There is no question that adding hardwood flooring to your home not only adds value, but also a warm and inviting feel. The two main types of hardwood flooring available are: installed and finished on site, or pre-finished hardwood flooring.
Site finished means that the actual hardwood flooring pieces/planks are nailed or glued (depending upon the subfloor), then the surface is sanded, stained, sanded again, wood filler applied, sanded again, with three coats of polyeurethane, with a light sanding in between coats. This can result in a beautiful finish, and is not so much of an issue when done in new construction when there are no inhabitants in the house.
However, if you have this type of floor and you need to get it refinished or change the color and you are living in the house, it can be quite an ordeal. No matter how much a company boasts of a dustless system, there is dust from the sanding.
I have installed and had both types of hardwood in my homes and the homes of many clients over the years. The advancements in the manufacturing processes of pre-finished flooring, has made it a superior choice for many reasons:
1) Very limited dirt/dust in the air from the installation. If you have persons with allergies and asthma in the home, hardwoods are a great option to alleviate dirt and fibers held in carpet. The installation of pre-finished hardwoods is a better option than site finished due to the elimination of most dust, and the amount of VOCs and fumes given off using oil-based stains and polys associated with site finished.
2) The factory finished aluminum oxide coatings on pre-finished hardwoods are equal to eight-plus coats of traditional polyurethanes used when site finished. Dust, dirt and other contaminates usually dry into the finish and stay there during the sanding and application of polyurethanes in the site finishing. These factory finishes have a much longer warranty on the finish, can be up to 25 years.
3) The installation process for pre-finished is minimal usually one to two days, and you can move furniture back in immediately. Whereas site finished requires a week or more, with multiple steps. You often times have to be out of the home for several days, during the staining process, and off the floor for several more while it cures. And all of the furniture has to be moved out you can't move it from room to room.
4) When adding a room of hardwood, it is often easier with the pre-finished material to match, and the entire floor does not have to be sanded and re-stained. Custom stain colors with site finished may not match again when adding or refinishing.
5) With engineered pre-finished flooring, expansion and contraction of wood is virtually non-existent. With solid, unfinished flooring, if not acclimated long enough to the home's environment beforehand, there can be movement expansion after installation.
With the changes in our lifestyles over the last 10 years, our time constraints, desire to minimize stress and concern over chemicals in our environment, pre-finished hardwood is one of the ways to make our lives easier in the remodeling process.