As the owner of a flooring store and Fairfield’s go-to hardwood flooring installers, we often get asked which is better — prefinished or unfinished hardwood. There is no definitive answer to this question. It is a matter of opinion. To help make the decision process a little easier, let’s go over some pros and cons.

Prefinished hardwood is easy to install. Prefinished hardwood is installed, and it’s ready to go; it’s that simple. Go ahead and walk on it and run, if you please. You don’t have to install, sand, stain and seal the polyurethane. It is a shorter installation with no curing or drying period. Not to mention, there’s no dust from sanding, even when we use a “dustless” sanding machine.

Prefinished hardwood is better for your health. With prefinished hardwood floors, you don’t have to worry about the dust from the sanding, as we mentioned above. Prefinished is definitely the better option if you or a family member suffers from allergies or asthma. In addition, polyurethane has been known to cause irritation of skin and mucous membranes, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Polyurethane is also classified as a potential human carcinogen. (Source: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/isocyanates/) It is definitely better for your health to let the floor cure at the factory instead of your home.

Prefinished wood costs less in the long run. Although the price tag of the prefinished wood is higher than that of unfinished, the installation labor costs are less on prefinished wood, and since it does not take multiple days to install, the costs are naturally reduced. For example, you can get a good 2 1/4 solid oak hardwood floor for about $3.79 per sq.ft. Right now (August 2014), the installation cost is $2.5,  bringing the final installed cost of prefinished hardwood to $6.29 per sq.ft. Now, let’s talk unfinished hardwood pricing. Right now, the cost of an unfinished #2 common solid oak hardwood in 2 1/4 costs $3.29 per sq.ft. The installation still costs $2.50, the sand and stain and poly is another $3.50 per sq.ft. — bringing the final cost of unfinished hardwood install, sand, stain and poly to $9.29 per sq. ft. And, it will be a little more because the installation will take multiple days to allow each step to dry/cure properly.

Durability Last but definitely not least, prefinished hardwood is very durable. Most prefinished hardwood floors are coated with nine to 12 layers of Aluminum Oxide at the factory. The finish lasts longer than a polyurethane finish. Some prefinished hardwoods come with a scratch-resist guard, like ScotchGuard, making them a great option for busy families with kids and pets.

Advantages of going with Unfinished Hardwood

The first advantage is that the stain colors are endless. You can choose whatever stain color your heart desires. Another big pro is that the coats of polyurethane seal the areas that are beveled, so no dust or dirt can get into the bevels. That’s about it. Those are the pros of going with unfinished hardwood.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the choice is yours!