When it’s time to buy hardwood flooring, there are so many decisions to be made. You have to decide which rooms to floor, color, material, plank size and more. Here’s one you may not have heard of: pre-finished or unfinished flooring.

If you haven’t had a wood floor installed recently, you may not even know about this option. To make the decision even harder, there are pros and cons to both types of flooring, and it may come down to simple preference.


Prefinished wood flooring planks are cut, sanded and finished in the factory, which makes them sturdier, longer lasting and easier to install. They can be installed in as long as it takes to lay the floor, and you can walk on them right away.

Unfinished wood floors, sometimes called site-finished, have to be installed, sanded, stained and sealed in your home. Layers of polyurethane can take hours to dry. If you live in your home at the time of installation, this can be an inconvenience.

The finish

Pre-finished hardwood floors have beveled edges on the planks, leaving tiny grooves in the floor once installed. While some may find that to be a beautiful bonus, others might not like the less-than-smooth finish. This all depends on your preference.

The color

Pre-finished hardwood comes in a limited range of colors and styles, so if you’re looking for something specific, you may not find it. Having unfinished wood installed, stained and finished in your home allows for nearly endless options.

If you’re only installing it in part of the home and you wish to match some other floors already there, unfinished offers you a better chance of getting it just right. A professional installer can do a great job getting the color just right.

The color of the pre-finished hardwood may not be completely uniform. The edges of the wood can have a slight discoloration due to storage and shipping that could show up upon installation, though most people won’t be able to tell a difference.

Special circumstances

If your home is historic, has a unique architectural style or you want to keep an old design of the existing wood, unfinished might be your best bet. With unfinished wood, your installer has more versatility in design and installation.


Pre-finished flooring is more expensive, but requires little installation. With unfinished wood, you will likely make up the savings paying for the more expensive on-site installation. Though the cost may be different, it’s likely not a huge variance in price, depending on the flooring style you choose.

Whatever you are considering, make sure your flooring installer brings samples to your home so you can see what they look like in your home’s lighting and with your furniture. Also, make sure that he or she has lots of experience installing hardwood floors.

If you’re looking for qualified flooring professionals in your area, call Highland Hardwood Flooring and Millwork. We want to be your top pick for new floors!