The Advantages of Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

Unfinished vs. prefinished hardwood flooring

Why install unfinished hardwood flooring instead of prefinished floors?

Prefinished flooring is the perfect option for homeowners who need a very quick installation, or those who would like to convert a non-climate controlled environment into a living space (PFE).

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Prefinished flooring is also much easier to install than floors that have to be site-sanded. Whether it’s a click-lock prefinished engineered flooring, or a solid prefinished red oak, you barely have to do anything to it––you essentially click it into place or nail it up, and the floors are ready for immediate use.

But there are certain benefits to installing unfinished hardwood floors, too:

You can customize unfinished floors to the max.

One of the biggest advantages of unfinished, solid hardwood flooring is its flexibility. Since unfinished flooring is basically raw wood, it’s like working with a clean slate.

In contrast, prefinished flooring comes straight from the manufacturer with stain and several coats of finish already applied, so there’s no changing it. If your clients have an idea of how they want their floors to look, but it would be difficult or impossible to achieve with the available color pallet in prefinished flooring, unfinished is probably your only option.

Unfinished flooring also gives you the opportunity to match existing floors in other areas of your client’s home.

Less room for complication = Less risk.

With unfinished flooring, there’s no risk of a conflict between old and new layers of finish, since you’re just working with raw wood. You can apply virtually any finish without worrying about the new coat beading up and not adhering to the wood, including the European oiled systems.

Even when you’re working with unfinished flooring, you should still test out any stains and finishes you plan to use to make sure that the results are to your client’s liking.

Unfinished floors showcase the natural look of the wood.

You can purchase wide-plank reclaimed flooring for a rustic look with natural patinas that you can’t really achieve with wide-plank prefinished floors.

Site-sanded unfinished solid flooring can also have multiple edge profiles for a truly custom look, as opposed to the standard micro-beveled edges of prefinished floors. Some people find beveled edges unattractive. Beveled edges are also more difficult to keep clean because they trap more dirt than the uniform and smooth, site-sanded floors.

The ability to have a minimalistic finish system (European Hardening Oil) showing the natural beauty and grain of wood is easily achieved on an unfinished wood install. Most pre-finished systems apply multiple coats of UV cured finish that can leave the wood with a “plastic” appearance.

Of course, unfinished floors aren’t for everyone.

Unfinished floors take more time to install a completed job than prefinished floors. Prefinished floors can also be put to use almost immediately, since the finish is applied and cured at the factory.

Both unfinished and prefinished hardwood require conditions that are climate-controlled, or “livable conditions,” in the home or facility. In those areas where that may not be available (such as in an attic or a converted garage), your options are usually limited to prefinished or unfinished engineered flooring.

We stock a variety of prefinished and unfinished hardwood flooring to meet every need. Browse our inventory online 24/7 or call us at 1-800-737-1786 for more information.

14 thoughts on “The Advantages of Unfinished Hardwood Flooring

  1. Maggie Allen

    I think it is so great that we can have so many options in the first place for hardwood flooring. My husband and I have been trying to decide on the type of floors we want for our living room, but I don’t think we have looked into unfinished wood at all. We’ll be sure to do that when we have a chance. Since I am a big fan of rustic looks, I think that having a very natural look with the floors would be a good choice. However, I would also be open to a minimalistic finish if it will keep the wood in good condition for a longer amount of time.

  2. Derek Mcdoogle

    In your article, you stated that one of the biggest advantages of unfinished, solid hardwood flooring is its flexibility and since unfinished flooring is basically raw wood, it’s like working with a clean slate. My wife really wants to remodel our kitchen and dining room and someone suggested that we install hardwood flooring. I wonder if there is a certain type of wood that might be best for a kitchen or dining room.

  3. Lynn

    I have yet to consult a professional but am looking for your opinion. Most of my downstairs has prefinished Bruce solid oak gunstock 2-1/4. I’d love to update the finish as well as get rid of the carpet in family room, which is adjacent to large hallway (open floor plan). I had a thought that I could have unfinished hardwood installed in family room, then have the existing floor refinished (by a professional) with the unfinished stained same color. The ideal would be no noticeable difference in color.

    a) I’d love to use a wider plank in the family room, but will this work as the floor will connect with existing 2-1/4 planks in rest of downstairs? Or be too jarring, or noticeably different from the rest of the house?

    b) Similar issue in upstairs hallway, I already have same hardwood, 2-1/4 planks; bedrooms are all carpet, I’d like to do all wood floors in the bedrooms as well. Same as first question about widths not matching — too jarring? Also, for bedroom off a hallway, is it better to keep all the same color of wood? I want to use dark wood throughout, but my daughters are asking for a lighter wood in their rooms. I don’t want it to look like too much of a mish-mash.

    Thank you for any guidance or insight you can provide!

    1. Caran Baxter

      This sort of solution can be done, however I will caution that Bruce has mixed species (red oak and white oak ) in the past and when it is sanded could look a little odd. It would be difficult in the field to stain these two to match, perhaps a real dark stain may work.

      a) You can definitely use wider planks for the new install. Where this floor would meet the existing floor perhaps turning a board to isolate the two areas would work. This is a common solution.

      b) Each room is ok to be independent and different. Different species widths and colors. My daughters room is Dark stained oak, my youngest son’s room is Maple, and my oldest son’s room is Santos mahogany, the hallway is American cherry. I think it works well, the rooms are coordinated with the floors. With the doors closed you don’t even know it.

  4. Derek Dewitt

    My wife and I are thinking about installing new wood floors in our living room this year. I like your point about how unfinished wood floors can be customized with any color or finish. We’ll definitely consider doing this so we have options open to us as we renovate the room.

  5. Amy Winters

    Thanks for pointing out that unfinished hardwood floors help you achieve a rustic, natural look. My husband and I recently moved into an older home that needs a lot of fixing-up, including new floors. I know that I want hardwood, and I want it to look as natural as possible to compliment the rustic theme in the rest of our furniture. I’ll definitely talk to my husband about choosing unfinished hardwood for our new floors!

  6. Raymond Cooper

    I like how you point out that unfinished wood floors give you the flexibility to customize their finish. This would be especially nice if you’re looking to coordinate all aspects of your home’s interior decor. I’ll definitely keep this in mind before deciding on what type of flooring to get installed in my new home.

  7. Taylor Bishop

    I wanted to thank you for explaining why an unfinished hardwood floor can be beneficial. I didn’t know that an unfinished floor can have multiple edge profiles to make the floor look like a custom look. I wonder if this could be ideal for larger rooms or smaller ones where the custom look can look more natural.


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