Prefinished vs. Site Finish


 Prefinished vs. Site Finish


One of the biggest questions in choosing a floor is site finish or prefinished wood.  In the end of the day it is the customer’s choice, however here is my advice from personal experience.  Heritage Hardwood Floors has been in the Cincinnati area for a long time and we have come to learn the advantages and disadvantages of both choices.  Both products have their strengths and weaknesses and the purpose of this post is to simply bring them to light.

Prefinished Hardwood Flooring

A prefinshed wood floor is a floor that comes out of the box already finished, hence the name “prefinished”.  This means that once a board is taken out of the box and nailed down, that is the finished product. With that being said, it is easy to realize that going with this route is by far the quickest and easiest. In most cases, it is the cleanest,  this is because there is no need to sand the floor.  The only dust that is created is from cutting the boards for installation.  Another strength of going with prefinished is that it can have a more durable finish. Manufacturers apply the finish to nearly perfection, they also have the ability to add in additives that make the finish even stronger.  With all of the advantages of prefinished, it seems hard to understand why site finish floors are still as popular.  Most home builders strictly offer only prefinished floors. So what are the disadvantages then?

The biggest concern with most prefinished floors, is the relieved edge. This is what we call a “bevel”. The purpose of adding the bevel is to keep the edges from chipping off and so the floor is comfortable to walk on. A prefinished floor obviously does not get sanded down to a flat, smooth surface, thus boards will not be 100% flush with each other.  Beveled floors have gaps between each board where the two relieved edges meet.  These gaps can eventually fill up with dirt and grit, which could be problematic for lighter floors, as the gaps will appear dark.  Another disadvantage to a prefinished floor is that it could potentially cost more to fix and/or refinish compared to a site finish floor. The reason for this is due to some additives (ex. Aluminum Oxide) in the finish that makes it stronger and more durable.  Labor and sand paper needed is almost double. The finish is so tough that it quickly “gums up” the paper, and a lot of time is spent in switching out pieces.  If a repair is needed, or a customer wishes to add hardwood flooring into another room, they might not be able to find the same color.  Manufacturers are constantly changing and decommissioning colors, that it might make it impossible to find the exact wood used before. The only options would then be, to settle for something close or install a site finish floor and match the color.

Site Finish Hardwood Flooring

A site finish floor is the process of installing raw wood, sanding it to a smooth and flat surface, potentially staining the floor, and finally applying several coats of finish.  Already someone can tell that the route of going with site finish is a long and daunting task. This is a very big aspect to think of, when choosing a floor.  The sooner a homeowner can get their floors done, the sooner they can get back to their normal lives. Another potential disadvantage to this route is the dust.  If a contractor uses the method of dustless sanding (click here to read about this method) then the dust kicked up by the process of sanding and finishing will not be much greater than the prefinished route.  However, if a contractor does not use the method of dustless sanding, then the amount of dust that is left will be much greater than either route.  As a customer living in their home, this should be a big part of the decision on which route to take. We highly recommend you to go with a dustless method if your contractor offers it.

So why pick site finish? I will quickly admit that Heritage Hardwood Floors is biased in favor of site finish, because it is our specialty.  We strictly only use dustless sanding and we feel that we can make a better product.  Thus the only drawback we face, is the amount of time.  We personally have no dislike toward prefinished, and in some cases we do prefer to use the product.  It all just depends on the situation. So back to the topic of advantages, since a site finish floor gets sanded, each board is flush with the boards next to it. The floor all together is a smooth, consistent, and flat surface.  Another advantage, is the amount of customization available, stains and special techniques can be combined to produce a truly one of a kind color.  There is also an overwhelming number of different types of finishes, that each has its’ own advantages from another.  Then there is the ability to repair and add a floor much easier, since it is raw wood, it will be fairly available.  Also species of wood (ex. oak, walnut, hickory) do not get decommissioned, so there will always be a supply.



In the end of the day it is the customer’s choice, a customer has his/her own personal preference. Both types of floors are the right choice, in the end it is merely what you as a customer are interested in and the situation around which your floors are involved. I have included below a short list to summarize the advantages of both products. Thank you for reading and please visit our site or give us a call for more questions, and check out our main supplier of prefinished hardwood floors Mullican Flooring


Site Finish                                                            Prefinsihed

Customization+                                                          Time+

Repairs / additions +                                                 Strength+

Smooth and consistent+                                            Dust (potentially)+

Post written by: Joshua Rusche


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