Prefinished hardwood flooring goes against the rules of tradition since the typical installation process involves staining and finishing the wood after the planks are in place. This process creates a protective layer that you make on-site for a custom finish that can meet the challenges of the local environment. Manufacturers are now finishing the planks themselves to reduce the amount of time that’s necessary to finish the installation work.
It is essential to remember that the advantages of prefinished hardwood flooring apply when discussing products that are a solid, authentic wood. If you are using engineered hardwood flooring, laminate products, or something similar, then these pros and cons do not apply to the options you are considering today.
If you are using a solid (not engineered) product, then the pros and cons of prefinished hardwood flooring are worth considering because you can save some installation time while still managing your overall costs.
List of the Pros of Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
1. Prefinished hardwood floors have a high durability level.
When the manufacturer applies a finish treatment to the hardwood floors, they are using a robust chemical sealer that is not available to installers who operate on-site. That means there are aluminum oxide crystals embedded into the urethane coat of the product so that the planks have a higher resistance to wear-and-tear issues after installation. If you were to follow the traditional processes for hardwood flooring, you might get 2-5 years of life from the product before a resurfacing project became necessary.
Thanks to this unique advantage, manufacturers are now offering prefinished hardwood flooring that comes with a warranty of 25 years or more. Most of the warranties come with protection against defects in the materials and the finishing processes used to create the planks in the first place.
2. The installation of prefinished hardwood flooring is a simple process.
The installation of prefinished hardwood flooring follows the same processes that a contractor or DIY specialist would use to install unfinished planks. This advantage creates a time savings because you do not go through the process of sanding and staining the material once you have the flooring in place.
When you sand an unfinished hardwood floor, then the room typically fills with sawdust which must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid any breathing issues in the future. It can also take several hours, if not several days, for the finishes on the flooring to dry between each coat. The finish could also leave a residual odor in the air that can take several weeks to dissipate, which is not an issue with prefinished planks.
3. Your maintenance chores are easier with prefinished hardwood flooring.
Because prefinished hardwood flooring offers a surface seal which is stronger and more durable thanks to its factory application, the maintenance chores for this option are significantly reduced when compared to engineered products or other flooring alternatives. This option tends to be more impervious to stains, moisture damage, and discoloration issues that can impact the visual appeal of other floors. When you combine this advantage with the longer-lasting finish that you receive, that means there are fewer issues with mess, time investments and expenses when compared to the other options which are available.
4. You can still refinish a prefinished floor if you want.
Although one of the unique advantages of a prefinished hardwood floor is that you don’t need to finish or refinished it in the future, you still have the option to change up your look if you want after installation. You can sand down beneath the coating that the factory applied to the product to reveal the natural wood of the planks. Then you can apply your preferred stain and seal to give each room the visual impact that you want it to have. Any of the on-site treatment techniques that you would use with an unfinished product are usable at this stage if you get beneath the manufacturer’s work.
5. You can use the flooring right away once the installation work is complete.
When you decide to use prefinished hardwood flooring, then the surface is ready to use right away. Unless you decide to seal the edges of your planks, you can walk on your new floor as soon as they are in place. There is no need to wait for the finish to dry, and you do not need to relocate out of your home because of the fumes of the finishing products. Because everything is done at the factory, this option is the closest that you can get to a plug and play floor while using hardwood materials.
6. Prefinished hardwood floors have a harder initial surface.
When the manufacturer finishes the planks for your prefinished hardwood flooring at the factory, then you will receive a harder surface when compared to finishing the work on site. The added durability that you receive with this advantage means that your new floor can withstand harsher treatment, making it a suitable choice for households that are always busy. This choice also works well if you have dogs or cats at home, and you want to enjoy all of the benefits that come with owning a hardwood floor.
7. You will have more consistency and uniformity with the final product.
If you choose to use the traditional installation processes for unfinished planks, then there is a risk of coloring, sealing, and staining not being consistent. Although that can add some aesthetic variety to the final product, many homeowners are finding that the uniformity and consistency offered by prefinished hardwood floors add some more curb appeal to the value of their property. Each plank goes through the same finishing processes at the factory to ensure that the results are what you want to see every time.
Some products even come with an anti-scratch coating that helps to make the final floor more resistant to the minor surface damage that tends to accumulate in the average home.
8. The cost profile for a prefinished hardwood floor is the same as an unfinished one.
When you decide to install a hardwood floor in your home, then the cost of a prefinished plank is similar to what you would spend for an unfinished product. The average national cost in the United States to install a wooden floor is approximately $4,500. You can save some money by using a softwood product like pine, but then you will be sacrificing durability to reduce the initial capital expense. Plan to pay between $5 to $8 per square foot for a usable product that will highlight the natural beauty of your home.
This option is the gold standard in flooring, so look for the options with the best cost profile to ensure that you can get exactly what you want.
List of the Cons of Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
1. Your seams will not be sealed with prefinished hardwood flooring.
Because the manufacturer is sealing the prefinished hardwood floor at the factory, there is no way for the planks to have their edges sealed after the installation process is completed. You must apply an agent to the floor to protect against having dirt and grime caught between the planks because of this disadvantage. If you fail to add a sealing agent, then there can be issues with water penetration, eventually leading to mold or rot growing beneath the surface of the planks.
2. Most prefinished hardwood flooring products come with beveled edges.
There are fewer style choices to consider with prefinished hardwood flooring when compared to an unfinished plank. Most of the manufacturers use a beveled edge with this product instead of creating a sharp corner. That means the slightly rounded edges tend to offer a look that is more finished when the work is complete, but it also gives your floor a look that speaks of it being manufactured.
You may discover that the look of your prefinished hardwood flooring planks does not match your other floors at home if you are repairing, upgrading, or installing a new floor in a different room. It might be better to look for straight-edge options instead, even if that means using an unfinished product at the end of the day.
3. Any flaws in your subfloor will become immediately evident with this product.
When you install unfinished planks in a room, then the final steps of the job entail sanding the floor so that you receive a flat surface. This work is not part of the installation process for a prefinished hardwood floor. That means you will not have the opportunity to remove any height irregularities that can exist when the subfloor is uneven. Any flaws that are present below the surface of the floor will become evident immediately, which means you will need to create a perfectly flat foundation to maintain the health and quality of the final product. This disadvantage can drive up the cost of the project significantly, so older homes can sometimes benefit from a thorough inspection and evaluation before installing your first planks.
4. Heavy sanding is necessary to change the look of a prefinished floor.
If you decide that you don’t like the look of your prefinished hardwood floor or it is not aging well, then it will require heavy sanding to get through the factory topcoat. Even if the planks come with a 25-year warranty, they surface seal is going to receive scratches, start fading, and experience discoloration. Refinishing the surface requires extensive sanding to reach the hardwood of the product, cutting down on the thickness of your planks. This disadvantage eventually limits the number of times that you’ll have an opportunity to refinish the floor in the future.
5. Repairing prefinished hardwood floors can be a complicated process.
If you are working with unfinished planks, then a quick repair can happen if a piece of wood becomes damaged during the installation process. All you need to do is to sand down the imperfect spot to get a level floor once again. Because the prefinished wood comes with such a thick sealant layer, the only way to repair the floor is to refinish the entire space or remove and replaced the section which requires fixing. There are no simple ways to restore the value of your installation if something unexpected happens.
6. You have access to fewer installation options with a prefinished hardwood floor.
If you are installing a hardwood floor and want your contractor to perform inlays or other unique elements with the design of your planks, then you almost always need to purchase an unfinished product instead of using something that was finished at the factory. There are certain wood types and plank sizes which are not available when you choose prefinished hardwood flooring. There are also some specific styles and shapes that only come when you choose an option that requires on-site finishing.
Think of prefinished hardwood flooring as the option you want when a fast installation that still looks good is your top priority. If your preference is to have a custom look that requires a higher level of craftsmanship to complete, then an unfinished flooring option is the better choice.
7. There are fewer choices available to you with prefinished hardwood flooring.
Unfinished hardwood flooring can come in a wide variety of lengths, widths, grain types, colors, and other preferences that you might have. Then you can choose to finish the product in the way that you think is best. Choosing prefinished hardwood flooring can come with a wide variety of benefits, but you will have fewer choices available to you since the goal is to create a consistent plank. The manufacturing processes give you more durability in return, but it takes away the idea of a custom product.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Prefinished Hardwood Floors
Prefinished hardwood floors give you an opportunity to install beautiful planks at an affordable price. You can avoid many of the uncomfortable sights and smells of finishing the traditional hardwood floor, receive a durable surface that can last for decades, and enjoy a low-maintenance lifestyle with this product.
There are also some specific challenges that this flooring option presents. The manufacturing style takes a specific approach that typically bevels the edges, creating a visual aesthetic that might not match what you have with the rest of the house.
If you have a knowledgeable contractor or experience doing this work yourself, then the advantages typically outweigh any negative experiences you might have. Consider your situation today to see if the pros and cons of prefinished hardwood floors can land in your favor too.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.