Onsite vs. Prefinished Hardwood – What is the Difference?

Wondering whether onsite installation or prefinished hardwood installation is a good fit for you? When it comes to floor installation, there can be many factors to consider.

Whether you’re a pet lover, a family of four, or a new homeowner on a budget looking for a quick install, there’s a hardwood flooring option that works for everyone and looks great!  

Here are some things to consider when choosing between.


Floor installation is important to consider when looking at hardwoods. The installation process affects your furniture, time, and the look and finish of your floors.

Onsite Installation – A couple of pros of “onsite” include smooth even results and quality that will last as long as you need it to. Though it may take 7 or more days to complete, the consistency and polished look of onsite hardwood installation will have your home feeling brand new. This can also sometimes be a cheaper option than prefinished flooring as well depending on the look you are wanting to achieve. With no limitations in your options, you control more of your budget.

The cons of choosing onsite installation include the long installation times. Getting a customized floor installed directly in your home is a much lengthier process than laying pre-cut and pre-stained floor panels. 

Prefinished Installation -The pro of prefinished hardwood is the shorter installation, depending on the size of your home it could be as short as 1 – 3 days. Because there is no dry or cure time, furniture may be shuffled out of the way, but once the floor is installed you can place furniture back in its place. 

The con of a prefinished hardwood installation is that the wood planks may not look identical, because each piece is stained separately and can have a micro bevel that can alter the overall look of the flooring. Something else to keep in mind is the limitations in size and colors that are available in prefinished installations. The onsite installation gives you the flexibility of creating a customized look that might not be available with pre-cut and stained boards.


When choosing your future flooring, price is one of the main things to consider and a lot of homeowner’s primary concerns. The prices of installation are dependent on the time available and your desired look. Whether you love an even and consistent floor style, want a custom pattern, unique look, or a quick install, there is a price point for all hardwood floor lovers.  

Onsite Installation – A lot of people believe onsite installation is more expensive, however, that is not the case! With unlimited options to choose from in your wood species, cut, and color onsite installation sees a range of prices dependent on your choices. These floors are also easily updated or repaired further down the line. With onsite installation, you are in control of your look and your price point. Get a uniform look in your budget with onsite installation. 

Prefinished Installation This is another great budget-friendly option (like onsite) for someone who wants a quick floor installation with a durable, long-lasting result. With a quicker install than onsite hardwood, you can expect your floors to be complete within a few days.  Along with an affordable price point, prefinished hardwood is a fast and simple choice for anyone on a budget. 

When you look at onsite vs. prefinished hardwood flooring installations – it is less about the price range of each and more about the style you are looking at and the timeline it will take to achieve each.

Longevity, Repairs, and Maintenance

Both of these installation options offer you options for long-lasting hardwood floors that meet your unique needs. Depending on how often you plan on treating and maintaining your hardwood, here are some pros and cons for your everyday wear and tear.


When choosing your hardwood flooring, the longevity of your floors should be a consideration.  Your floors can be subject to a lot of wear and tear over the years. The last thing you want to do is invest in your flooring only to need replacements a few years down the line. You want something that can stand the test of time and truly get your money’s worth.

Onsite Installation – Your onsite hardwood installation could last decades with touch-ups, repairs, and maintenance over time. It’s also easy to update this style of hardwood installation with new colors or finishes over time.

No need to worry about changing styles or matching the floor when repairs are inevitably needed. The onsite installation gives you peace of mind knowing that your flooring will stand the test of time.

Prefinished Installation- prefinished hardwood is durable because it is cured ahead of time, piece by piece. Many manufacturers have their own prefinished flooring warranty. 

Prefinished flooring is able to take on more damage initially because of its curing process beforehand. If you have an active household or have pets, prefinished could be a great option for you, due to its durability and low maintenance. 


With hardwood floors repairs are inevitable. Whether it’s a gouge caused by moving heavy furniture, water damage due to flooding, or the natural wear of the floor from everyday use; your floors over time may need some repairs. 

Onsite Installation – With onsite, you’re free to repair or replace any part of your flooring later on. Because you pick your hardwood and your finishes, it’s easy to find the hardwood for replacements. Your floor’s problem area can be sanded, re-installed, re-stained, and refinished to match your existing flooring. You won’t even remember where the initial damage happened! 

Prefinished Installation- Your prefinished hardwood flooring can take a beating initially, but eventually, some damages might prove too much for this durable option and areas will need to be repaired or replaced. Depending on how far down the line you need repairs, prefinished flooring can become difficult to replace. Many styles get discontinued later down the line, making it tough to find a prefinished hardwood that matches your flooring. While there are always styles that will look similar, there is no guarantee that your replacement will be a perfect match.


Whether it’s regular deep cleaning or you need to refinish your flooring, maintaining your floors helps to extend the longevity of your hardwood. When you want your floors to look great and last a lifetime it is important to think about what type of maintenance you are prepared for.

Onsite Installation – With onsite hardwood flooring, the maintenance is simple and easy. The flooring may need recoating every 3-5 years to revamp the finish. Because there are no worries about discontinuation, you just have to ensure that the floors get treated occasionally to avoid scratches and damages. 

Prefinished Installation- prefinished flooring is just as easy to maintain. Naturally, this flooring style is not uniform, but Prefinished hardwood is cured for a long time, creating a durable floor that can resist common wear and tear, like scratches. Even with this more durable option, you will still need a maintenance coat every 3 – 5 years to ensure the longevity of your floors. This is especially true for textured hardwood flooring, to avoid wearing off the texture.

We want to help you maintain your hardwood! We offer maintenance plans that fit your unique needs. Check out our Maintenance Plans for more information.

Additional Considerations for your Floor Installation

There are other considerations that you might want to take into account if you have a family, pets, or crazy weather. Depending on your specific situation, either onsite hardwood or prefinished might fit your needs best. 


Hardwood flooring is a great option for families. It is durable, timeless, and helps reduce allergens and germs within the home. 

Having a family coming in and out of the house can be tough when choosing a hardwood installation. Kids love to run and play, and you need hardwood flooring that goes along with your family’s lifestyle.

Onsite Installation- If you don’t have children, or your children are out of the house often at school, sports practice, or hanging out with friends, then onsite installation may be a good fit. There are many chemicals and treatments involved in the drying and curing process, and it could take a minimum of 7 days to complete this install. 

If you are looking for a quick fix that takes less time, onsite hardwood will be better down the line for a family, because repairs are speedy and less invasive when needed.

Prefinished Installation- Time can be of the essence to parents. If you’re on a tight schedule, and 7 or more days is too long to have your furniture moved, then a prefinished floor with a 1-3 day install might be a better option. The wood is pre-cured and treated, so there is no dry time or cure time. The only downside of a prefinished installation may be having to shuffle furniture room to room especially with a busy household. 


Your pets are also important family members to consider while choosing your floors. Make sure you consider hardwood flooring that is durable enough for your cat or dog. If you’re an animal lover, both onsite and prefinished hardwood flooring can be durable enough to withstand your pets. 

Onsite Installation – When thinking about pets and hardwood the first thing we think about is claws, when choosing onsite installation to think about durable woods that can take the damage of your furry family member.

Onsite hardwood will need to be cleaned and maintained, sometimes with a recoating every 3-5 years to keep it looking brand new. There are ways to fix or remove scratches or make repairs over time. 

Prefinished Installation – prefinished flooring is durable and under warranty. The additional cure time before installation allows the floor to weather most scratches. If you are looking for flooring that can take a bit of a beating then look at prefinished hardwood.


When it comes to weather, there are a few things to be wary of with your hardwood floors. If there is a high moisture level, some hardwood floors can develop buckling, cupping, gapping, and warping.

Wood expands and contracts with the weather, so there are many solutions to these issues. A couple of solutions include plank replacement or an assessment of the floor condition and a plan for a general repair.

Onsite Installation – with a wide range of wood options and in-home installation our craftsmen can work with you to identify the best wood for your home, then during the installation they will expertly lay the flooring to help avoid any future undo buckling. With onsite installation, the wood and the installation themselves both can help you avoid buckling, cupping, gapping, and warping.

Prefinished Hardwood – when you are looking for a quick installation that can take on a lot of damage, prefinished is a good option. While repairs, when cupping and buckling occur, can be more difficult and in some cases costly, generally prefinished hardwoods can take on more initial damage.

This is one of the many reasons we go through an in-depth paid consultation with you right from the start. We identify potential concerns to make sure you see the best hardwood flooring options for your home and its unique needs. Schedule a consultation with us today to understand your home’s unique needs.

Stairs & Railing

For consistency in your home, another thing to consider is how your stairs and railings will look with your hardwood installation. 

Onsite Installation- If you choose an onsite installation, the stairs and railings can also be customized to match your new hardwood flooring. 

Prefinished Installation- It can be difficult to match your prefinished hardwood installation to your stairs and railings. If you’re looking to continue the style and finish of your hardwood installation to the stairs and railing, prefinished flooring will be harder to match to other fixtures. 

Schedule a Consultation

All houses are unique and we strive to provide quality flooring for your needs. Totta Hardwoods provides an in-depth consultation that walks you through all of your family and home’s unique needs taking into account your household factors so that we can provide you with the very best options for your home.

Schedule a consultation with us, and we will create the perfect hardwood flooring option for your home. Call or schedule an appointment today to find out more.