Should I Use Prefinished or Unfinished Hardwood Flooring
By Jeff Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring Inc.
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Unfinished Hardwood Flooring
For many centuries hardwood flooring was only available unfinished, the wood flooring had to be installed and then sanded flat, stained and refinished with multiple coats of a urethane based finish. This whole extremely laborious process took days even weeks to complete and the finished quality of the job was often questionable. Most of the problems that would arise were bubbles, pools and missed spots in the finish, dust or hairs stuck in the finish coats, gouges or other sanding marks left in the wood from the sanding process. Other problems were unqualified refinishers who dripped or splashed the finish coats all over the other floor coverings and walls and the dust left over from all this work would be throughout the house. You also had to be out of your home while this work was being performed. Defining a great job from a disaster wholly depended on the quality and experience of the installer/refinisher and their finishing products and techniques they used.
The Benefits of using Unfinished Hardwood Flooring are if you desired a particular color that is not available prefinished and if you wanted to use boards wider than say 7 inches wide.
TYPES OF FINISHES COMMONLY USED ON JOB SITE SANDED AND REFINISHED HARDWOOD FLOORING:
Water Based Urethane – Water is used as part of the chemical make up of the polyurethane finish. Water base finishes are quick drying 2-8 hours per coat, virtually odorless. Water base finishes do not always enhance the color of some wood species especially exotic wood flooring species without using a color enhanced sealer as a first coat. Durability of these types of finishes are moderate to excellent depending on which brand is used. Complete cure (dry) time is 1-3 weeks. Available in Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Solvent Based Polyurethane – Oils are used as part of the chemical make up of the polyurethane finish. Oil based finishes take 8-24 hours dry time between coats, contain an odor that may last several days, oil base provides a thick finish film and enhances the color of any wood flooring. Durability of these types of finishes are moderate to excellent depending on which brand is used. Complete cure (dry) time is 2-4 weeks. Available in Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Moisture Cured Urethane – Moisture cured urethane which uses the moisture within the air to cure has for years been renowned for its durability. Moisture cured urethane takes 8-16 hours dry time between coats enhances the color of all wood flooring species, has a strong pungent odor. Difficult to work with. Durability of these types of finishes are Excellent to Best depending on which brand is used. Complete cure (dry) time is 1-2 weeks. Available in High Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
Years ago… when prefinished hardwood flooring was first introduced there were few color choices and most had a wax type protective coating applied over a stain color to protect the surface. The problem with wax coatings was that the flooring would often show scuff marks and white water spots if the flooring got wet from spills or foot traffic. The customer maintenance for this flooring was high, constantly buffing and re waxing the flooring was required to keep it new looking.
As time progressed Prefinished Hardwood Flooring manufacturers added more color options and replaced the wax finish with durable urethane based finish coats which eliminated the water spotting problem and made the floor more durable and resistant to scratching.
Within the last 10 years Quality Prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturers are using the newer more durable and scratch resistant finishes that contain particles of Aluminum Oxide (the same stuff they make sandpaper out of) mixed within the finish layers. Aluminum Oxide finishes can only be applied using specialized factory application machinery and are not available to use out of a can.
Manufacturers of prefinished hardwood floors have developed sophisticated flawless techniques to quickly apply, hard, durable, urethane based finishes right at the factory. By using ultra violet lights to dry each coat the prefinished wood planks they can have 6-10 coats of urethane applied within a matter of a few minutes. Purchasing prefinished flooring saves you time and money by eliminating the mess and the added days of having to stay out of the rooms waiting for the sanding and refinishing to be completed. You can move right back in after the flooring has been installed with NO lingering odors.
TYPES OF FINISHES USED ON FACTORY PRE-FINISHED HARDWOOD FLOORING:
There are a few different types of finishes used on prefinished hardwood flooring, each offering different levels of strength, durability and sheens:
Acrylic-urethane – A slightly different chemical make up than Polyurethane with the same benefits. This original type of finish was used when prefinished flooring first came out. It is less expensive than the more durable finishes described below but some manufacturers still offer it. Available in Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Aluminum Oxide – Most popular - Advanced technology that allows the use of Aluminum particles mixed with the urethane for increased abrasion resistance of the wear layer. Aluminum Oxide is very hard and will dull saw blades faster than other finishes. Aluminum Oxide by itself can make the finish appear dull if used in multiple coats, so it is usually only applied in one coat along with other urethane coats. Available in Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Impregnated – Acrylic monomers are injected into the cell structure of the wood flooring at the factory to give the flooring increased hardness, then coated with a finish wear layer over the wood. Finish that has been impregnated into the cell structure fills the open cells thorough out the whole thickness of the flooring which strengthens the wood flooring itself from wear and denting. Finish impregnated is the most durable types of floor systems on the market specially designed for commercial wood flooring applications. Available in - Satin sheen.
Ceramic – Advanced technology that allows the use of space-age ceramics particles mixed with the urethane to increase the abrasion resistance of the wear layer. Because of the superior hardness of this finish there has been some issues of the finish having bonding issue to the wood and it being so brittle making it easier to chip if something is dropped on the surface. Most Prefinished flooring manufacturers have shy ed away from using this type of finish. Available in Gloss - Semi Gloss - Satin sheen.
Since Prefinished flooring is finished at the factory weeks or months prior to it being purchased the finish has completely cured to it's hardest degree.
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