Unfinished or Pre-finished Floors

Which Floor – Unfinished or Pre-finished Floors?

Article Summary: Pre-finished floors or unfinished? – There is hot debate on what constitutes the best type of wood flooring to buy. Here we give you the unbiased facts to enable you to make up your own mind. Be aware that all manufacturers will endorse the good points about their flooring products, but not dwell too much on any possible drawbacks that might exist. The fact is, there are good and bad points about both, so here they are:
Pre-finished Floors

All things being equal, pre-finished floors are undoubtedly quicker to install than unfinished, there is far less upheaval involved and the job should be less messy. Also, for the do-it-yourselfer, pre-finished floors are an easy project to tackle. However, be aware that site conditions must be good or the end product will suffer.

Be aware that with pre-finished floors you will always have a slight step between each individual board, this is largely concealed by a clever machining technique that makes a small beveled edge along the top edge. There will always be a gap between each board and this gap is notorious for collecting dirt. It is also an entryway for a floor’s biggest enemy – moisture. Any liquid spillages will be absorbed through the joins first. It is important to insure that your floor has been specially treated to guard against this. This major disadvantage is amplified in wet areas, like kitchens and bathrooms, and some manufacturers’ guarantees do not cover their flooring for these areas.

The most common finish available is a fairly standard semi-gloss which personally I like, but many people will prefer a different type. Although you can change the finish after installation, you might as well have gone for unfinished wood if this is the case. Also, the surface finish will never be as durable as an applied finish, so be prepared to see a few scratches appear quite quickly, depending on traffic.


  • Quick to Install
  • Easy job for the D-I-Yer
  • Less mess

  • Gap between boards is a dirt trap
  • Moisture ingress a problem
  • Standard semi-gloss finish
  • Sub floor preparation needs to be done very carefully

Unfinished Floors

Unfinished floors are undoubtedly harder to install and require more work to get a perfect finish. However, there are some real advantages that should be pointed out, such as the flooring being flat with no dirt and moisture-collecting groove between planks. Because of this, the floor in general does have a better look than its pre-finished counterpart. It is also easier to keep clean as there isn’t anywhere for small particles of dirt to accumulate. Any liquid spillage will not, if the surface fish has been applied carefully, penetrate the wood and is therefore easy to deal with. You are also free to choose any surface finish you want, rather than settle for the standard semi-gloss of pre-finished.


  • Flat, smooth surface
  • No moisture or dirt traps
  • Looks better (if installed well)
  • Easy to keep clean

  • Harder and more difficult to install
  • Probably more expensive

At some stage you will need to know about Refinishing Wood Floors and it is possible if the wood has not been seasoned properly you will need to deal with Wood Floor Cracking.

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