Unfinished wood floors are one option amongst several choices you have when you're considering a wood floor. They fall under the category of "site-finished" floors because they're finished in the home, as opposed to to some off-site location like a manufacturing facility.
Given that you have other wood floor options, like pre-finished floors for example, the most common question is why go with unfinished wood flooring in the first place.
However like all the rest of the product choices available to us, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some situations might be better suited for a pre-finished wood floor but there are plenty of reasons and scenarios why an unfinished wood floor is the right option.
If you're on the fence about which way to go, or simply looking for some education about unfinished wood floors, read on.
Its name says it all, but there's more to it than that.
Unfinished hardwood floors are made from bare wood stock that's sanded and finished in place in the home.
They differ from prefinished wood floors in that the wood used for prefinished floors is sanded, prepped and receives it's stain color and top coat at the manufacturing facility. There's no in-home sanding or finishing work.
With unfinished hardwood floors you buy the wood stock, anything from narrow strip to wide plank, and either install it yourself or have it installed by a professional. The wood is bare and is nailed down, sanded, stained (if desired) and sealed in place.
The result of these typical but unavoidable imperfections is that when the boards are laid down next to each and nailed into the subfloor, there will be minute but perceptible ridges in the resulting floor. In other words, the edges of some boards won't always be perfectly flush with adjacent boards.
Unfinished Red Oak Strip Stock
These aren't gross mismatches mind you, and usually not visually perceptible. But if you rub your hand across a newly laid unfinished wood floor, you can feel these ridges and high points from board to board.
Consequently, an unfinished hardwood floor is sanded to achieve a nice smooth surface across the entire plane of the floor. With nice tight butt joints (where the sides of the boards meet each other) a sanded wood floor makes for a virtually uninterrupted surface.
Now with prefinished wood floors, the boards actually have a small bevel cut on the long edge of each piece. That bevel makes up for these variances, essentially eliminating those "high edges" that are typical with an unfinished wood floor.
However these small bevels on each side of a prefinished board form little "V" grooves in the floor. They can trap dirt and other foreign matter and can sometimes make sweeping (an essential element of good wood floor care) somewhat frustrating because the dirt keeps falling into those grooves.
When you're choosing wood flooring you obviously have a choice between prefinished wood or a floor that's finished on-site. Given that a prefinished wood floor can be nailed down and walked on the same day, you might be wondering why go through the muss and fuss of installing the unfinished variety. Despite the inconveniences, an unfinished wood floor does have its benefits.
Unfinished Flooring After NailingBare, unfinished hardwood flooring is available in a wide array of species and configurations (narrow strip, wide plank, etc.).
You can also get reclaimed wood, flooring stock that's made from timbers salvaged from older structures or sunken logs.
On top of that, your color choices are endless and you can even have a stain color computer-matched to whatever shade you want. With prefinished wood floors, you're limited to what's manufactured, in the styles and colors that come out of the factory.
And What about the drawbacks?
After Sanding...And Pretty Dusty
Unfortunately, I have some personal experience here. I had a new oak unfinished hardwood floor installed in my home that ended up with several mistakes, including some deep sanding divots and some mis-installed boards. It was clear to me after speaking with several different wood floor installers that there was a clear delineation in quality and level of expertise in the craft. I ultimately had to have several repairs done to get the results that should have been achieved the first time around.
So what makes unfinished hardwood floors the right or wrong choice for you? Only you can decide that. But just remember to to keep in mind that in simplistic terms, an unfinished wood floor provides long-term benefits for the price of some short-term inconveniences (the site finishing stuff).
On the other hand, you could argue that a prefinished wood floor offers quick results but arguably, fewer design and style options.
You've got several options when it comes to buying unfinished hardwood floors so you're not limited to just one resource.
If you'd like help finding a local wood flooring contractor, take a moment to fill out the form below. It can provide you with several sources in your area that can potentially take on your flooring project. These contractors will contact you at your convenience and provide a free, no-obligation quote as well.
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