Either option can be a good one. A high quality prefinished product plus installation is about equal in cost to a custom, site-finished floor, so the difference comes down to features like performance, style, and work conditions. The following tables illustrate the key differences between the products:
In favor of site-finished:
Finish is applied to individual boards at the factory
Finish is applied to the whole, completed floor
Board edges are rounded down, or beveled, to hide small discrepancies in height from one board to the next. The floor is an assembly of individual panels.
The entire floor is sanded as a unit, resulting in a perfectly flat floor. Discrepancies are eliminated and gaps are filled, creating a single surface.
Unsuitable for most custom features
Unlimited ability to customize
Surface scratches are highly visible and have a powdery-white appearance
Surface scratches are translucent and difficult to see except in reflected light
Prefinished colors and styles have limited production runs. If you wish to add on to your floor down the road, it may be impossible to find a matching product
With custom stain blends and dyes, we can match almost any color and even some aging effects
While durable, factory finishes do wear and need refinishing. In order to refinish, the boards must be sanded to the very bottom of the beveled edges in order to remove all the factory coating. This results in heavy wood loss, drastically shortening the life-span of the floor
As long as the floor is relatively clean, only a miniscule amount of wood is removed with each refinishing, allowing the floor to last 100 years or more.
In favor of prefinished:
|When the final board is put in place, you are ready to move back in||After installation, allow up to a couple days for sanding and finishing, and up to 24 hours of curing before you are ready to move back in|
|Very smooth and durable finishes applied in factory-controlled conditions for a perfect surface||Site-applied finishes may show miniscule irregularities because they are applied in a real-life setting rather than a carefully controlled spray booth|
For all these reasons, therefore, we're convinced that site-finished floors offer the most advantages for both style and performance. The great benefit to prefinished floors is faster turnaround, meaning you are inconvenienced for less time. Either way, however, you're looking at time spent off your floors while work is being done, and most of our customers opt to wait a few extra days for what we feel is both a better floor and a greater long-term value.
Solid hardwood is exactly what it sounds like--each board is a solid, single piece of wood milled from a hardwood tree. Engineered flooring, on the other hand, uses a strip of hardwood glued onto a plywood backing.
Solid hardwood has endured for centuries, and is our recommended product for most situations. The prime benefit of engineered wood is better performance under adverse moisture conditions. Due to the plywood backing, engineered boards will experience less swelling and contraction than solid hardwood. We recommend this for use below ground-level and over concrete. It can also be a wise option for moisture-sensitive wood species or wide-plank configurations, which may react strongly to normal moisture swings. A six-inch hickory plank floor, for example, may not perform well in a solid format, but could be successfully used with an engineered platform.
A quality engineered product will have a thick wear layer that can be sanded and finished multiple times. Much of the cheap engineered wood on the market today has only a thin veneer of hardwood: once it is worn, the only option is to rip it out and start over. Obviously this is a very poor value; we don't recommend or install these products. A quality engineered product will generally cost more than solid hardwood, another reason that solid hardwood is our top recommendation for most situations.