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n2bach1

Old fashioned hardwood vs new-prefinished ones??

n2bach1
16 years ago

Have you installed the pre-stained, finished, etc., hardwoods? In the past, our hardwoods were installed the old way, raw, unfinished wood set, cured for a couple of weeks, sanding, stain, etc.....basically, a REAL MESS!

Now I see there are prestained, etc., hardwoods, ready to install, no sanding, mess, etc. I'm not thinking of the laminated woods, these are supposedly the real deal. Price wise, they vary and in the long run, I'm not sure they are much cheaper, but have you any experience with them?

We are thinking about hardwoods for the bedrooms and it sure sounds nice to eliminate the mess of sanding, staining, etc.,

Thanks for reading and lending your opinions and experience.

Comments (38)

  • jen9
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    we have had both kinds --- started in this house with the pre-finished kind ... it scratched very easily. We had a flood & when we had the opportunity to replace, we went with the old-fashioned install. (you are correct - there wasn't a significant price difference) The old-fashioned install is a much better wearing floor -- not sure why, as I think one of benefits of the pre-finished is supposed to be an even, extra hard factory finish ...

    We did not do this, but I know there are installers who hook up a huge vac system to the house, which supposedly minimizes the mess. Perhaps someone else will have experience with this -

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  • redbazel
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We installed the pre-finished engineered hardwood in the summer of 2004 throughout the house. We have two doxies and a bunch of traffic. Except for a couple of dings where DH dropped a ceiling fan housing and DS dropped a coffee mug, it looks awesome. It was a glue-down installation over concrete slab. The reason these pre-finished floors are so popular today, is that they allow installs in areas where solid wood cannot be installed at all--basements, and right over slab foundations, (without having to build a plywood sub-floor). They are a better choice for these areas. Check out the Flooring forum for more info.

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  • justgotabme
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My hubby 3/4 inch installed solid oak pre-finished Bruce floors in four rooms and our upstairs hallway over four years ago. We are very happy with it. It still looks great. Someday I'd like to have the same in our bedrooms too. Just didn't have the time to do so before we moved in and hubby wanted the bedroom floors covered. So carpet it was.

  • natal
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Original house has 58-year-old red oak. In the addition we chose prefinished red oak with a stain that comes close to matching the original floors. The boards have a bevel edge that eliminate the problem Judie mentioned. I'm happy so far. Only years will tell how the new wears vs. the old. Since they're 3/4" boards there's always the option of refinishing.

  • gk5040
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    There are differences in the prefinished. Some are actually prefinished solid 1/2 to 3/4 inch wood. Some are engineered wood, which means they are constructed in layers of wood with a thin top layer of "good" prefinished wood....cherry, oak, pecan, or another exotic woods. The "finished" layer is usually very thin, and some can only be refinished once or twice. They move with moisture and humidity thats why they are constructed in layers. It allows the wood to move instead of buckling. They are perfect for concrete slabs and basements. We lived in NC, VA and NJ and always had the old fashion 3/4 inch solid hardwood floors, they can be refinished many times. Two years ago we moved to Florida. I longed for my hardwood floors and when we redid the kitchen we installed 1000 sq ft of engineered hardwoods. They were installed by glueing them down to our concrete slab. They havent lived up to my expectations. What drives me nuts is the finish. Its not gloss, it looks like a matte finish but it shows every foot print out there. In Florida, everyone seems to be barefoot and maybe I am not use to that. Because the top layer isnt that thick....about an 1/8th of an inch, I find it doesnt take well to even little things dropping on it...and I mean simple things like a fork, spoon, etc. I much prefer the old fashion hardwoods. We have a front declawed cat and she has scratched the floors, my kitchen chairs were scratching it and I had to put a rug under the table. Recently we had a water leak and 60 sq ft of new floor had to be removed. What a mess. Luckily, we were able to still purchase our floor, it was only 14 months old, AND IT MATCHED. We were fortunate...most people have to rip out the whole floor because you cant match the rest of your floor. The old fashion hardwoods would have been sanded and refinished to blend. It really depends on where you live, what rooms you are adding the wood to, if you have pets or "active" children and the quality of wood you pick. If you pick engineered, check the thickness of the refinishable area. It varies drastically. You mentioned laminate....I have never had it, but its very different. The top layer can not be repaired. Some laminates are easy to pop out, others are not. They usually have a hallow sound when you walk with shoes on them. Research them well if you go that route. If you have had hardwood floors you might not like the laminate flooring. Good luck!

  • skypathway
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Don't confuse plastic laminate floors like Pergo with real wood engineered floors which have a laminate base which allows them to go over concrete and in damp locations that non-laminated wood floors can't tolerate.

    I'm finding out that real wood engineered floors are more expensive than non engineered floors. I'm getting this type of floor in my game room level because it will be installed on concrete. There are different qualities, mine have a fairly thick layer of wood that can be sanded up to 5 times. I'm also having pre-finished with very tiny bevels installed upstairs in the bedrooms and hallway - I already have maple floors finished onsite in my main level and master bedroom. I would have continued this but I just don't feel like dealing with any mess which is what made the prefinished so appealing. Again there are different qualities - mine are thick, to match the original hardwood and the wear level is supposed to last 35 years. All my floors, both currently installed and about to be installed have a low luster finish so they don't show small scratches that show in a shiny one. I do prefer the site finished and wish I'd been smart enough to tell them to just put it everywhere in the house when we were building.

  • msrose
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We have a concrete foundation, so does that mean we couldn't have the old fashioned wood floors?

    Laurie

  • polkadots
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    About 6 months ago we had 500 sq feet of hardwood installed, sanded and finished on our first floor. It was a pain for about a week or so (a little longer because we had tile removed and the finish we chose (Glitza) takes a little longer before you can move back in. Even though we have 3 little kids, I don't regret it at all. The mess is like labor, you quickly forget the pain. We love our floors, the finish and the no bevels. Your installer should be able to do a bedroom quite quickly and with the dust containment systems they have now the mess is greatly reduced. They can either have vacuums on their sanders (that's what we had) or a larger vacuum system (more expensive). The dust from sanding was much less than I expected and nothing compared to the dust from taking the tile out!

    There are some beautiful prefinished floors out there though. Definitely make a trip to a flooring store to check them out and see if you see something you like.

  • gk5040
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Laurie, concrete foundation isnt the key word...are you on a slab where there is no crawl space? Or are you installing on a basement floor? If you have a crawl space you are fine. And any level of the home above the basement is fine for solid hardwood. I think only one or two floor stores in Florida said I could do traditional hardwood, the rest cringed at the idea, telling me horror stories. Where do you live, that makes a difference too....humidity and moisture are worse in the south.

  • sheesh
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We had prefinished 3/4 inch Bruce hardwood installed in our kitchen and dining room in 2001. It is still gorgeous. We have a big family and I love to cook, so the floor gets a lot of hard use. Very easy to maintain.

    We had the hw floors in our bedrooms refininshed around the same time. They were original to the house, built in 1967, and really, really needed it. They are still gorgeous, too. I'm very glad we did it.

    Both were pretty messy, noisy jobs, though, but the workmen took care of everything.

  • msjay
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We've had both. I'd take the "old" way over the "new" way any day. You just can't beat the "real" thing. I think the "old" wears better and lasts longer and is just better overall in looks and wear.

  • pbrisjar
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We're going the old-fashioned way for three reasons:

    1) The above-mentioned bevels / v-grooves.

    2) We're installing in stages and a single dye-lot of stain is easier to store than an entire house-worth of wood flooring.

    3) We get to control the amount/type of finish.

  • squirrelheaven
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Solid wood finished in the old-fashioned way any day for me, for all of the reasons above. Looks better, wears better, don't like poly or grooves, more durable finish and unlimited refinishing. My biggest problem with the engineered veneers is cats puking -- the upper layer buckles and splits. If poly, it is recommended to put an additional layer of finish on the floor after installation for a final seal, after all the movement in the wood and finish that was going on.

    Did you see the raised paneling in your dr, or maybe just didn't like it. Really makes your rug choices more flexible. I'm finding it hard to actually see the wood panels in the virtual now -- painting the lower half works too! Link below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Yellow Rug Thread

  • graywings123
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Is there any truth to the following? I read somewhere that an advantage to the grooves in pre-finished floors is that they give the dirt a place to fall into so that it doesn't sit on the hardwood, thereby reducing abrasion.

    I know, it sounds stupid even as I write it.

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This discussion was held just recently and you are going to find pros and cons for both. Personally we have the engineered handscraped floors and they're absolutely beautiful and we get compliments all the time. It was not our original plan, but after much research among several companies, and because of our humid location (Mississippi Gulf Coast) we decided on the engineered. We are very happy with the decision. You just have to decide what works best for your situation and location. Good luck.

  • msrose
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    gk5040 - We live in Texas, so yes we're in the humid south. We're on a concret slab with no crawl space and we don't have basements here. So, does that mean I shouldn't consider the old-fashioned hardwood?

    Wodka - The handscraped is what I'm wanting to get and I though I would have to go with the old-fashioned kind to get that. Do you have a picture of your floors?

    Laurie

  • polkadots
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Laurie, I'll chime in on your questions. On a concrete slab, you won't be able to do the old-fashioned site finished floors. The good news is that many, many of the hand scraped floors that you said you like are engineered floors, which is what you need. You should be able to find a good selection. Have fun!

  • mimi_2006
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm in the humid south (Tennessee) on a slab with no basement. We have the old-fashioned kind as do many many people in this area. It was new construction so we could do what we wanted. It's what we wanted and what our builder recommended. I can't comment on the wear, the old-fashioned is all I've ever had.

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Laurie, these are some pics we took during house construction. I might have to send one at a time, since I'm still not good at posting. Hopefully, you'll get an idea. {{gwi:1647115}}

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago
  • johnatemp
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Lots of good info.
    I have had both.
    Our last house(older house) had yucky wtw carpet. Ripped that up and put in engineered wood. We did not want the mess of sanding/coats of poly, etc. Didn't plan on being in the house 4/ever.

    This house - south, slab, no basement - we have nail down HW. It was new construction.

    I much prefer the way nail down hardwoods look. I prefer a very matte finish to them b/c of dogs and wear. I can immediately spot engineered woods when I go into homes. BUT, if I were already living in the house, I don't know that I'd go to the trouble with nail down floors!!

    Woodka's floors are gorgeous!

    I think it depends on how long you will be in your house. The location (in an older established neighborhood or new construction), and what you prefer!!

    If you really love the look of nail down floors then it will be worth the trouble esp. if you plan to stay in your home for a long time!!

    Smiles:)

  • n2bach1
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Everyone,
    Again, I'm appreciative of so many of you responding with great ideas. I don't know yet what we're doing. We are planning to live here probably the rest of our lives! At least that's what my husband says, and we've already lived here nearly 25 years! We are definitely creatures that don't change much, and when we do something to the home, it's usually long term. Sounds like maybe we should bite the bullet and go with the old fashioned ones!
    I'll keep you all posted and again, thanks so much for the input!

  • texashottie
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I live in the South, I'm on a concrete slab, and no basement. I have real hw floors. I've never, never heard that you can't put real hardwood floors on concrete here. All the builders in my area do it---even in the high-end homes---and it's been going on for decades.

    Between my hardwood floors and concrete I have a layer of plywood and a moisture barrier. My hardwood floors are tongue-and-groove and then nailed down. They are handscraped. I love them.

  • skypathway
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Texashottie and others, the reason for the engineered real wood floors is that they combine both the wood and the layers of plywood into one. I had a choice to have the moisture barrier, then plywood and then hardwood OR the moisture barrier and engineered real wood floors. Basically the engineered real wood floors just combines the plywood and the wood so that it's faster to lay the floor.

    Johnatemp mentioned she could tell engineered wood floors - but I don't think anyone could - mine are 3" wide of varying lengths with a squared off edges, when they are laid they look identical to the old fashioned finished on site maple floors I have in the main level to my home. Even the finish will look identical - low luster - almost a matte finish which doesn't look plastic. This is real wood - there is no pattern repeats like you have with a picture of wood on plastic laminate floors. Every individual narrow plank is laid separately- so it's completely random. So I'm not sure how you can tell it's engineered? Even walking on it doesn't feel any different.

    sky

  • msrose
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    wodka - Those are gorgeous. Who makes it?

    texashottie - Thanks!

    sky - Do you have a picture of your floors?

    Laurie

  • pbrisjar
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I think some people are getting confused. There are several kinds of wood floors, some of which are bing talked about as the same thing.

    There's:
    old-fashioned site finished solid hardwood (which itself comes in many forms)
    pre-finished hardwood - solid wood as above but finished in the factory
    engineered hardwood - a veneer of wood on top of a substrate - generally a form of plywood
    laminate - picture of wood on a plastic of some sore placed on a substrate as above

    You can indeed have solid hardwood on a concrete slab provided your moisture levels don't get too high. It just requires proper preparation (as with any project).

    BTW - I know this simply because I'm doing extensive research for our own new floors. I'm not a pro or expert by any means.

  • squirrelheaven
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    When on a concrete slab, if you want to do 3/4" hardwood floors, you need to do a plywood substrate, as TexasHottie described. I wonder if they allow enough room for that at construction time. When I was looking at flooring, doing the substrate plus the 3/4" flooring came up too high as I remember it. These places were originally apartments, built with only carpet in mind.

    I put down the Bruce 3/8" engineered wood with adhesive, beveled edge DIY. Tested for moisture first, as recommended. There didn't seem to be a problem, so I didn't do the moisture barrier (which I couldn't really understand how that worked when using an adhesive :) I've had no problems with moisture that I'm aware of. They've probably been down about 7 years now. The wood's funny where my washer drain overflowed. Soaked and damaged but still holding : )

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    laurie, we ordered ours through Authentic Pine Floors out of Georgia. They have a website and offer several different types of flooring, not just engineered. Our builder had used them with previous houses and recommended them. It was a very pleasant experience. My husband even visited with them and they gave him the complete tour. They will answer questions and send samples to help you decide. Thanks.

  • skypathway
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    pbrisjar, you're correct, there are so many different kinds of "wood" floors. My engineered floors look the same as the old fashioned site finished, except that it's half solid wood and half layers of plywood. I think some people think they are all glued together into a wide plank like you see with the plastic laminates like pergo - and I don't know, maybe some are, but mine are separate thin boards. It is so important to learn about the different wood floors that are available so you are certain you are installing what you think you want. There are stunning choices in both the type of wood and techniques such as the scrapping effects.

    msrose - we're still working out the details with the contracters about installing the new floors so I don't have pictures yet. My main level and bedroom level are just plain maple floors that we had installed when we built 10 years ago. I want to match the same wood floors in the lower level and other bedrooms - natural, 3" wide select maple. Below is a picture to show my floors on the main level.

  • johnmari
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    judiegal, your husband is wrong on two counts. First, there are square-edged prefinished hardwoods available. There is one problem with the square edge - you can get something often called "sock-catchers" if the subfloor is not perfectly flat. There are many different depths of bevel available nowadays. We had the microbevel in our previous house to avoid "sock-catchers" and it did not collect debris. I could get the floors completely clean with a microfiber dustmop. (My current house has 107yo heart-pine floors, and I am getting all too familiar with catching debris because it has gaps over 1/4" wide between many boards. Maddening.)

    It peeves the living daylights out of me to hear people refer to engineered hardwood flooring as not "real" wood. It is just as much "real wood" as solid wood. Call solids solids if that's what you mean. We chose an ashwood engineered flooring for our previous house because NH has massive swings in humidity (we did not have central AC - it would have cost well over $12,000 to install) which can create problems with cupping, buckling, or gapping, and were extremely pleased with it. I cannot TELL you how many dealers and installers tried to bully us into site-finished flooring, even though we could not afford to vacate our house for a week plus, and there was no way we could stay and try to work around the construction and finishing (I would have almost surely been very sick from the stain and finish odors, and let's not even talk about trying to keep the cat and dog hair out of the finish.) Here in New England, the attitude of "we've done it this way for 100 years, we're not going to change now" is rampant!

    We did not have any problems with the floor delaminating from cat barf, spilled beverages, tracked-in snow, that sort of thing, and the aluminum oxide finish was very durable. The manufacturer, Robbins, did NOT recommend putting any additional finish on after installation. They were nailed down, not glued (the installers checked with Robbins to make sure they could be nailed instead of stapled). The reason why johnatemp thinks she can always spot engineered flooring is because CHEAP engineered floors use a rotary-cut veneer, which looks like plywood; better-quality engineereds have sliced and even quartsawn/riftsawn veneer layers.

    Another frequent myth about solid wood flooring - it cannot be refinished as many times as people are led to believe. You can only sand them down to the level of the tongue, which is usually less than a third of the thickness of the board. Old (50+ years) floorboards can often be flipped and reused if very carefully pulled up, but that is quite rare in modern flooring. Our floors were warranted for three full refinishings; the veneer layer was a third of the thickness of the board.

    However, you don't need to completely refinish a hardwood floor unless you have deep gouges or want to change the color. These days, if you want to refresh the finish and remove small scratches and scuffs, you just do something called a screen and recoat. It costs a LOT less than a full refinishing, too.

    Here are a couple of pictures. The floors are, as I said, from Robbins; style is and color is Tigra.
    {{gwi:1647118}}
    {{gwi:1536887}}

  • acountryfarm
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I did extensive research as well and ended up going with engineered flooring. I have a 1/4 inch wear layer on top of a 7 ply base. I can refinish this 3 or 4 times. With solid hardwood you generally don't get much more refinishing than that anyway as you will go into the groove. These floors are antiqued reclaimed heart pine. They are stunning! This floor is also nail down, which was a must for me when I was researching what floor I wanted. They do have a factory finish which I am sort ok with. We have 9 children still living at home and the finish does make it durable. When we have less children at home we will probably refinish, we will do the traditional rubbed tung oil finish which is very true to the way the heart pine used to be done.
    We also have engineered floors in the house we are in and actually I like them very well. These are not nearly as high end as the ones in my dream home but we have had them 3 years with no problem. We have many spills and even a little cat puke :) and no buckeling or anything.

    Wodka your floors are beautiful.

    P.S. I have no bevel or v-groove on my floors.

  • chiefneil
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Here's a photo of my hand-scraped engineered wood. I'll add a ditto what johnmari said. Plus I tend to think the whole "how many times can you refinish" thing is overblown. If you have to refinish your floors more than once in your lifetime, then I think you're pretty tough on the floor!

    Most pros will tell you that a factory aluminum oxide finish is much tougher than site-finished. Look for a floor with a long warranty (e.g. 10-20 years) on the finish, and verify that it's aluminum oxide, to avoid problems with weak finishes. Also realize that a finish can't be any tougher than the underlying wood - a super-hard finish on soft pine isn't going to do very well under abuse. BTW, my floors have big bevels, and haven't gathered any permanent dust over the past three years.

  • squirrelheaven
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I didn't mean to imply that every mfr recommends sealing their floors with another layer of poly (if that's the finish), or that there are no durable or good engineered floors around out there. I don't think it was the mfr, actually, where I found the recommendation to seal again post-install. I have found first-hand that the area I finished myself on-site is far more durable than the prefinished version of the same flooring here on the ground level.

    I only have the Bruce 3/8" engineered flooring and its veneer does not hold up well, at all. It holds up much better, however, where I did the finishing myself and did not use their prefinished product. After learning through my own experience with this type of wood floor, next time, if possible, I won't try anything without extensive testing first -- to the wood itself and after the finish. Undoubtedly these things vary by mfr, product quality, veneer thickness, type of finish, and how many composite layers, etc, etc.

    I do think the engineered composite wood floors are just like furniture these days though, where you're not getting solid wood and there can be serious problems associated with that. All wood floors are not created equal. I'm gonna test, test, test the ones I'm interested in.

    It is just as much "real wood" as solid wood.

    I'd think there would be all the adhesives and stuff holding the layers together. And the consequential offgassing, too.

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Whew! This is worse than jury duty, and if I recall, is exactly how the last discussion on this proceeded.

    Each to his own. I grew up with solid hardwood floors - my mom didn't baby them, (I recall there was an iron burn/mark on the floor where one of us dropped the iron) and they lasted a very long time. After many years, the moisture did cause them to buckle in the dining room and one of the bedrooms. It bothered my mom, but it surely wasn't the end of the world.

    We did a lot of research in selecting our engineered handscraped floors, we love them, we receive tons of compliments on them, and they make us happy. It's just the two of us, no pets or children, and I imagine the floors will most likely outlive us. They are not cheap floors, and they certainly don't look cheap.

  • tinam61
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We have pre-finished solid hardwood floors. I have had the kind you put down and then finish also. In that house, there was carpet in the hallway, which we had taken up and new (old kind) of hardwood put down, then the living room, etc. sanded and refinished. The installers did an excellent job keeping down the dust, etc., but it was the fumes from the stain and sealer that I had trouble with. We had to move out of our home for a few days.

    Much of the prefinished actually has more coats of sealer put on it in the factory. We do not have a problem with *grooves* and our floor is more of a matte finish, not shiny. It's 10 years old and has worn excellent. I made the mistake of choosing carpet for bedrooms other than the master and we are thinking of replacing that this year with hardwood. We plan to go with the prefinished again.

    There are many different levels of quality in both the kind you finish after laying and the pre-finished. Do your homework and you can find great choices in either.

    tina

  • chiefneil
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just a quick side-comment on hand-scraped woods. If you like to go barefoot at home, the texture is really a delight to the feet. I love the feel of the undulations underfoot as I'm walking around.

  • wodka
    16 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    acountryfarm, thank you...9 children!!! Congratulations, I thought the six of us were a handful - ha!

    chiefneil, your floors are beautiful. I remember seeing them in the discussion that was held before. I agree, nothing like walking barefoot on the handscraped wood. I've done it several times this week, getting up in the middle of the night to look at the beautiful full moon we've had. (Lit up the entire back yard, like daylight!)