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Site-Finished vs Prefinished Hardwood Flooring

Prefinished versus Unfinished Hardwood

There are great selections of both prefinished and unfinished solid hardwood flooring, but what type of hardwood is best for you? Certain advantages and drawbacks should be considered before making your final decision.  These two flooring options differ in style, pricing, installation, and maintenance. Read on to learn more about their unique characteristics.


Quality prefinished hardwood flooring has reached almost the same reputation and prestige of site-finished hardwood. In general, all hardwood adds real estate value to a floor, especially in comparison to look-alike products. There are more customizable options available to you with unfinished hardwood floors. These options include wood species, wood grain, finish, sheen level, and unique design accents. But prefinished flooring is trying to catch up, as they become increasingly more popular – the variety of options increases.

Factory-finished wood planks will have beveled, slightly rounded edges. This gives prefinished flooring a modern and more manufactured look. Because each board is finished individually, this creates a floor that is not totally flat, and will have a visible line or groove in between the boards.

The beveled edges of a prefinished floor often create a trap for dirt, dust, and grime, making them more difficult to clean. A floor that has been finished on site is perfectly flat with full, squared edges and a seamless finish.  


Initially, the price of prefinished hardwood planks will typically be higher than unfinished hardwood planks. Although, the pricing of the materials does not include the labor expenses involved with sanding, staining, and finishing the wood. Thus, site-finished floors are known to be more expensive once you take everything into account, including the product, installation, and finishing costs.

Advantages of Prefinished Hardwood Flooring

  1. Less time for installation
  2. No mess from sanding
  3. No smell from stains and seals
  4. Extra-durable topcoats
  5. Lasts longer before needing to be refinished
  6. Typically costs less
Advantages of Unfinished Hardwood Flooring
  1. Appearance
  2. More Finish Options
  3. Color-match to existing wood in home
  4. Flat edges don’t trap dirt
  5. Longevity
  6. Easier repairs


With site-finished flooring, the raw material is installed and then sanded flat. This allows you to remove any height irregularities which may exist due to an uneven subfloor. There is no sanding process involved with the installation of prefinished materials. This means the surface will reflect any flaws that may be present below. Therefore, a completely flat subfloor is essential for the proper installation of prefinished flooring. 

A prefinished hardwood floor installation has a clear advantage since there’s no need for sanding, staining, and varnishing. Sanding can often be a messy procedure, filling the room with wood dust and requiring thorough cleaning. In addition, hours or even days may be necessary for your finishes to dry between applications on your site-finished flooring. 

The length of time for hardwood floor installation depends on several factors, but it’s safe to say that site-finished floors will always take more time. Once the final coat is dried, you might be required to wait another several days before replacing the room’s furniture. Plus, the products used for finishing can leave a lingering odor in the air, taking weeks to disappear. By contrast, prefinished floors are ready to go immediately after they are installed and will leave no dust or unpleasant smells behind.


When the factory applies finishing treatments to prefinished wood planks, they use powerful chemical sealers that are not available to on-site installers. This means the topcoat of prefinished hardwood floors is often more durable and longer lasting. It will be more resistant to stains, discolorations, and moisture.  While site-applied finishes commonly carry warranties for 3 to 5 years, factory-applied coatings may have warranties lasting 5 to 25 years, or more. 

Some manufacturers offer prefinished hardwood flooring with a scratch-resistant coating, or even coatings that can protect against yellowing from sunlight. As a result, your prefinished floor will likely last longer before you’ll need to refinish or replace it. On the other hand, site-finished floors are easier to have repaired. They can often be repaired by sanding, which will smooth away the imperfection. Repairing prefinished floors is much more difficult because you will have to either sand away all of the finish coating or remove the section of flooring and replace it altogether. 


When it comes to prefinished vs. unfinished, there is no clear winner. Both options have pros and cons worth considering. Some people love the natural imperfections in unfinished/site-finished flooring and the ability to refinish it over and over again. While others appreciate the convenience of perfectly prepared, flawless, ready-to-install and go flooring.

Whichever flooring you choose, there is no denying that it will help to create a wonderful atmosphere for your home for years to come. When you’re considering adding top-quality flooring to your property, contact us for the best local service and hardwood flooring expertise. Our expert consultants are always happy to address any concerns you may have about products or installations. 


Please take a few moments to check some of our customer testimonials and then get in touch with us for an estimate on your hardwood flooring needs or to meet with one of our design consultants to custom design your new floor.  You can visit us at our Newark, DE Showroom or we can come to you. Call (302) 731-8009 (Delaware) or (610) 631-3200 (Pennsylvania) or Visit Us.

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