Can prefinished hardwood be sealed?

Q: I read the question about the differences between laminate, hardwood and pre-finished. As noted, the prefinished allows for the possibility of spills going through the slats. Can prefinished hardwood be sealed to avoid this problem?

A: No. Prefinished floors offer serious challenges to re coating because of the type of finish and the bevel edges. If you want a floor that is coated over the entire surface, have a site finished floor.

Can we install a prefinished hardwood floor and then put a coat of polyurethane over it, to seal all the cracks?

Q: Can we install a prefinished hardwood floor and then put a coat of polyurethane over it, to seal all the cracks? Will it adhere to the prefinished hardwood?

A: No. If you don’t like the bevelled edges get square edge site finished which is what I generally recommend. Pre-finished floors will end up costing more in the end. The bevels are an issue.

Finishing the wood in his workshop and installing it pre-finished?

Q: We are installing hickory pecan, micro grooved, planked flooring in our entire house. We’re located near the ocean. Our finisher/installer is planning on creating and finishing the wood in his workshop and installing it pre-finished, finish before installation. I am surprised at that decision because I thought custom installed and finished hardwood floors would hold up better. My old oak individually laid tongue and groove floors held up very well, even in the kitchen after several water disasters from earthquakes, etc. Does the installer’s decision make sense? And what finish should I request for water durability, etc.?

A: I’m not sure how your contractor is going to pull this off unless he intends to also bevel the edges and possibly the ends of the boards to hide unevenness! I’m not a big fan of pre finished floors because they are bevelled. They are bevelled to hide that uneven result. Unless your sub floor is absolutely spot on flat and board milling is also very precise I can see possible issues.

There are a number of excellent finishes on the market. I like a couple of Poloplaz products. Their oil modified Primero is excellent as is their water borne 202. Especially being near the ocean, I would strongly suggest the flooring be delivered at least a week or more to the home before installation begins and that the environment in the home be at a level you like to live in year round.

Should I install a prefinished floor in a kitchen?

Q: I have a customer that wants to use a wood floor in their kitchen renovation. Questions: Should I install a prefinished wood floor in kitchen? What is the sealing or protection factor, as opposed to installing an unfinished floor? Will the poly create a more durable, leak protective coating? In terms of protecting the wood from potential leak damage/cupping, would a unfinished floor that I sand, seal, stain and poly provide increased protection as opposed to a prefinished floor?

A: For a kitchen I would definitely recommend site finished because it has several coats of finish across the entire floor, board joints and all. In some localities it is against code to use pre-finished floors in kitchens. So, yes of course, a site finished floor will offer better protection against spills and water penetration through the joints.

Is pre-finished hardwood flooring or non-pre-finished hardwood flooring preferable?

Q: Is pre-finished hardwood flooring or non-pre-finished hardwood flooring preferable? Is one better than the other is some way, if a person has the choice? I know one needs a lot of prep work and finish work… but other than the ease of installment… if that were not a problem, or if price were not a problem… which would be the best: prefinished vs unfinished hardwood floors?

A: I prefer site finished which has square edges rather than bevelled, with several coats of finish over the entire floor rather than just on each individual plank. The bevelled edges exist on pre-finished because the floor is not flat. These edges, along with the lack of flatness and the abrasion resistant aluminum oxide coatings make this a difficult floor to buff and re-coat down the road. It would probably mean a complete sanding, which will be more expensive since the bevels will now have to be sanded off. With site finished you choice of colour is almost unlimited, which isn’t the case for pre-finished.

Related exchange:

Q: What are your impressions of the D***** hardwood flooring products at **** *****?

A: I like that it isn’t from China. I haven’t used their product and in general try to direct people away from factory finished floors to site finished. As small as the bevels are now, I still don’t like the bevels, which will become an issue eventually regardless of whose product you install.

I prefer to buy my hardwood from hardwood dealerships that specialize in just that.

Follow-up Q: Why are bevels a concern? I have been seriously considering Mirage and Gaylord from Tweed Ontario. This is becoming a confusing process.

A: Bevels become an issue eventually because every floor, sooner or later will require another coat of finish from surface wear. Not only are aluminum oxide coatings abrasion resistant (making it near impossible to abrade the coating sufficiently to gain adhesion, but what do you do with the bevels? Buff each one individually? A micro bevel floor which requires sanding would have to be sanded 6 times which is twice the work and near twice the cost of a square edge, site finished floor. Mirage is one of the better prefinished as far as milling is concerned but I have noticed in recent years they are including a lot more short boards in their boxes. The bevel issue applies to their product also.

Follow-up Q: We are having an unbelievable time trying to figure out this whole hardwood situation. Would a Gaylord (from Tweed Ontario) prefinished product be a good bet? They are quite popular down this way.

A: What exactly is it you are having a hard time with? I personally don’t like pre-finished flooring although they do offer convenience and in some cases could last years before they need any serious attention. I think you need to deal more directly with the manufacturer or the distributor you are thinking of purchasing from. Have a list of questions about the product. Do some research. Request a few sample boards.

Is a prefinished hardwood floor suitable for a kitchen?

Q: Is a prefinished hardwood floor suitable for a kitchen?

A: Generally, I am not a great fan of prefinished floors. However, especially in a kitchen setting where spills are inevitable, I don’t think it is your best choice to install prefinished hardwood in a kitchen. A site finished floor, properly finished with good quality finishes will give you a multi-layer coating over the entire floor surface to help prevent damage from those spills seeping between the boards.

What type of hardwood to purchase

Q: I am trying to decide on what type of hardwood to purchase. In a previous home I installed dark cherry-stained oak. I have a dog and of course the scratches were very visible and after only a few months looked terrible. I also found it very hard to keep clean.

I have been shopping around and have been considering natural stain oak. I have a chance to purchase a Grade 2 at 2.99 sq. foot (Canadian). I was also advised Brazilian cherry (Jatoba) would be a good choice for me since the wood does not scratch as easy and scratches would be less evident since the colour is natural and throughout the wood. I can get this for 4.99 sq. foot (Canadian) which I’m told is “a deal”…

A: Under the circumstance, I would consider any pre finished floor to be a poor choice. Especially if this is Jatoba. Woods such as oak, with a heavier grain pattern will do a better job of hiding claw marks, especially with a satin finish. Maple is harder than oak, but given the tight grain tends to show every mark. Another good choice might be ash.

Waiting to finish

Q: How long can you wait to sand and finish floors after installing?  We have other tasks to do, like stick on stone around our fireplace hearth.  Can waiting too long to sand and finish be detrimental to the unfinished floor?

A: The only issues would be if you were muddying the walls and dropping gobs of patch on the floor or were painting on bare wood and the overspray or spills got into the grain of the wood.  Otherwise, it doesn’t make any difference.

Ceramic vs. aluminium oxide coat

Q: Can you tell me the difference between the ceramic coat and the aluminium oxide coat?

A: I believe they are similar if not the same, depending on what particles they float in their finishes. It is designed to make the finish more abrasion resistant. One of the big problems with these floors and these coatings is that sooner or later they will take a beating and need a fresh coat of finish applied. This is quite a problem because the finish is abrasion resistant. You have to abrade the finish enough to make another coat of polyurethane stick to it. Nobody has explained to me yet how this can be successfully accomplished.

Stick with on site finished hardwood with square edges and an unlimited choice of stain colours.

Bare micro-bevels

Q: We have recently done a DIY hardwood floor installation using a pre-finished birch product purchased from a major home improvement retailer. This material has micro-bevels, but we noticed during installation that it appears the finish which was applied to the top surface of the strips does not extend down the bevels, i.e.. the bevels are stained, but not actually finished. The result of this is that in all the bevels in the completed floor, we have exposed, unfinished wood, which is susceptible to absorbing liquids easily and could quickly ruin the floor – there are already a couple spots that have started to swell from spills. Of course, we could refinish the entire floor, but we were wondering if there was some way we might be able to seal the joints/bevels without resorting to a full refinish job?

A: You have now discovered just one of the drawbacks of pre finished floors. The bevels, for one example, are why I try to direct my customers away from these floors.

First, I would say, if the bevels seem unfinished, then you should contact the manufacturer.

Second, I think you should have talked to a professional. If this type of work was really a do it yourself project, guys like myself who have invested years and thousands of dollars in equipment would be out of business. We know it is not easy. You just found out the same truth. I would suggest, again, asking the manufacturer of the floor how to deal with this problem, since it is a manufacturing problem.

Staining before install

Q: Would it be easier to stain a new pine floor before it is laid? If this is the case, could we go ahead and give one coat of finish? The last part of my question is, would we have to stain the ends of the boards when we cut them for installation?

A: I don’t see that staining and applying a coat of finish will help you. The floors will not be flat after installation, and will require some sanding of the surface to make it uniform.

Coat over pre-finished floor

Q: I just put hardwood floors, pre-finished, into my new condo. I love the color and grain of the wood I chose, but it is not shiny enough. My floor installer told me that adding polyurethane will only make it shine for around a month. Is this true?

A: Most pre finished floors are either satin or semi gloss. Most manufacturers shy away from gloss, since the heavy shine shows scratches more than a lower shine. Most of such floors use an aluminum oxide or ceramic coating which is extremely hard. I would not even consider trying to apply a coat of finish over top of this. It is extremely difficult to impossible to abrade this finish enough to gain adhesion with a polyurethane applied in house.

Installing hardwood in kitchen

Q: We are building a new house. I love the look of hardwood and would love to have it in the kitchen. The problem is we have three children and I’m afraid it won’t hold up in the kitchen area. I’m also concerned about water damage. At this point I have requested ceramic tile in the kitchen but really want hardwood. The hang ups I have are durability and water damage???….. Help! What’s your opinion?

A: If you install a solid wood, 3/4 thick floor in your kitchen, and if it is finished well on site there should be no problem. Of course, if your dish washer floods the kitchen, the floor would be lost. Provided you wipe up spills in reasonable time, I don’t see an issue. For example, if a little child spilled over a drink, it is easy enough to wipe up. Hardwood will dent if you drop heavy objects on it. Ceramic may chip. If you are a wet mop type of person, ceramic is possibly your choice. With reasonable (not frantic) care, hardwood will work well too.

V Groove with dirt stuck in it

Q: We have prefinished maple flooring installed in kitchen, living room/dinning room, master bedroom and down the stairs.

My question is the groove “v” in the boards end and sides are dirty and we wondered how or what we can do to clean this we have tried a small brush but still there. This is most noticeable in the kitchen.

We have always used a wood cleaner recommended by our flooring dealer vacuum and dust mop once a week and damp mop with this cleaner once or more often depending on usage. There are only two adults and two cats in house so very little traffic.

A: Have you tried a crevice tool with a vacuum? While these floors have their merits, I still try to steer people to go unfinished with square edges.

Prefinished hardwood compared with on-site finished

Q: How does prefinished hardwood compare with on-site finished hardwood in terms of: -quality of finish?

-Overall price including installation and finishing?
-Other factors?

Can a prefinished hardwood really attain a comparably smooth surface to on-site sanded finish?

Are there any problems with refinishing a prefinished floor later in its life?

A: Everyone has an opinion about these questions, and so do I.

The one advantage pre finished has over unfinished is that the home owner is not put out of his house at all during the installation, nor is subjected to any fumes.

Pre finished floors have a much harder urethane applied to them than what is generally available, at least in the oil based polyurethane line. This however, can be a draw back down the road when the floor finally will need a fresh coat of finish because it is starting to show signs of wear. How to buff these aluminum oxide coatings sufficiently so that another finish will adhere is a problem. Also, I have heard that not all finishes will adhere to the aluminum oxide coatings. That is another problem. Then we have the issue of the beveled edges. Most of today’s floors have a very tiny micro bevel. This may or may not create a problem when re coating. If it is a large bevel, certainly each one should be scraped or sanded by hand. The reason for the bevel is to hide irregularities in height from one board to the next. This creates another problem with a simple buff and recoat, since after the floors are polished, it will become clear that there are many areas that are low spots and have not been abraded at all. No abrasion. No adhesion. So, unless someone is able to solve these problems, down the road, you are not looking at a simple buff and coat to refresh your pre finished floor. You are looking at a total resand and finish.

A floor finished on site offers any colour you want, without limit. The end result is a floor that looks more uniform, since each board is not hi lited by the micro bevel. It also has finish coats across the entire surface, rather than individual boards.

I have both types of floor in my house. I have to confess, the top of the line pre finished floor is showing considerable wear after only a few years from my 20 lbs. Boston Terrier. The 70 year old oak strip which I finished myself with oil based polyurethane is standing up much better. And when it starts to look a little beaten, I can buff and re coat it without any problem.

More often than not, if you go with a good quality factory finished floor you will pay more for the flooring itself, and for the installation. You cut out the sanding. The same job, with a lower priced unfinished floor, including sanding usual is comparable in cost. Often the pre finished is still more expensive.

Now you know what my opinion is, and I hope I have answered your questions.

Prefinished or unfinished wood floors for plank floor

Q: Unfortunately, parquet is not the look we are after. We do want wide and long planks, engineered for a tighter look. I guess it is back to whether or not the sealers will keep us protected.

A: For protection against spills or pet accidents, pre finished is not a good choice. Each board or plank/panel is individually finished. You don’t have a seal over the entire floor, including the edges where the boards join. If you want a long strip or plank look, you are better off to go unfinished, having the floors finished on site for that reason.

More on prefinished or unfinished wood floors.