Q: How does prefinished hardwood compare with on-site finished hardwood in terms of: -quality of finish?
-Overall price including installation and finishing?
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.