When it comes to hardwood flooring planks, there are two basic kinds: site finished and prefinished. Prefinished hardwood is also known as factory finished because it is stained and sealed by the manufacturer before it’s ever sold. Site finished hardwood is often sold as unfinished hardwood because it has not been stained or sealed; it’s stained and sealed after being installed. There are distinct advantages to each approach. What many people want to know when they’re choosing is which one lasts longer. Well, that question is not as simple as it might seem.
If the question is which floor will survive the most abuse, the answer is prefinished hardwood. Site finished wood is stained in your preferred shade and then sealed with polyurethane, wax, or oil. Polyurethane is most popular now and tends to last for about ten years. However, prefinished hardwood is finished with a mixture of polyurethane and aluminum oxide. The mixture differs from each manufacturer, but they all tend to be similar. The finish is then UV-cured; this “baking” process hardens the finish.
A site finished hardwood floor is often warrantied for three to five years. Alternately, a prefinished floor might be warrantied from five years to even twenty-five years. Since the manufacturer is willing to put a warranty on the floor that might exceed two decades, you can feel pretty confident that they expect the floor to last at least that long. After all, they don’t want to replace or repair floors under warranty.
There is a slight difference though when you consider the floor as a whole. The seal on a site finished floor might wear down in five or ten years; however, you can hire a contractor to reseal the floor at a pretty affordable rate. The contractor will sand down the floor and reapply the finish; if it’s only a few spots, they’ll just reapply the finish in those spots. However, with a prefinished floor, you’ll have a more difficult time getting that that finish in places. The harder factory finish takes more work to sand down.
So, when it comes to which is more easily repaired, the winner is site finished hardwood.
The Bottom Line
If your main concern for your hardwood floor is simple longevity, a prefinished floor will provide you the longest lasting finish. If you think you’ll want to customize your floor now or in the future, a site finished floor offers you the most flexibility. Talking with a quality flooring expert will better illuminate your choices.