For the last 30 or so years, the most popular styles of wood and wood-like flooring have been the high gloss, very level, flat and smooth looks. In the early days of hardwood flooring, when all was handcrafted, this was hard to achieve, but the end of the twentieth century saw the advent of engineered hardwood flooring and laminate flooring. These made nearly perfect smoothness a reality. That look referred to as the "piano finish", where from certain angles a floor looks like it's covered with a sheet of glass, became available to anyone shopping for a new floor. It wasn't a difficult to achieve, therefore expensive, choice. It was just an option. Like a milkshake, do you want chocolate or strawberry? Same price either way. Naturally it took off.
Trends pendulum in flooring as they do with anything, and the handscraped look is coming back into vogue. In addition to the desire some have to remain distinctive from the trends is the issue of replacing a floor in an older home. Especially if it's historic, it can be very important to have the floor fit the home's character, and reflect its age. A rugged appearance would be essential over the shiny, glossy, perfect look. The same is true for those deliberately going for a vintage style to a room or home.
What is "handscraped" then?
The use of planks of wood for flooring goes back to the 1600's, and as late as the mid 1800's scraping the floor boards was still the technique used to even out the differences between planks. It was all done with hand held tools, at least until powered sanders arrived, and like we humans do with many things, the natural, human imperfections were tweaked into deliberate styles. Craftsmen became artisans, not just functionally evening out boards, but deliberately marking and sculpting the wood. Using hammer and chisel, the installer could give the floor distinction.
Today's handscraped hardwood flooring is designed to have the look of an older style floor made by hand, showing a natural kind of wear, but it still enjoys the modern finishes which protect the floor. Falling under the heading of handscraped are such style elements as sanding, denting or scooping the wood to create indentations, and creating little splits or holes (from non-existant worms). Often the level of handscrapery can be left up to the customer. Small, medium or a lot, like the milkshakes again.
One advantage the handscraped look has is that it naturally hides any minor blemishes which may occur in the future, a minor scrape or stepped upon nail, a dent from a dropped thing, any of that. This can make it a good choice for an active household where those eventualities may be deemed inevitable. With modern finishes and stains, todays handscraped floors can be given the color or tone needed to fit any room. Also, handscraped flooring is not limited to solid hardwoods. You can find engineered hardwood flooring with a handscraped texture, which opens up the installation possibilities (generally, solid can't go below ground level, for instance).
The imperfect leveling of your handscraped floor means that the width of the floor will vary. It's not going to be exactly 3/4" all the way across. Now, unless you decide to sand 5/8" of wood off your 3/4" floor, this is largely irrelevant to anything your floor needs to do, but in the interest of full disclosure, I share the observation with you.
The distressing of a floor is done to achieve many of the goals of handscraping by using a machine. Generally there is a wire contraption, like a brush, used mechanically on the flooring. It will have less of a wavy look on the surface, and more of a worn, "whapped by wires" texture, like the wood is older, perhaps reclaimed. Because distressed flooring is been done by a machine, you might even see patterns in the indentationing. Handscraped flooring, whether actually done by hand or not (some aren't), look, or are designed to look, unique, individual and human done.
No. "Handscrapery" is not a real word.
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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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