OT - Prefinished wood flooring vs. on-site finishing

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Folks,     I know this really belongs in alt,home-repair, but this group has much better (and more talented <G>) members, so I'm asking here.
I'll soon be installing 3/4" solid wood floors in my existing home. I'm looking for insight on pre finished wood floors vs. on-site sanding and finishing. Here's what I've got so far:
Pre-finished:     Pros - Flawless factory applied finish, no mess, no denied access to area while finish dries.     Cons - More expensive floor material (but nearly the same total cost), less selection of colors and woods.
Raw wood:     Pros - Cheaper flooring material, more color and wood selections, finish material may seal between boards better.     Cons - Sanding and finishing effort and mess, finish smell, denied access to area while finish cures, possible finish flaws due to dust, etc...
Two big issues have me leaning toward pre finished. The home is a cape, so there is only one way upstairs and to the bathrooms. Also, we have three live pushsticks and a large fish tank. The pushsticks may cause problems with wet finishes and we need access to the fish tank, which is on the second floor.
Any thoughts?
Thanks, Barry
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B a r r y B u r k e J r . wrote:

I can't actually afford to put plans into action right yet anyway, but I've been mulling this one over for a long time, and have my mind made up. I'm almost certainly going to go pre-finished. FWIW.
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You missed big one in my book.
Prefinished tends to be maufactured with a microbevel to handle the inevitable slight elivation changes between "boards". To me, this this is a significanly different look from a sanded smooth surface which I personally prefer
YMMV
and yes, sanding is one hell of a mess.
-Steve
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but doesn't that bevel catch and retain dirt? that's always been my concern. also, if you get water or other fluids on the floor, doesn't the fact that sealer hasn't had the chance to seal between the boards cause issues?
curious,
--- dz
Stephen M wrote:

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I've seen many finished on-site floors with micro slits between boards, created by wood movement, so I didn't see that as that big of a deal.
I gotta' look for the bevel mentioned by another poster, though!
Barry
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On Wed, 3 Dec 2003 10:32:35 -0500, "Stephen M"

I'll have to check this out. I hadn't noticed it on the samples I've seen. My brother-in-law put down a prefinished bamboo floor and it looks as though it was finished in place.
Thanks for the tip! Barry
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prefinished floors are frequently finished with a harder material than you can do yourself. this leads to more time before it has to be refinished.
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On the other hand, they also tend to be thinner material or have a veneer over junk so you can only refinish once (if that many times). IMHO, once in place they scream "done by a do-it-yourselfer".
Of course, if you go with raw wood, it makes a big difference in who does the work, how they do the work, and what materials are chosen. Right now, I have a 100% crap floor that the builder had installed..it is maple and the finish doesn't hold up and the floor isn't stable. Before I moved, I had floors installed by an installer of my choosing using quarter-sawn white oak and you couldn't ask for a nicer floor...when we moved we'd had it for eight years and it still looked new whereas this maple floor looked like total crap after six months (it literally looks like we overhaul engines in the hallway).

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wrote:

You're thinking of another product.
The prefinished flooring I'm considering is 100% solid 3/4" wood. This stuff is not a laminate or composition product of any kind.
Barry
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I put down a prefinished 3/4 oak floor a few years back in a bedroom. The one thing I don't like is that the surface isn't smooth like it would be if it was sanded. However, we had someone over to the house that saw the floor and remarked that the gloss on the finish was much better than hers, which had just been refinished. If I had it to do again, I think I would still go with prefinished. I don't think you can minimize the amount of reduced effort and mess by not having to sand and finish, as long as you're comfortable with the end result, which is not a smooth surface.
todd
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I think that is an important point and probably depends to a large extent upon the layout of your house. Where I think the finish-in-place floors win hands down is where you have large, well-lit rooms or long hallways...looking down an expanse of wood flooring looks great with on-site finishing because the smoothness of the flooring is very noticeable in these situations.

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On Wed, 03 Dec 2003 03:27:22 -0800, B a r r y B u r k e J r . wrote:

[snip]
We've recently put floors in and will be putting more in soon (as soon as I finish the kitchen remodel :).
We went with the pre-finished 3/4" hardwood and I have no regrets. So far it is in my office and we'll soon expand it to most of the rest of the house. It goes in great and the nice things is that once you are done nailing, you're done. I think this is a great way to go.
One additional drawback though: getting the matching trim bits for the flooring can be quite expensive. I just ordered some T-moulding and flush stairnose pieces. A 6 1/2 foot piece of the stairnose ran almost $60.
walt
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and finishing > Any thoughts?
My thoughts are I don't like the look of prefinished flooring. It looks pre-finished to my eye. Most people don't notice it though. When you have an on site installation including sanding and finishing, they fill gaps during the sanding process and it just looks better. Pre finished floors always seem to have gaps. Not big gaps mind you but it is just noticeable. To make a long story short, to my eye, I can tell the difference between a prefinished floor to an on site finished floor and I prefer the look of an on site finished floor. JMHO. SH
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On Wed, 03 Dec 2003 11:27:22 GMT, B a r r y B u r k e J r .

I'm kinda an old house nut, so in most cases, I like the look of sanded-in-place floor. If done properly, the floor can last 50-100 years, and through several sanding/refinishing phases. It also looks far more monolithic, and if you have a good installer, cool things like contrasting edge details, or a greek-key border can readily be accomplished. Cherry or walnut accents with a maple or white oak floor look nice.
However, if it was just one room, or a small area, it would be hard to deny the ease of installation of a pre-finished floor. Some of the modern factory applied finishes are also far harder, and more scratch resistant than anything that would realistically be applied in a home environment. With the slightly beveled edges it just won't have that old hardwood floor look.
DLGlos
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DLGlos wrote:

It's kind of funny how floor fashion changes. Nowadays, wood floors are tremendously expensive when compared to almost everything else, and people are ripping out boring carpet and replacing it with exciting, expensive hardwood floors. I hope to do that myself any year now, and I'm so sick of carpet.
I don't know what carpet used to cost, but based on how many hardwood floors I've seen buried in '60s puke green shag, I'd guess it used to be the other way around. People with money could afford to cover up those cold, stark, nasty hardwood floors with something modern and cozy.
They used to paint them too. I can't imagine why anyone would paint quarter sawn white oak floors olive green, but I've seen it.
Furniture too, actually. I guess maybe once upon a time, paint was an exciting thing as well. (And yes, I suppose we already covered that when discussing what "Japanning" was all about...)
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Jerry Gilreath wrote:

I'm chuckling at this... One of my friends growing up lived in such a house. His parents got rid of the carpet, restored the floors... They had a coal furnace, but it was drafty as all get out in the place, and it got cold at night. Those floors were *cold* in the morning.
Probably not as cold as what you remember, but cold enough that I can understand why people covered them with carpet.
Personally, I think area rugs are a good compromise. See most of the pretty floor, keep your feet warm, and when the pushsticks leave presents all over it, you can just get a new one.

Up hill, both ways. :)
Actually, I lived in a place like that once. At the bottom of two hills, so it really was "up hill, both ways" either way I went I had to walk up a steep hill, and then down one.
I never had to do it barefoot though.
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On pre-finished floors, what they refer to as Swedish finish is supposed to wear the best. It doesn't meet VOC standards in California (and probably elsewhere), so the only way to get it (there, anyway) is to buy pre-finished flooring manufactured elsewhere. If your area allows, it is possible to do Swedish finish in place.
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I put down 2 rooms of Bruce prefinished with an inlay. I used the 3/8" engineered oak. The pre-fin was quick, but the problem I had was gaps where boards met. The micro bevels don't collect any dirt, but it does look pre-fin to me. I plan on doing more rooms, maybe I'll try raw wood this time...... Mark
B a r r y B u r k e J r . wrote:

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I think the big advantage for raw wood is that you have less nooks and crannies to accumulate grime (prefinished typically bevels the edges slightly) and the wood is thicker so it can be refinished more times. The only reason I'd go with prefinished is to obtain a finish that either cannot be done in place or is illegal (like Swedish finish in California) to do in place.
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I almost forgot, since one of your major concerns with on-site finishing is the mess (I assume the SANDING mess is your biggest concern), Bonakemi has a finishing machine that is supposed to eliminate most of that mess (I guess it is a floor sander with dust collection) and they have a number of distributors around the country who have one of these machines. If you want to check it out (I haven't used it, but am considering it myself) the website is: http://www.bonakemi.com /
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