Pre-finished vs. Site-finished wood floors

Pre-finished vs. Site-finished wood floors

What are some of the differences between a pre-finished and site-finished wood floor?

Pre-finished hardwood is stained and finished with polyurethane during the manufacturer’s factory process. This hardwood needs only to be installed, and no on-site finishing is necessary. Unlike other floor coverings, solid hardwood is able to be finished on-site. Specifically, the re-finishing process is great for giving an existing floor an entirely new look while saving the time and expense of replacement. This can be done either with new unfinished wood installation, or re-finishing existing wood flooring.

When choosing between a pre- or site-finished wood floor, some factors that may influence a decision are: personal preference, price range, time frame, and wood type.

The appearance of a pre-finished wood floor differs from that of a site-finished one. A pre-finished wood floor contains more variety and diversity between boards due to the fact that they are factory stained and finished with polyurethane, rather than all at once on-site. A site-finished wood floor – one that is sanded down to raw wood, stained, and finished with polyurethane (most commonly) on-site – has a more consistent and “smooth” appearance. Neither of these are negative qualities, rather a matter of preference in appearance.

Generally speaking, the price tag on a new pre-finished wood floor (installed) is often less than a new site-finished one (installed, sanded, and finished). A new pre-finished floor includes the cost of materials and installation, while a new site-finished floor includes these same costs, plus the sand and finish process. While the wood floor materials themselves are less expensive in unfinished condition when compared to pre-finished, this variance doesn’t compensate for the cost to sand and finish the floor on-site. Note: If choosing between site-finishing an existing wood floor that is already in place, or replacing it with a new pre-finished one, the less expensive option would be the first – site-finishing the existing.

If time is of the essence for a project, then a pre-finished wood floor is most likely the best avenue (there are some rare exceptions). While the installation process takes slightly longer for a pre-finished floor than a site-finished one (due to extra precaution and care since it’s a finished product), the time required to sand and finish is a minimum of 3 days, no matter the project size, and could be much longer for larger jobs. While in many cases time frame is not a major issue, when it is, certain options will prove to be quicker than others, such as a pre-finished over a site-finished wood floor.

Many wood species can be bought in pre-finished or site-finished flooring materials, such as Oak and Maple, or exotics like Brazilian Cherry and Mahogany. However, species such as Pine, as well as “antique,” “rustic,” resawn, or reclaimed wood flooring often come in unfinished materials only, needing to be finished on-site after installation. For those interested in softwoods such as Pine, or these other types of materials, a site-finished wood floor is often the exclusive option.


Site-finished wood floor.




Pre-finished wood floor.


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