Posted by          Hardwood Flooring    October 10, 2021

Unfinished hardwood flooring has been around for centuries.

Before painting, staining, and sealers, people would use wood harvested from local resources. They would cut, sand, and lay the boards into place.

A lot has changed over the years, but the natural beauty of hardwood lives on. It’s in discerning houses across the Front Range.

What is unfinished hardwood flooring?

By calling it unfinished hardwood flooring, certain characteristics come to mind. It can be a bit confusing until you dive deeper to discover what “unfinished” really means.

Unfinished is still processed flooring ready to be installed in your home. The difference comes with the final process of sanding it, staining it, and sealing the wood.

In the 1940s, prefinished hardwood found its way to the market as an option to speed up the installation process inside homes. The difficult process was handled as a part of the manufacturing process, meaning you could see exactly what the flooring would look like just by glancing at one of the boards. That was a big draw for flooring and home improvement stores, as it allowed shoppers to “see” what they would be installing before making their final selection.

Is Unfinished Hardwood Flooring The Right Choice For Your Remodel?That gave consumers a greater choice when shopping for goods for their homes.

  • Unfinished hardwood comes without a finish applied; homeowners finish it after the hardwood is installed.
  • Prefinished hardwood is ready to install, and will be completed once the final board is laid into place.
  • Unfinished hardwood is laid with flat boards to create a smooth appearance.
  • Prefinished hardwood has beveled edges to hide inconsistencies as it’s butted against other boards.
  • Unfinished hardwood requires additional work after installation.
  • Prefinished hardwood is ready to go once it’s installed.
  • Unfinished hardwood may take additional cure time depending on stain and sealer preferences.
  • Prefinished hardwood can be ready to walk on and have furniture moved into place right after installation.
  • Unfinished hardwood gives you unlimited opportunity for style and color.
  • With prefinished hardwood, what you see is what you get.

Why many homeowners think unfinished hardwood flooring is the only way

In our consumer-driven world, being able to walk into a showroom and find a perfect choice is part of who we are. It’s nice being able to see your ideas in front of you, select, and have them installed in a short period of time.

Prefinished was created exactly for those scenarios. It’s a perfect way to find your ideas easily, match colors and textures, and “see” what you’re getting before you finalize your decisions.

Yet for others, they envision a color palette that is uniquely their own. They want something only unfinished hardwood flooring has to offer.

One of a kind look

Have you ever entered a home and recognized the flooring immediately? It’s popular, and everyone is using it. While it may be popular for a reason, it’s just not your style. You want your own unique look, and you can’t get it when you see the same thing in every store you visit.

Unfinished flooring may be for you. An experienced installer can help you create the exact look you’re looking for.

It starts with the hardwood. Different species will have different variants and characteristics that shine through when stain is applied.

It also is about what stain and sealer you use. The possibilities are endless when you’re mixing colors to create the right choice to suit your needs.


If you’ve ever picked out prefinished hardwood before, you’ve heard the sales associate tell you to ensure all of your product boxes are from the same dye lot. That’s to ensure a similar color resonates through to all the boards used for your flooring. Even with careful mixing, color might vary over time.

When you install unfinished hardwood, all of the finalization techniques are handled on site, meaning you’ll have uniformity no matter how large or small the room size. Sanding ensures every board is tightly fitted together. Staining on site ensures a uniform color spreads to every corner of the room. And every inch of space will be properly sealed, giving you less chance of spills seeping between the cracks.

That’s one of the biggest reasons people often select unfinished. When the final sealant goes into place, it fills in the empty spaces and cracks, giving you an even structure across all of the flooring planks. You’ll have extra protection throughout the wear life of your flooring.

Remodeling and rematching

You want new hardwood floors, but you also want to stay true to some of the home furnishings you already have in place. And every time you bring home a sample prefinished hardwood board, something isn’t quite right. It’s not the correct shade. The color is a little off.

That’s where prefinishing has the advantage. Whether you’re trying to match an antique dining room set, the cupboards in your office, or the cabinets in your kitchen, you’ll never be able to match them with prefinished in quite the same manner as you can with unfinished.

That’s because an experienced installer can mix color combinations to give you the perfect look you’re vying for.

Along with color, an installer can help you match the consistency of finishes and sheens throughout your home. From high gloss to matte, when you’re in control of the final look, you can achieve anything you desire.

A quick thought on DIY

While some flooring products are great for do-it-yourselfers, unfinished hardwood flooring is best left to the pros. If you have a certain look you desire, it can be difficult recreating that look without the experience behind you.

For example, a red oak species will provide strikingly different results than maple. You may like the appearance of the wood in the store, but how will it appear after staining and sealing?

And with the sheer amount of options with stains and sealers, do you know which combination is best to suit your needs? Get it wrong, and you could find yourself experiencing buyer’s remorse almost as soon as you have your new floors in. Worse, they could be compromised with the first spill landing on the boards, meaning you might have to change the floorboards out shortly after they’ve been installed.

Finishing unfinished hardwood flooring is labor-intensive and time-consuming. As a DIYer, it’s best to choose other projects, and leave this one to the pros.

Is unfinished hardwood flooring the best choice for your upcoming remodel?