Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood Flooring - Tamalpais Hardwood Floors

prefinished vs unfinished hardwood

Deciding between prefinished and unfinished hardwood floors can be difficult. You may feel exhausted by the number of decisions you need to make your hardwood flooring project, but taking the time to choose the option that’s best for you will save a lot of future headaches. With Tamalpais Hardwood Floor the question of prefinished vs unfinished hardwood will be easy. We can help you reach a decision with greater confidence. Click here to find out what flooring product we have available. Proper planning and preparation before a flooring contractor begin the project is the best way to make sure the project goes smoothly and you get the final result you deserve from your time and money.

Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood

To start with, here are some basic definitions of what they each are:

– Unfinished hardwood flooring is sanded, stained and finished on site.

– Pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring has been engineered and finished at the factory, so it does not require any further treatment once it has been installed.


Prefinished vs Unfinished Hardwood Pros and Cons

When choosing, consider the pros and cons of each:

Prefinished floor pros:

• Prefinished flooring is more versatile and the recommended choice for certain types of installations. If you’re going to install the floor below grade, prefinished engineered is a wise choice. It is good for installation over radiant heating, or in an area with high moisture such as the kitchen or bathroom. Its construction makes it more stable and less prone to warping. The factory does the application of finish coats. The multiple coats of finish give prefinished wood flooring a very durable wear layer. Also, It is itself is under warranty by the manufacturer. It is more resistant to moisture and humidity. It makes it suitable for climatic regions with high humidity or large variations in temperature.

• Prefinished hardwood flooring is relatively quick and easy to install.  Once you installed prefinished flooring, you can walk on it and put furniture on it immediately. This is a time-consuming process that you may wish to avoid.

•Prefinished flooring is less messy than an unfinished. Since it has already been coated at the factory, it is also far more convenient as you don’t need to do sanding or finishing on site.  Sanding does create dust during the actual sanding process. And when finishing and cleaning process is done you would never know that there was any dust at all!

• Prefinished flooring is not always, but often, the cheaper option. Though prefinished flooring may cost more for the actual material, with the reduced labor costs of only an installation, prefinished flooring usually ends up being less expensive than unfinished hardwood flooring that is installed and then sanded and finished on site.

•With prefinished flooring, there is no chemical smells because there are no applied chemicals. The flooring has already treated in the factory where it was made.

Prefinished floor cons:

• Prefinished hardwood floors are harder to clean between the cracks. They are not sealed at the job site like unfinished hardwood floors.

• Over time, it is easy to forget whom the manufacturer of the prefinished hardwood flooring is. It makes it difficult to get an exact match if you need to replace part of the floor. There is also the possibility that your prefinished flooring will disappear in the future. So you will be unable to order replacement boards.

• You don’t need to refinish prefinished floors for a very long time. But eventually, the surface seal will start to fade, scratch, and discolor slightly. Refinishing requires extensive sanding to reach the natural hardwood again. All of this is because of the thick and pervasive nature of the prefinished topcoat. This cuts down on the thickness of the floor planks and limits how many times you can then refinish the floor in the future.

Unfinished floor pros:

• If your floors are damaged, you can fix unfinished hardwood flooring with a quick sanding and finish in most cases. If a hardwood floor that has been finished on site got scratches, you can spot repair it. Achieve it with taping off boards and sanding those individual boards down to raw wood and then refinishing them. However, if the floor is prefinished, you need to remove and replace the whole section of flooring.

• Since unfinished flooring is sanded flat on site, it is more forgiving of slight irregularities in the sub floor. A custom sanded hardwood floor is perfectly flat looking, with a tabletop appearance that you can achieve with a pre-finished hardwood floor. If the sub floor is uneven, then a prefinished floor will be uneven.

• Do you need to match your new wood floor with an existing wood floor? If trying to match an existing floor then unfinished may be the way to go since more options are available and your installer can more easily match the existing floor.

• Are you looking for an unusual wood species, or specific color or plank width? Many more options exist with unfinished floors.

Unfinished floor cons:

• You can take measures to minimize dust and fumes from finishing the floor on-site, but evacuation may be necessary, especially if children or pets will be present.

• It may be more expensive than pre-finished floors.

• Installation is messier and longer. You may not be able to walk on recently finished floors for days or months! You need more skill for installation. It’s a tricky process, so you need to make sure your installer is a skilled pro.


The great thing about hardwood— prefinished vs unfinished hardwood —is that it always looks good. So you’ll enjoy a beautiful and attractive floor for many years, whichever finish you choose. If you need additional help deciding what floor is best for you, please contact us. We will help you with prefinished vs unfinished hardwood floor decision. With over 20 years of industry experience and thousands of products to choose from, we are confident we can deliver the right floor for your needs.