If you throw this out to the general flooring community, you'll get passionate responses from both sides. Traditional flooring pros argue that finishing on-site is the only way to go, while contemporary builders typically prefer pre-finished options.
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, which we'll outline below.
Pros & Cons of Installing Unfinished Hardwood Floors
The advantages of installing unfinished hardwood:
- Better match with existing hardwood. If you already have hardwood flooring in part of your home and want to install them in an adjoining room, you have a better chance of matching the existing floors if the floor contractors can work to match the existing stain.
- A more consistent look. For the same reason, having your floors sanded and finished on site will yield a more uniform look throughout the home.
- Greater color options. While pre-finished floors come in a wide range of stains, you can be very, very specific if you opt to have the floors finished once they're installed.
The disadvantages are:
- Delayed access. Your floors won't be able to be walked-on or used for about three days as the finishing process is completed and then dried.
- Major off-gassing. Most high-quality floor finishes mean having to use polyurethane finishes, which off-gas for a while after they are finished. These fresher, more concentrated fumes will permeate your household and aren't ideal for you and your family to breathe in.
- Higher-cost. Since floors are finished by hand, on-site, the labor costs are higher. Also, these floors won't have the same types of warranties that pre-finished flooring offers so maintenance issues may cost you more out of pocket.
Pros & Cons of Installing Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors
Advantages of pre-finished floors:
- Faster installation. Since the planks are already finished, they are installed more efficiently and are walk-ready as soon as the crew clears out.
- Cheaper. The initial price of pre-finished wood will seem more expensive. However, when you factor in the difference in labor costs, they're definitely more affordable.
- More durable finish. As much as we value craftsmanship, there's no debating that the machine-perfect finish of pre-finished floors is more consistent and more durable than a hand-finished floor.
- No odor. Because pre-finished planks have had time to air, your home isn't bearing the burden of toxic off-gassing and the odors that ensue.
The disadvantages are:
- Limited options. You're limited to the finish and widths offered by the manufacturer. There aren't customized options.
- Less finish details. You won't be able to have those artistic outlines or fancier features like inlay, basket-weave or herringbone patterns that you can with unfinished floors.
- You risk continuity. If the floor is going to abut with an existing hardwood floor, it will be more difficult to match it, if that's your goal.
The best way to determine which hardwood flooring choice is best for your Chicago home remodeling project is to work with a designer and see which version is the best match for the project's overall goals. Contact Kitchens & Baths Unlimited to schedule a consultation.