There are several different types of hardwood floors and processes for manufacturing them. When you have the floor installed and then finished with a varnish or polyurethane coating, that’s considered a site finished floor. It’s a very common way for floors to be finished; however, it might not be the most reliable. If you want a floor that is incredibly resilient, with a long warranty, and with guaranteed quality, you should consider prefinished floors.
Prefinished hardwood floors are those that are coated with the stain and finish before they ever leave the factory. Typically, they’re coated with a factory-grade chemical mixture of urethane and aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide crystals embedded in the urethane and the high temperature baking process makes the finish on a prefinished floor incredibly hard. A site finished floor is typically warrantied for three to five years. A prefinished floor can be warrantied for as much as twenty-five years.
The advantages of a prefinished floor are pretty straightforward. The finish is harder and lasts much longer than a simple polyurethane applied after installation. That means you won’t have to worry about having it refinished for over a decade. Also, prefinished floors are easier to install. Once you lay them down and affix them to the floor, they’re installed. You don’t have to worry about staining or finishing them, nor do you need to worry about waiting for the finish to dry. As soon as they’re installed, you can move your furniture back into the room.
Finally, the upkeep of a prefinished hardwood floor is simpler. Since the finish is harder and more resistant to stains or damage, it’s easier to keep clean.
The main disadvantage to a prefinished floor is that you can’t control the finish on the floor. When you seal a floor on site, the sealant will also seal up the space between planks. With prefinished flooring, each individual plank is separate. Therefore, there won’t be any seal between planks. Also, it is very difficult to repair or refinish a prefinished floor.
The factory-installed sealant is very hard and very durable. If you want to repair it or refinish the floor, you will have to do some pretty intense sanding to get through the hard finish.
In summary, a prefinished floor is easy to install and lasts a very long time. If you want a hardwood floor that requires minimal upkeep, it’s a great option. If you want a floor that you can customize, it might not be your best option.