Wood in its natural state is porous; that makes it vulnerable to mold, mildew, rot, and pests. Also, many woods are softer than pet claws, high heels, or sliding furniture. So they can easily be scratched or dented. To avoid that fate, wood needs to be sealed; this is also called finishing. A finish makes the wood virtually waterproof and protects from many kinds of superficial damage. For solid plank hardwood floors, there are two basic kinds of finishing. There is prefinished and site finished. You might also hear “factory finished,” but that’s the same as prefinished. So, what do they mean?
What Do They Mean?
Prefinished or factory finished hardwoods are those that are stained and sealed in a factory before they’re ever shipped to a distributor or to the customer. Site finished hardwoods are installed when they’re bare. They’re then stained and sealed by your contractor. That’s pretty much all it means. So, is there a big difference?
The factory finished or prefinished hardwoods are sealed with a sealant that is a combination of urethane and aluminum oxide; it’s then UV cured, which means it is inundated with UV light to harden it. A site finished hardwood is typically sealed with a liquid polyurethane that dries into a hard shell.
When it comes to installation, prefinished hardwoods are going to be a much quicker installation. Once they’re laid and nailed to the subfloor, the installation is done. With a site finished floor, it will need to be stained. The stain will need several hours to dry. It might even have to dry overnight. Then, the floor will need to be sealed. Oftentimes, polyurethane will need about three days before you can walk on it and as much as a week before you can go back to your day to day life.
Prefinished hardwoods cannot be repaired as easily as site finished wood. You would probably be better off just replacing the damaged planks. Since they’re stained by a factory, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a perfectly matching plank. You just buy the same one you already had.
You can repair site finished planks without pulling them up. Depending on what’s wrong with them, you might need to sand them down to the wood and restain them. You’ll then need to reapply the polyurethane as well. However, the repairs will likely be less expensive and less time-consuming than repairing a prefinished floor.