Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid ¾ inch thick hardwood flooring has been the traditional choice and preference for those that live in homes with wood sub floors. This would include those that live in areas north of winter frost line. Homes falling into this category generally have basements or crawlspaces under the main floor.
Solid hardwoods are offered in prefinished or unfinished with the latter once being a traditional choice. A lot has changed in the 25 years I’ve been in the business or going back to the early 90’s. In my earlier days, unfinished 2 ¼ inch wide “strip flooring” was about the only hardwood builders put in homes up north. In the south and west there was more of a preference for 3 or 3 ¼” prefinished.
Pros & Cons Prefinished and Unfinished
Unfinished is termed “site finished” by professionals. It has lost considerable favor over the last 15 years even with high end home construction. Reasons include the time involved and the need for a workspace that is free of other trade activity during the finishing process. This is particularly important for oil based finish applications that can require 3-4 days, to a week or longer depending on the size of the job and environmental (humidity) conditions. More environmentally friendly water based finishes reduce the time substantially but still need proper curing times.
Site finished floors offer near perfection once completed if the job is done properly. They are void of any bevels or micro bevels prominent with prefinished hardwood. Surface appearance and feel is smooth. However, keeping that appearance is the hardest task of any new floor owner. Moisture conditions throughout the home after the work has been done needs to be consistent and balanced which includes basements and crawlspaces.
Typical complaints from new floor owners where precautions or proper sequences were not taken into account before, during and after the installation include gaps or cracks between boards in dry heating months and cupped or buckled floors in warmer months.
Prefinished hardwoods benefit from what causes obstacles with site finished. There are no curing times or periods where other trades are not permitted in the installation areas, but it’s very wise to keep the traffic to minimum or protect the areas installed immediately. Masonite board is often used by builders that understand how important protection is.
Masonite board used for floor protection
Bevels in prefinished hardwood actually offer benefits many are unaware of. Many homeowners have difficulty maintaining the balanced moisture levels mentioned. This issue is probably the most important aspect that often gets ignored by sales people, builders and some professionals. Bevels actually hide minor gapping or cracks.
Bevels are also becoming more widely accepted with wide plank floor popularity. The seams between boards are less noticeable compared to the older traditional thinner width hardwoods. Longer lengths hardwoods also help to conceal seams as well.
Prefinished hardwoods offer the advantage in long term performance over site finished as more finish coats are applied during the finishing process. Most if not all, also have some form of newer finish technology in aluminum oxide or ceramic.
Far too many salespeople emphasize prefinished finish technology. Keep in mind, no finish is resistant to scratching, dings or dents. They are designed for wear resistance only.
UV curing during manufacturing