Q: What are the main benefits of a factory-finished wood floor compared with a job-site finished floor?
A: It’s one of the most commonly asked questions in the hardwood flooring industry. What are the benefits associated with a prefinished floor when compared with an unfinished floor? Regardless of your connection with the hardwood flooring industry— as a consumer, installer, manufacturer, distributor or retailer—you need to know the major differences between these flooring alternatives and how to use them to your advantage.
Both prefinished and job-site-finished floors have seen dramatic improvements from the stain-andwax method so prevalent beginning in the 1950s. During this time, homeowners had to maintain their floors—prefinished or unfinished—by frequently applying an additional coat of wax to protect the floor’s finish.
Fortunately, today’s wood floors come without those time-consuming hassles, and factory-finished wood flooring has an additional benefit—a climate-controlled production process that generates a prefinished product with a consistent, multi-coat finish system. The result: increased durability, visual appeal and easy care.
The overall quality of a job-site finished floor is influenced by a number of factors, including room temperature, time constraints, job-site cleanliness and the finishing skills of the flooring contractor.
The Housing Boom
The current boom in housing starts also is fueling the demand for prefinished flooring, which features an efficient installation process—an added incentive for builders. Installation is the only jobsite task required for a prefinished floor and can sometimes be completed in a day’s time depending on the size of the job. The initial material cost is higher for a factory-finished surface, but homeowners make up the difference in this cost by avoiding the time-intensive labor costs associated with an unfinished floor that must be installed, sanded and finished on-site.
In addition, prefinished flooring often is attractive to builders because of the consumer’s need for a recognizable product. Because much consumer demand now is directed toward brand awareness, it’s important for flooring manufacturers to find their niche in the industry. Many are doing just that by introducing their own finishes, colors and styles that set them apart from the competition. Unfinished flooring, on the other hand, bears little or no distinguishable brand characteristics when installed, sanded and finished. Therefore, manufacturers must push their high production standards as a reason for customers to choose their line of unfinished flooring.
Some people may think that selling prefinished flooring limits them with regards to options for upselling to higher-end customers, but this is not the case. Upselling options abound using exclusively factory-finished products. For example, exotic species, such as Brazilian cherry, often can serve as a feature strip with very little extra expense. Prefinished feature strips can be relatively easy to upsell because the customer can get an instant, up-close look at the contrasting finished pieces of flooring next to each other.
In addition to upselling feature-strip borders, there also are inlay and border manufacturers offering prefinished products. These products can be made to match specifications for product thickness and finish type, and can be installed just like any other border or medallion.
One of the hottest trends in hardwood flooring right now, hand-sculpted flooring, is another prefinished upselling alternative that helps a salesperson sell a more expensive product. In addition, handsculpted flooring satisfies a customer’s need for originality by providing a unique, vintage look in each board.
When upselling any of these options, make sure you show the customer what you’re offering. You may describe how a feature strip would look around her hearth or dining room table, but it’s more convincing if she sees a room scene photo with a feature strip. Likewise, a small sample of hand-sculpted flooring may not pique her interest as much as a dramatic room scene. A portfolio with good-quality photos of jobs you’ve done and manufacturers’ brochures can be your most effective selling tool.
Once again, the question of prefinished versus unfinished isn’t likely to go away anytime soon—if at all. Both products have their advantages. But, regardless of your involvement in the hardwood flooring industry, it’s to your advantage to know the benefits and differences associated with these two choices. if you are interested in purchasing prefinished hardwood floors visit Floor ABC in New York for more information on these types of flooring products
Brian Greenwell is vice president of sales and marketing for Johnson City, Tenn.-based Mullican Flooring.