In any new construction or remodel, choosing the proper flooring can be a challenge, since there are a complexity of available options. Even when the decision is narrowed down, there is still much to consider. In this post, we’ll discuss the hardwood flooring options of Prefinish v. Job-Site Finish. Our friend, Mike Dickinson, owner of Dickinson Hardwood Flooring Inc., has 30 years of experience with hardwood flooring, so we’ve consulted with him on this post.
First, let’s define our terms. Prefinish refers to wood that is finished prior to purchase and installation. Job-Site Finish refers to wood that is finished during the installation process, or on the job-site. Finish refers to the liquid applied to the wood that protects it from damage and enhances its natural beauty.
Below are a few points of common concern about flooring and how each option stacks up:
1: Installation Time and Cleanliness — Prefinished floors have a very short installation time, usually within a day. Job-Site Finish, on the other hand, can take more than a month, since acclimation, sanding, and finishing all happen on-site. Additionally, Prefinished floors offer a cleaner installation, with no dust from sanding and no fumes from the finish.
2: Appearance — Job-Site Finished floors offer the traditional smooth look most people associate with hardwood flooring, since the installation process involves sanding and finishing. However, over time, the wood in the floor expands and contracts due to fluctuating humidity in the air, creating flaws in the floor which are unattractive and can cause slivers. To minimize these flaws, Prefinished floors feature micro-bevels, which make the floor ribbed, but safer on your feet.
3: Wood and Finish Options — Since Prefinished floors are mass-produced, they offer limited options for finish color and species of wood, generally limited to oak, maple, hickory, walnut, and cherry. Since Job-Site Finished floors can feature any type of hardwood from around the world and any color of finish, they are much more customizable.
4: Maintenance — Prefinished floors generally come with a lifetime warranty, meaning homeowners should never have to refinish them. This is very convenient for homeowners, especially when compared to Job-Site Finished floors, which have to be refinished every 7-15 years, depending on choice of finish. The only real downside this presents for Prefinished floors is that homeowners can’t change their minds every few years and apply a different color of finish. They must choose wisely.
5: Human Health and Environmental Concerns — During the installation process, Prefinished floors are safer for homeowners, installers, and the environment, since the finish has already been applied in a controlled factory setting. However, Prefinished floors have been known to contain formaldehyde, a highly toxic human carcinogen. With Job-Site Finished floors, the installation process involves the presence of toxic fumes, as the finish is applied and requires time to dry. Once complete, however, it is completely safe for humans and the environment.
6: Expense — Ultimately, how much the flooring costs can be the make-or-break factor in deciding which option to pursue. While the raw materials needed for Job-Site Finished floors are less expensive, the installation and maintenance processes make it more expensive in the long run.
In a later post, we’ll discuss Engineered floors, which Mike refers to as “the future of hardwood flooring.” Engineered floors resolve many of the concerns related to Job-Site Finished floors mentioned above, and are more environmentally responsible.