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Hardwood Floors: Let's Talk Finish Before You Start!

By Michael Hilton

Once you've decided to install hardwood flooring, one of the first choices you need to make is whether to purchase pre-finished or unfinished flooring. Here's a rundown on each option.

Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors: (Almost) Instant Gratification
If you want quick results and convenience, pre-finished hardwood floors can be the way to go:

  • Your hardwood is already sanded and finished, and you can use and enjoy it immediately once installation is completed.
  • The manufacturer's finishing process can provide superior protection and durability.
  • Pre-finished hardwood flooring warranties generally include the performance of the finish, which is not covered with do-it-yourself finishing.
  • You can avoid the dust, noise, and aromas associated with sanding and finishing your new hardwood floor.

Drawbacks include inability to level flooring, once installed, and limited choices of finish.

Unfinished Hardwood Floors: The Naked Truth
Unfinished hardwood flooring can be a great choice if you're looking for a very specific result, or if you're striving for an unusual result that requires a custom finish.

  • You can see the "unfinished canvas." Of course, we mean wood, and as an organic product, wood's individual grain, knots, and texture contribute to its beauty. Your flooring's raw beauty can help you choose finish that enhances its natural grain and appearance.
  • Sand and level as needed. Installing unfinished hardwood allows for further floor preparation during installation; you can't sand or level pre-finished flooring without ruining it.
  • If you're an accomplished woodworking enthusiast, installing, prepping, and finishing your own hardwood floors can be a welcome and enjoyable project.

The challenges associated with unfinished hardwood floors include the time needed to complete the entire project, and the associated noise, dust, and aroma of potentially toxic finishing materials. You also cannot use your new hardwood floor until the finish has dried.

A final and important consideration is cost. Remember to compare the projected costs of the entire project, rather than comparing only the cost of your hardwood flooring. Cleaning and preparation materials, finishing tools and materials, and the time spent on installing hardwood flooring are all factors you should consider when making a choice between pre-finished or unfinished hardwood floors.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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