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Hardwood Flooring: Site Finished or Pre-finished?

The pros and cons of hardwood flooring: Site sand/finish vs. pre-finished products.

There is no question that adding hardwood flooring to your home not only adds value, but also a warm and inviting feel. The two main types of hardwood flooring available are: installed and finished on site, or pre-finished hardwood flooring.  

Site finished means that the actual hardwood flooring pieces/planks are nailed or glued (depending upon the subfloor), then the surface is sanded, stained, sanded again, wood filler applied, sanded again, with three coats of polyeurethane, with a light sanding in between coats. This can result in a beautiful finish, and is not so much of an issue when done in new construction when there are no inhabitants in the house.

However, if you have this type of floor and you need to get it refinished or change the color and you are living in the house, it can be quite an ordeal. No matter how much a company boasts of a dustless system, there is dust from the sanding.  

I have installed and had both types of hardwood in my homes and the homes of many clients over the years. The advancements in the manufacturing processes of pre-finished flooring, has made it a superior choice for many reasons:

1) Very limited dirt/dust in the air from the installation. If you have persons with allergies and asthma in the home, hardwoods are a great option to alleviate dirt and fibers held in carpet. The installation of pre-finished hardwoods is a better option than site finished due to the elimination of most dust, and the amount of VOCs and fumes given off using oil-based stains and polys associated with site finished.

2) The factory finished aluminum oxide coatings on pre-finished hardwoods are equal to eight-plus coats of traditional polyurethanes used when site finished. Dust, dirt and other contaminates usually dry into the finish and stay there during the sanding and application of polyurethanes in the site finishing. These factory finishes have a much longer warranty on the finish, can be up to 25 years.

3) The installation process for pre-finished is minimal usually one to two days, and you can move furniture back in immediately. Whereas site finished requires a week or more, with multiple steps. You often times have to be out of the home for several days, during the staining process, and off the floor for several more while it cures. And all of the furniture has to be moved out you can't move it from room to room.

4) When adding a room of hardwood, it is often easier with the pre-finished material to match, and the entire floor does not have to be sanded and re-stained. Custom stain colors with site finished may not match again when adding or refinishing. 

5) With engineered pre-finished flooring, expansion and contraction of wood is virtually non-existent. With solid, unfinished flooring, if not acclimated long enough to the home's environment beforehand, there can be movement expansion after installation.  

With the changes in our lifestyles over the last 10 years, our time constraints, desire to minimize stress and concern over chemicals in our environment, pre-finished hardwood is one of the ways to make our lives easier in the remodeling process.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Holly January 25, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Unfortunately, this doesn't address the issue of damage over time and replacement or additions to existing sufficiently. Where [even pre-finished] floors have worn due to sun bleaching, dogs, traffic, water damage, etc., at some point, fixing a damaged wood floor will be necessary, especially in very active households. Is it really necessary to completely re-install an entirely new floor in these areas, or is 'spot' refinishing acceptable, since we often move into pre-constructed homes where there is no specific knowledge of the warranty on a floors surface to take advantage of? This seems wasteful of resources and money. Wood is able to be sanded and refinished, though never to it's original condition, several times throughout the life of a floor. Even if you're going to attempt to sand and refinish in a currently lived in home, the dust is minimal with excellent filtration and tarping off areas, vs. the cost and waste of re-installing when there's damage. The nicest part about these two choices (pre-finished vs. sand & finish) is that there are choices and that's always a good thing so consider your environment before deciding and let that be your guide.
Rebecca Dumas January 27, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Hi Holly, I appreciate your comments. It's hard to address all of the possibilities and be concise and to the point in a blog post, so I apologize if I didn't touch on your aspect of replacement from old to new. First off, I was not suggesting if you currently have solid site finished hardwood to rip out and replace, not always practical. Spot refinishing is not always possible to look perfect, but can be lightly sanded/buffed and recoated with a coat of poly for a quick fix. Some prefinished floors can be sanded, or screened, and/or buffed to renew the finish. However with the latest advancements in finishes/(aluminum oxide & scotch guards) and the like, it is not always necessary. To address the builder-grade 5/16" engineered flooring that was often put in 15 or so years ago, those have not always held up, and may need replacing. But as you pointed out, there are choices out there, and one can make their decisions based on the research.
Neger Irrin August 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM
http://www.eliteinteriorupgrades.com/ Its your home, your space and you want to make the most of it! House marble and stone flooring remodeling is just the thing to go for, and there are some basic rules that will help you get your home not just in the best shape but appealing as well. Lets see what you can do to achieve the best effect.
Neger Irrin August 27, 2012 at 02:37 PM
http://www.eliteinteriorupgrades.com/ Complete interior upgrade company. Specializing in custom wood and marble and stone flooring remodeling .Complete internal up grade organization. Focusing on tailor made solid wood in addition to jewel installment.
Fred Rodriguez January 07, 2013 at 02:35 AM
Hence, all in all, pre-finished is a better option from my personal opinion. It saves time, effort and all that sand and dust hassle. Furthermore, for houses with kids, like mine, we would definitely need pre-finished flooring. I need a little advise though, is hardwood good when we are looking for flooring that supports anti-slip or reduces the risks of slipping? We have thought of carpeting but are well aware of its high dustmite and germs level. Tiling is easy to clean but is more slippery.  http://www.algrip.com

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