News & Information

The Ins and Outs of Unfinished and Prefinished Hardwood Flooring

April 5, 2023

Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors - we all love them. Our clients want them in most every room - even in bathrooms - for the durability and warmth they provide in a home. There are so many kinds to choose from, and to add to all the many options, prefinished wood flooring is now a highly favorable option! Even if you don’t know what prefinished wood flooring is, we are certain you have recently seen it in design magazines, Houzz, Pinterest boards, and other interior design sites. Prefinished floors are currently a widely popular choice. Unfinished and prerefinished hardwood flooring both have advantages. The question is: are prefinished hardwood floors the future, or will we continue to see traditional unfinished hardwood flooring as well?

If you are building a new home or remodeling a home, you basically have two options for hardwood flooring: unfinished or prefinished hardwood flooring. Many of our customers at Dunbar Builders ask us which is better, and our response is that they both have advantages!

Let’s break down the differences between unfinished and prefinished hardwood flooring

Unfinished hardwood flooring

  • It is raw hardwood that has to be installed, then sanded, then refinished on-site.
  • Aesthetically, there is no comparison to the beauty, uniqueness and warmth of unfinished hardwood flooring finished on-site by one of our expert craftsmen.
  • It is flush, doesn't have beveled edges.
  • When installed, sanded, and finished/ stained on site, there are no lines between the boards.
  • It results in a perfectly flat, smooth floor.
  • It looks like real wood - like a work of art.
  • It takes several days to a week to be able to walk on it after installation and put furniture on floor.
  • Sanding creates a lot of dust.

Prefinished hardwood flooring

  • It's been finished, sanded, stained, and coated with polyurethane in a factory.
  • The craftsman only has to install it by cutting and nailing to the subfloor.
  • Hardwood boards are finished individually in the factory which creates a beveled edge on the sides of the boards.
  • After installation, each board will have a visible line between it which means floors aren’t completely flat.
  • Installing it is a much faster process (you can walk on it or put furniture on it right after it’s installed!).
  • It leaves no chemical smell because it’s treated in the factory.
  • Installing it creates less mess and less dust.
  • It usually costs less with reduced labor costs.

Let’s get back to the aesthetics and some facts about each:

Unfinished hardwood flooring

  • The possibilities are nearly unlimited with color and shade.
  • There are many species of wood available.
  • Innumerable stain colors.
  • Lots of finish options.
  • We can get more creative with effects like wire brushed, hand scraped, even blue and green floors!
  • Finished by hand.
  • More uniform look.
  • Finish takes longer to cure.

Prefinished hardwood flooring

  • Possibilities are more limited.
  • Fewer wood species to choose from.
  • Fewer color options.
  • Fewer finish options.
  • Creative effects are possible, but not as authentic looking as real craftsmanship exhibited in wood.
  • Finished in a factory.
  • May show variations in finish where beveled edges occur.
  • Less vapors.
  • Factory finishes are very durable.
  • Often come with lifetime warranty.
Prefinished Hardwood Floors

We are asked by our clients at Dunbar Builders when choosing between the two types of flooring what happens when the floors need to be refinished. Over time, we have found that both types will get scratches and wear on the surface - this is simply normal wear and tear. Unfinished flooring that has been treated with polyurethane can be buffed and recoated every few years to bring the top coat back to life and remove surface scratches. If our homeowners maintain their hardwood flooring well, and do this process when needed, they should never need a complete sanding!

This buff and coat process is not an option for prefinished floors. Though prefinished flooring can be sanded down to raw wood, due to the high number of polyurethane coats administered in the factory, the wood has to be sanded down deeper into the material than unfinished hardwood flooring. A prefinished floor therefore cannot be re-sanded as many times as an unfinished hardwood floor.

Our Conclusion

Dunbar Builders installs both prefinished and unfinished hardwood flooring in the homes we build. And yes, we do enjoy using both! We tell our homeowners that at the end of the day, they are the ones who will live with the hardwood flooring. They will lay their eyes on their choice daily. Hardwood flooring isn’t inexpensive, so choose what best reflects your personal style and taste! After all, it is your home, your haven, your style, and Dunbar Builders is happy to build a home which reflects just that!