the site-finished boards will never have the same thickness or level of grain.

Each of them will be slightly variable in terms, and you might not be able to notice this until the entire batch is laid down on your floors. Only then can you assess the difference in levels and textures.

As no treatment is given to the hardwood planks, they might get discolored due to environmental conditions such as sunlight or moisture due to the lack of a protective coating.

This might result in a color change or even the texture of the wood. Besides, the moisture levels of each can be different, which would take some time before they can get acclimated and become even throughout the floors.

All these factors would mean you must sand, stain, and finish the floors yourself. While many people think it is an added expense and too much effort, it also has its benefits, which we will discuss later in the article.

Site-finished hardwood floors are still preferred by most old-school professionals and homeowners who want greater control over installing and customizing hardwood floors.

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Prefinished Floor Advantages

While you might already know some of the advantages that a prefinished floor can give you, there are a lot more of them which you might not be aware of.

Prefinished floors are so popular for a reason, and today we will tell you why they are so praised and liked in the flooring community.

The first benefit given of prefinished floors is that they are already finished. If we make it simpler, they are ready to use, and you will not have to wait for any lengthy and time-consuming procedures to be able to use them.

As soon as they are installed on the surface of your room, you are good to go, as the floors are functional.

There is no restriction for moving furniture on the floors or walking on them. Besides, it would be best to wait until you can inhabit the floors once they are sealed.

This is not the case with prefinished floors as they already have a protective coating; hence, they do not get damaged or give off toxins that might harm your health.

Many people have developed a misconception over the years that the factory-applied finish is not durable and is only there to give the floors a label of being finished.

However, this is not true, as the finish layer is smooth and durable.

Moreover, they are applied with advanced spraying methods, so you do not have to worry about an even coating or any dust trapped inside the room.

Different finishes usually give different benefits, but prefinished floors have an ultra-tough aluminum oxide finish cured by UV lights, making them very durable and tough.

Buying prefinished hardwood floors not only saves you a lot of time and effort but also saves you a lot of money.

Usually, the staining, sanding, and finishing require a budget of one to two grand for a room of approximately 150 sq ft.

However, when you buy prefinished hardwood floors, you don’t have to pay this extra amount, and the original cost is also not too high.

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Prefinished Floors Drawbacks

While having a prefinished hardwood floor has many benefits, you might be surprised to know that there are some significant disadvantages too.

Therefore, getting to know these before buying this flooring is better so you can change your decision if necessary.

One of the biggest obvious drawbacks of having prefinished floors is that they have bevels on the edges.

These create small curves at the end of the floorboard, and when you place two boards together, a slightly deep passage is created between them.

Provided that there has to be a certain level of spacing between the planks, the bevels create small cavities between the hardwood boards. This leads to many disadvantages which you might not have thought of earlier.

Firstly, the floors have a v-shaped seam throughout the entire structure as each board has these bevels and creates this small passage in between.

This way, you would not be able to achieve the appearance of a level and smooth surface.

Moreover, every homeowner wants the appearance of site-finished flooring whatsoever. But with the beveled edges, this is certainly not possible.

The reason is that site-finished floors are sanded and cut straight with flat edges to form a seamless surface. Hence, the bevels will give away the appearance of prefinished floors almost immediately.

This does not stop here, as cleaning these bevels is another turbulence.

Besides, when you have to refinish the floors later down the road, once the finish is worn off, excessive sanding will become necessary to make the surface level.

This will mean that the floors will be much thinner and not last as long as the manufacturer claimed earlier.

Furthermore, you can not stain the wood to get the right color on the floors so it can match the surrounding theme or aesthetics.

Lastly, you can’t use the same flooring in any other room as it won’t fit in with the surface. Every manufacturer has their level of thickness and bevel, so the floorboards will simply not blend in.

Site-Finished Floor Advantages

Site-finished hardwood floors have many advantages if you have a look at them. We believe they have been unjustly criticized over the years since prefinished floors took over.

Here are some common benefits of having a site-finished hardwood floor.

Firstly, as the floors are sanded after installation, and the entire floor is sanded in one go, there are no bevels in this scenario, which means that all the issues related to bevels are not found with site-finished hardwood floors.

Besides, you can get a clean and level finish throughout the surface, so you do not have to worry about excessive sanding to ensure the grooves or bevels are clean.

This maintains the right level and makes the cleaning process much easier.

A site-finished floor can be customized greatly to the owner’s taste and preferences.

From the right colored stain to inlays, borders, custom medallions, custom patterns, finish sheen levels, and more, you have unlimited options to achieve the exact look you want with your hardwood floors.

Besides, while it is never possible to make prefinished floors look site-finished, it is possible the other way around. You can easily get bevels on the edges of the hardwood floors if you want a similar look on the surface.

Another important point to note here is that unfinished floors are replaceable.

Even if your existing flooring has retained some damage, you can easily replace it with a hardwood plank of the same wood species and specifications.

If you can’t find the exact piece, you can get the most similar one and customize it to blend in with the floors.

Lastly, maintenance and recoating are very easy in these floorings as you’ve chosen the finish yourself, so you can get the exact product and give the floors another coat rather than having to refinish them completely.

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Site-Finished Floors Drawbacks

Site-finished floors also have some disadvantages, which are listed below.

There is always a chance of dust being trapped in the finishes with this type of flooring as the process is not carried out in a climate-controlled and dust-proof environment.

You can clean the floors, but the finish will never be as perfect as the factory-applied finish in prefinished hardwood floors.

These types of flooring take much time to install, and once they are laid down, the following procedures are very demanding in terms of effort and time. It won’t be until a couple of days after installation that you can use the floors.

Prefinished Vs Site Finished Hardwood Floors | Which One Is Better?

Prefinished Vs Site Finished Hardwood Floors | Which One Is Better?
Prefinished Vs Site Finished Hardwood Floors | Which One Is Better?

Both floorings are extremely good, and you must choose the one that suits you best and gives the most preferred results.

While prefinished floors are an easy choice for flooring and save you much cost, the site-finished floors are a lengthy and costly process.

However, they give you many customization options, making maintenance much easier. Choosing the right one between them is important if you want the best-looking floors.

Here are some important points you must remember while buying your preferred flooring.

Maintenance

Maintenance is easier for site-finished floors as compared to prefinished floors. The bevels in prefinished floors make it harder to clean the surface as dust and dirt can accumulate between them.

However, no such problem occurs with the site-finished floors as they are cut straight and do not have any bevels.

Cost

Site-finished floors are much more expensive than prefinished ones. This is mainly because of the added procedures such as finishing, sanding, staining, etc., which increases the labor and material costs.

Refinishing

Refinishing is much easier with a site-finished hardwood floor. As there are no bevels and you know the product you used earlier, you won’t need to sand the wood excessively.

Besides, you can even recoat only and skip the sanding part if it’s not necessary.

However, this luxury is not available with prefinished floors as they must be excessively sanded out so the bevels can be leveled. Lastly, choosing the right finish can be a real nuisance.

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Final Words

We hope your confusion regarding these two floorings has been settled and you’ve found the most suitable flooring type for yourself.

The guide above on prefinished vs site finished hardwood floors gives you the complete analysis and comparison of both types of floorings. Let us know if this article was helpful and if you want more of such content.

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