Prefinished vs Unfinished Wood Flooring: Which is best?

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One of the most critical decisions you can make for a new interior space is choosing a flooring material. Even when you opt for hardwood floors, there is still another factor to consider – should you choose unfinished or prefinished floorboards?

Traditionally, wood flooring was always installed as unfinished planks and then sanded and stained. Prefinished floors have since become more popular because they reduce installation time.  

In this article, we compare traditional site-finished planks and factory-finished boards so you know which is right for you.

Prefinished vs unfinished hardwood flooring?


Unfinished wood flooring

Unfinished wood flooring, also known as site-finished flooring, refers to planks supplied as raw, uncoated hardwood. It is secured to the subfloor and then sanded, stained, and sealed. 


Characteristics of site-finished flooring:

  • Sanded and sealed after installation
  • Requires hours or days of site-work
  • Filled seams
  • More difficult to source
  • Messy installation


Problems with site-finished flooring

Unfinished flooring requires a lot more site work than prefinished planks. This causes several problems that can prove costly to fix.  

  • Sanding dust could settle on the coating before it’s fully dry. 
  • The sander could leave marks on the floor if the contractor is not experienced. 
  • The colour may look different than you expected.

Resolving these problems requires resanding and recoating. This not only increases the time and cost of installation but also reduces the wood veneer and lifespan of the floor.

Prefinished timber flooring


What is prefinished wood flooring?

Prefinished means the wood floor has been coloured and coated in the factory. The timber is sanded, stained and sealed during manufacturing to achieve the best possible finish. 


Characteristics of prefinished flooring:

  • Sanded and sealed in the factory
  • Requires far less site work
  • Open seams
  • Can be used immediately
  • Easily sourced from any supplier

5 reasons to choose prefinished wood floors

While unfinished planks used to be the only option, they’re becoming harder to come by from many suppliers. That’s because prefinished flooring brings advantages for installers, project managers, and homeowners alike. 


1. Consistent

Since prefinished timber flooring is manufactured in factory conditions, the finish and quality are reliable and predictable every time. With strict quality control processes in place, you can trust the colouring and surface of the floorboards you choose to be long-lasting. 

On the other hand, unfinished flooring often looks different after it’s been stained because of the coating technique and thickness. While you can decide to refinish it to match your original preference, sanding it could reduce the product’s lifespan. 

At Forté, we offer a wide variety of factory-applied colours and what you see is what you get. We work closely with the factory to ensure each batch is consistent and that the final colour is exactly what you ordered. Custom colours can also be ordered to get a unique colour for your space. 


2. Durable and low maintenance 

Once the coloured stain has been applied in the factory, a protective UV-cured coating is applied. Compared to sealants that are applied on-site, this is an extremely durable coating that extends the floor’s lifespan significantly. 

Additionally, all Forté floor sealers are resistant to stains, moisture, and other discolourations. This makes maintenance a lot easier as the wood does not need to be resanded as frequently.


3. Efficient installation 

Installing a prefinished floor is quicker, more straightforward, and cleaner. The only site work that is required is to secure the planks down, as all the colouring and coatings are applied in the factory. Once the floor has been installed, it is ready to be walked on and used almost immediately.  

In comparison, an unfinished timber floor requires days of sanding, staining, and curing. This is labour-intensive and time-consuming, often taking a week or more.


4. Cost-effective 

Prefinished wood flooring usually costs less than unfinished flooring due to reduced installation costs. The prefinished product may be more expensive upfront but once the sanding and finishing process has been done on-site, an unfinished floor generally works out to be more expensive. 

For more information about the cost of engineered wood flooring, read our full article outlining supply costs, installation costs, and the ten factors that influence the price in New Zealand.  


5. No fumes

As the stain and coating are applied to unfinished floors on-site, they tend to give off strong fumes which can take weeks to dissipate, and even longer when an oil-based polyurethane is used.

However, prefinished wood floors are cured in the factory so all the fumes are gone well before the boards are delivered. This means the room is free of lingering smells and chemicals and is safe to occupy on the same day it gets laid. 


Why choose Forté wood floors?

Here at Forté, we back our prefinished wood flooring products and take pride in streamlining the installation process. While you still get the same beautiful hardwood style, there are none of the risks that are associated with site-finished floors. 

Our prefinished engineered wood floors provide a reliable foundation for beautiful and long-lasting interiors. They are engineered to provide ultimate stability and colour retention, ensuring your space can be enjoyed for generations. In fact, they can be refinished several times. 

Available in a wide range of styles, every Forté flooring board is: 

  • Sustainably sourced 

  • Low in formaldehyde

  • Designed for New Zealand’s diverse climates

With our nationwide network of approved craftsmen and glue-down installation, you can trust your new floor to last for decades. 

Are you ready to fast-track your interior project? Get in touch with our friendly experts to learn about our premium range of prefinished timber

Prefinished flooring 

Visit one of our Showrooms

If you have any queries about our products or need help with your project, we can provide you with expert advice. Visit one of our showrooms or book a consultation with our flooring experts today.