Site-finished (Unfinished) vs. Pre-finished Hardwood: Differences, Strengths & Weaknesses

If you’ve been looking at flooring, you’re probably wondering, “What is site-finished (unfinished) vs. pre-finished hardwood?” In addition, you may be wondering which is the best and which costs less.

The answers to the questions above lie deeply within preference and budget. Read on to find out more.

Pre-finished Hardwood

Pre-finished hardwood is wood that’s undergone a process of refining in the factory. It is ready-to-go when you purchase it and can be laid immediately.

Site-finished Hardwood

Unfinished wood, on the other hand, is raw wood that must be nailed to the floor and then sanded and refinished “on site”.

Riverside Heights Collection

Pros and Cons: Pre-finished Vs. Site-finished


Pre-finished hardwood is seven to ten more scratch resistant than site-finished hardwood is. Since it is finished in the factory, there are typically six to seven coats of finish applied. Factory finish usually includes baking at extremely high temperatures with aluminum oxide which is one of the world’s hardest substances. Site-finished hardwood generally gets two to three coats of finish, max.


Let’s face it – finishing hardwood is messy. First, the wood must be sanded and then there’s sawdust to clean. When the finish is applied, there’s mess and smell.


If you want your flooring in quickly, pre-finished hardwood is the way to lean. The average of pre-finished installation is one to two days while site-finished hardwood flooring typically runs four to five days, start to finish.


If you are wanting to highly customize the finish on your flooring, site-finished hardwood might be your best option.

Smooth edges

If you want smooth edges, site-finished flooring will give you that. Pre-finished flooring generally has beveled edges. The reason for the beveled edges is that the experts agree, it looks more natural. Some homeowners still prefer the look and feel of smooth edges though.


Since more labor, time, and materials goes into pre-finished hardwood, it costs more. Do consider the time and money you’ll put into site-finished wood when comparing the two.

Inhaus Natural Vintage Collection

Which is the Best – Site-finished or Pre-finished?

The choice between site-finished and pre-finished is best determined by the factors that are the most important to you. If having it laid in a day or two trumps, get pre-finished. If you are set on smooth edges, site-finished is for you. The main thing is to know the difference between the two and the characteristics of each.

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