Prefinished & Unfinished Flooring
Prefinished hardwood flooring that is purchased from a retail store or the internet and is not custom, is sold as ready to install wood strips that are sanded, stained and finished with a protective coating and is available in lengths from up to 7 feet. Prefinished wood flooring is available in both solid and engineered.
Most manufacturers, except a couple, because of the cost is precision milling, only offer this product with a beveled or eased edge. Traditionally, beveled edge flooring is only desired when you have wide plank flooring and you want to accentuate the individual board. A beveled edge should only be an aesthetic choice.
Most prefinished flooring comes with an aluminum oxide finish, which they will tell you has a 25 year warrantee, misleading to say the least, it is a very hard finish, but that is not the problem with finishes, it's the scratches and scuffs that make wood flooring loose its attractive qualities prematurely. The reality is that aluminum oxide finishes show scratch marks more than any other finish, because it is so hard and brittle that a scratch shows as a white line and is even more apparent on a dark floor. What happens is, people become unhappy with the finish several years down the road and want it recoated, which will cost them about two dollars a square foot, and the inconvenience involved, and now they're at an invested price with their floor, where they could have got a custom floor.
There are also so many choices for prefinished flooring, that it can be terribly frustrating and time consuming, still not find what you really want. Basically, you can find an inexpensive prefinished floor, but your limitations and compromises are many. That being said, there are some options when a budget or circumstances are limiting, and I can help direct you to them. Bamboo flooring, in the retail market, is all prefinished, and I haven't been a fan of the options available until recently, but because of the green movement, the manufacturers have become quite creative and offer a vast variety of colors and styles and are available in 6 ft. lengths.
Unfinished Wood Flooring
Unfinished hardwood flooring is square edge flooring that requires sanding and finishing on site, after the installation is completed. This wood arrives from a mill where they have cut the flooring from lumber, making it into strip, plank or parquet. Unfinished wood usually is available in wider and longer boards, and is available in solid or engineered.
With unfinished hardwood flooring the process is fairly simple, you find the wood that you want, choose an effect and or a color, choose a finish that will suit your esthetic needs and life style, get the samples, choose and you're done. The greatest advantage to this process is that you get exactly what you want. It does cost a little bit more, but the time lost, anxiety and not getting exactly what you want from the other option, it's worth it.
One great advantage is that the product can usually be found locally, so there is no shipping, and the product doesn't have to acclimate as much because the climate is close to the same. The species, width & length are all there for your viewing. The best in material then provides an open canvas for unique options with a variety of effects, depth of color and an appropriate protective finish.
Not all unfinished floors are sanded after installation, which would be floors by which the milling tolerances are more exact, Carlisle wide plank flooring would be one example. Sanding onsite is an effective way for achieving that square edge, totally flat floor.
Flexibility is another attribute to unfinished floors, as you have the freedom to design patterns, borders and inlay medallions, sanding any installation or milling imperfections and filling any gaps with color matched filler. If you need to add flooring at a later date, or you have to repair the floor, the material is readily available. With the color or effect formulation and finish on record, the task is easy. Conversely, many prefinished flooring manufacturers stop production on many styles after 5 years, as they are consistently changing their styles.
The only caveat to this process is that you have to be working with a contractor who is a craftsman and not just an installer, and finding person is the hardest part, because most flooring installers will say they can do anything. Look at their past work and ask for references of past projects that are most similar to your project at hand.
The benefits of unfinished flooring are many. If you are looking for a truly uniquely finished product, with the assistance of a qualified flooring contractor, the process for finding a floor to suite your needs is simple. Even though unfinished wood floors require a little more time and are a bit less convenience to install than their prefinished counterpart, most homeowners agree that the final result was well worth the effort.