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Compare Prefinished vs Unfinished Wood Flooring

Prefinished Wood Flooring Floors Overview

As the name suggests, prefinished hardwood floors are finished in the factory, before they arrive at your door. No additional sanding, staining or sealing is required after the boards are installed.

Prefinished Wood Flooring Costs

Prefinished hardwood floors cost anywhere from $3 per square foot for an out-of-the-box product from a home improvement store to $15 per square foot for custom, exotic or high-end flooring. Installation usually costs another $3 to $5 per square foot.

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Pros of Prefinished Wood Flooring

  • Durable - The factory finish creates a very durable protective layer that can’t be matched by finishing on site. Prefinished floors hold up well, even in high-traffic areas. Most prefinished floors also come with a warranty on the finish.
  • Stands up to humidity - Prefinished floors perform better in moisture-prone areas. The floors are less likely to warp or buckle in areas with high humidity.
  • Easy to install - Because the finish work has already been completed, prefinished floors are faster and easier to install. They can also be installed over almost any type of subfloor, including concrete.

Cons of Prefinished Wood Flooring

  • Tougher to refinish/repair - The durable coating makes prefinished floors tougher to refinish. You’ll sacrifice more layers of the floor trying to sand it down to the raw boards. And if a section of the floor needs to be replaced, it can be tough to find an exact match.
  • Shows subfloor flaws - Because prefinished floors are not sanded as part of the installation process, any irregularities or unevenness in the subfloor will show through.
  • Harder to clean - Dirt tends to get stuck in between the cracks with prefinished floors because the cracks are not sealed on site.

Unfinished Wood Flooring Overview

Unfinished hardwood floors come from the factory without any type of finish. They are just raw boards. All of the sanding and staining is done on site after the boards are installed.

Unfinished Wood Flooring Cost

The price of unfinished hardwood floors also varies based on the quality of the wood. You’ll spend less for materials than you would with prefinished floors because less work has been completed in the factory, but installation will cost more. In many cases, the overall difference in price is a wash.

Pros of Unfinished Wood

  • More design options - Unfinished floors are available in a greater selection of widths and wood species. You can choose any color of stain, not just those offered by the manufacturer.
  • Flatter surface - Unfinished floors can be sanded to create a completely flat and smooth surface, even if the subfloors are uneven.
  • Easier to repair - With unfinished floors, you can easily sand and refinish spots that are damaged. With prefinished floors, you have to replace that section of flooring or refinish the entire floor.

Cons of Unfinished Wood

  • Difficult to install - Installing unfinished floors is a messy, time-consuming process. It usually takes several days to sand and finish the floors after they are installed.
  • Not as durable - An at-home finish job will never match the durability of a factory finish.

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