Quick facts about pre-finished hardwood floors

Prefinished hardwood floors are factory-finished. Each board is coated with polyurethane before it hits the shelf. The biggest advantage associated with prefinished hardwood flooring is the ability to complete installation fairly quickly since the sanding and finishing process is complete. Once the floor installed, you won’t have to worry about being overly-cautious to avoid scratching your new floor during the curing process. Instead, it will be ready to use and enjoy immediately. Below are a few things you should know about pre-finished hardwood floors.

  • Prefinished hardwood floors have visible seams.

In order to give the top of planks a smooth finish, the manufacturer creates bevels along the top edges of each plank, called “cambers.” These bevels are very small, just a tiny fraction of an inch, but when two planks are installed side by side, the bevels create a shallow “V” groove along every seam, creating visible lines. While some people like the look of the grooves, others prefer the perfectly flush look of a traditional wood floor that has been sanded smooth. The grooves may also serve as a spot for dust and debris to collect, making prefinished floors slightly harder to keep clean.

  • Prefinished hardwood planks can be refinished.

Install prefinished hardwood and it will stay looking new for decades. But if down the road you decide you would like to change the stain, you can do so. A prefinished hardwood floor is still solid wood, after all, so the surface can be sanded and a new stain and sealer applied. Sanding the finish usually takes a little longer than it would with a traditional wood floor, however, because the sealant is harder.

  • Prefinished planks and traditional wood floors cost about the same.

While it takes much less labour to install prefinished hardwood planks, the planks themselves are costlier than traditional unfinished wood planks. What you will save in labour, you will most likely make up in the cost of the planks. Expect to pay between $5 and $10 per square foot, depending on the type of wood and quality of the finish, to have prefinished wood flooring professionally installed.

  • Installing prefinished hardwood planks is DIY-friendly.

If you are planning to install your own hardwood floor, prefinished is by far the easier process. You will still have to nail each plank to the subfloor individually, but there’s no messy sanding and then cleaning to get the room dust-free, which is necessary before staining and sealing. Likewise, you won’t have to worry about inhaling harsh stain and sealant fumes. If you opt to go the DIY route, you can save $2 to $5 per square foot over the cost of professional installation.

Now when selecting pre-finished hardwood floors from a reputable manufacturer, consider the following:

  • Narrow planks take longer to install. The largest selection of prefinished hardwood planks comes in widths from 3” to 4-3/4”—and these planks offer a classic look that flatters all home designs. Planks on the narrower side (up to 3-1/4” in width), however, are considered more sophisticated, and better suited to contemporary homes. But the narrower the planks, the longer it will take to install the floor—and if you’re hiring a pro, you’ll pay more in labour.
  • Wide planks suit large rooms. Prefinished hardwood planks that are more than 4-3/4” wide are popular for their rustic country appeal. But wider planks tend to make rooms look smaller, so this width is best suited to spacious rooms.
  • Choose a wood species based on the traffic of the room. Hardwood is rated on the Janka Scale, named for Gabriel Janka, who developed the rating system. The higher the number, the harder the wood. The standard hardness for wood flooring is around 1290, which corresponds to one of the most popular flooring species, red oak. If you have active kids or pets, however, you may want to choose a harder type of wood, such as white oak with a Janka rating of 1360.