With all hardwood flooring options, it really comes down to what works best for you. This is the same when selecting whether to purchase unfinished or finished hardwood flooring. But before getting into the details of each we need to look into the reasons behind the choice you are given.
Natural means unpredictable
Wood is a living breathing thing, even after it is removed from its home in the forest, cut to pieces and processed in the mill. This is a factor that you must understand when purchasing any kind of hardwood flooring. Moisture and temperature will affect the floors in a variety of ways, especially when it comes time to purchase finished or unfinished hardwood floors.
Understanding the Difference
Unfinished hardwood comes to you in its rawest possible form. This basically means each board has not had the finish applied to the surface. This leaves the wood vulnerable to spills, dust and the climate. Installation of this kind of flooring is best left to the professionals as it requires a level of skill in sanding, finishing, and installation that most weekend warrior home owners simply do not possess. Another major drawback of purchasing unfinished hardwood is that during the application of the finish the homeowners should not be inside the home for at least three days because of the overwhelming smell and fumes given off by the finish.
Prefinished means the floorboards comes out of the factory precoated in the final finish. This factory process ensures that the coat is put on in an even layer and without flaws. Having the boards prefinished also take away the climate factor when installing the floors. With unfinished the installer must constantly be aware of the humidity in the room or else floors might warp and buckle even after the finish is applied. Prefinished is also easier for installation purposes as there is no need for sanding or finishing so the process can be usually be done in a day or so depending on the square footage. Of course the prefinished floors can still warp and expand with sudden changes in the climate in the home so those levels should always be monitored, however with prefinished it is more forgiving.
For most people and projects I would recommend going with a prefinished product. Coming out of a factory you are guaranteed a level of quality that is hard to duplicate with unfinished boards. That said, if you have a special project in mind or a design that might require something completely unique that a manufacturer cannot provide then by all means go with an unfinished product. Just make sure you hire a installation company that is fully equipped and experienced to handle the issues.