Hardwood Installation: Prefinished vs Site-Finished Hardwood

kitchen hardwood


Pre-finished flooring - as the name implies - is flooring that has the finish applied to it at the factory before it reaches the suppliers. This flooring has become very popular in recent years becase of the advantages it offers:


  • During installation, you skip all the dusty mess and smells that go along with sanding and finishing.
  • The boards are already finished, so as soon as they're installed, you can walk on them.
  • The boards are finished in a factory under ideal environmental conditions. Seven to nine coats of urethane are applied. In addition, the finish contains aluminum oxide. The result is a very hard, smooth, and durable floor.
  • Because there is no sanding and finishing, a pre-finished floor can normally be installed in a little over half the time, cutting the cost of labor.


  • When boards are finished in a factory rather than on site, milling inconsistencies are more noticeable. Because of this, in order to avoid sharp edges, all prefinished boards are bevelled on the sides and some on the ends and sides. This creates "micro-grooves" between boards, and accentuates the seams. Some people do not mind this and some actually like this look.
  • The wood is more expensive. However, since you save money on labor, your ending price is usually very similar to the price of a site-finished floor.


A "site-finished" floor is a floor that is sanded, stained and finished after it is installed on site.


  • The end result is a smooth surface with no detectable high or low points between the boards as you run your hand across the floor. There are no grooves as with pre-finished floors.
  • The cost of the wood is less than prefinished wood.


  • The finish is not quite as hard or smooth as that of a prefinished floor. Also, It will contain imperfections. One of the most common examples of this is the result of airborne dust that settles on the floor while the finish is drying, leaving tiny "rough" spots. These will completely, or nearly completely, disappear within a few months as the floor is walked on.
  • The sanding process creates a lot of dust. This dust can find its way to anywhere that is not completely sealed off. In other words, there will be some cleaning to do after the floor is finished. A few companies offer a truly "dustless" installation. Expect to pay more for this since the equipment required is extremely expensive.
  • The finishing process creates a powerful odor (in most cases) which can linger for several days. The odor is strongest the first two days. Opening windows helps eliminate the smell.
  • The entire installation takes almost twice as long as it would with prefinished, costing you more in labor.
  • Because of the finish drying time, you will be required to stay off of the floors for at least twelve hours. Heavy furniture should not be put back in place for 48-72 hours.