Hardwood Floor Finishes Part 1: Prefinished vs. Unfinished Hardwoods

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When you’ve decided to lay hardwood floors throughout your home, the next step is deciding which type to install: unfinished or pre-finished. There are pros and cons for each, depending on what you need. Read on to learn more about hardwood floor finishes and the differences between pre-finished and unfinished hardwood flooring.

Defining Pre-finished and Unfinished Hardwoods

Unfinished or raw flooring was previously the norm, with flooring experts installing naked planks and then applying staining and finishes while on the job site. This would ensure that floors were uniform in color and that there were no gaps or holes between the boards, creating an overall tighter finish compared to the subpar pre-finished flooring of the times.

These elements also differentiate unfinished hardwoods from their pre-finished counterparts:

    • They can be custom-stained to fit the owners’ preferences.
    • Unfinished hardwoods require several coats of finish, which must dry between applications.
    • They require a longer installation process.
    • Trims and unfinished planks can be stained to match.
    • The option generally involves solid wood planking.
    • Unfinished hardwoods are costlier to install, but the flooring itself costs less.

Pre-finished hardwood flooring, with finish applied at factories before being transported to a home for installation, has come a long way, however. It may have previously resulted in nonuniform coloring that was evident in finished products, but new technology has made those issues a thing of the past. Today’s pre-finished flooring is color perfect, more affordable, and involves more hues and shades than ever.

Here are a few of its attributes:

    • It cannot be custom-stained to fit owner preferences.
    • Pre-finished hardwood comes with three to nine finish coats already applied.
    • It requires a shorter installation time frame of just one to two days.
    • It can be used immediately after installation.
    • Pre-finished hardwood involves mess and smells as staining occurs well before installation.
    • Trims cannot be stained to match pre-finished floor planks.
    • The process involves both solid and engineered wood.
    • Pre-finished flooring is less costly to install, but the flooring itself costs more.

Understanding Hardwood Floor Finishes and Colors

There are many hardwood finishes and textures available to homeowners, making selecting appropriate flooring an intricate and important step. Here are just a few of the many options:

Distressed — Weathered to look a more rustic, distressed flooring is achieved by hand scraping or removing staining to create a less-than-smooth appearance.

Smooth — Applied in simple, elegant coats, these hardwood floor finishes ensure that hardwoods look polished, traditional, and extremely level. This is often chosen by homeowners with more modern or classic tastes, particularly those who avoid the farmhouse or rustic-modern décor approaches.

Staining — This can be done to owners’ specifications, and comes in many color options. Stains can also be mixed, thinned, or applied in multiple coats to achieve the desired coloring.

Varnishing — A seal coat, varnish protects hardwoods from damage. It comes in multiple varieties, but can be applied in layers for an additional buffer between floors and everyday life.

Choosing a hardwood flooring color or texture may seem overwhelming, but it’s important to consider and discuss your options. Understanding the differences between and choosing an appropriate seal coat to protect the wood and colors you choose is also important. An expert can help you select the best options for your home and style.

Questions? Ask An Expert!

If you’re not sure whether an unfinished or pre-finished hardwood flooring finish is better for your home, don’t be afraid to ask a flooring expert for help. Calling a local professional to explain your needs and get his or her opinion will keep your project on track and help ensure you make the right decision.

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