Pre-finished vs. “finish in place”
Generally speaking, pre-finished floors will have around 11 coats of urethane with aluminum oxide blended in to resist scuffing and scratching. Finish in place floors typically have 1, possibly 2, coats of urethane with no additional protectants. Additionally, pre-finished floors are habitable immediately after installation and require no drying period. Pre-finished floors typically have at least a 25 year finish warranty.
Engineered hardwood vs. solid hardwood
As opposed to solid hardwood (whose construction is self-explanatory), engineered hardwood is constructed with a veneer of the featured wood (oak, maple, hickory, etc.) atop a multi-layered substrate. The thickness of the veneer will vary from 1.5 mm to as much as 6 mm. When choosing between a pre-finished solid floor and a pre-finished engineered floor, the engineered floor has the following advantages:
• Generally lower cost
• More stable and resistant to moisture due to the veneer over substrate construction.
• Can be installed using nail/staple down method, floating method or glue-down method, which is essential if your home has a concrete sub-floor (foundation).
Solid floors can be refinished multiple times, depending upon the overall thickness of the material. Engineered floors with a veneer of 2 mm or more can also be refinished. Floors with veneers 3 mm or more can typically be refinished multiple times. However, given the finish quality of pre-finished floors, it is unlikely that a floor would need refinishing within 25 years of installation.
Oil vs. Urethane Finish
As opposed to the glossier look of a urethane finish, oil-finish floors have a softer, more casual appearance. They also do not show scratches and dents as easily as do urethane finished floors. However, most oil finish floors require a bit more maintenance than do urethane floors in that the oil needs to be refreshed every 3-4 years. While this is not a terribly difficult procedure, it is something to consider. New variations on the oil-finish look include matte urethane finishes and synthetic oil finishes that require less maintenance.
Hardness of different wood species
While some types of hardwood are harder than others there is not necessarily a direct correlation between the species of wood and the durability of the floor, with respect to engineered floors. The quality of the finish is the most important factor influencing durability in engineered hardwood; followed by the thickness of the veneer and construction of the substrate.