Hand-Scraped Vs Distressed Flooring: What’s the Difference?

Flooring trends come and go. For a while, parquet flooring was highly requested, but that product has since waned. Presently, hand-scraped, or distressed, hardwoods are growing in demand, available for all domestic and exotic species and also in unfinished and prefinished solid and engineered flooring. But, with products labeled “hand-scraped” and “distressed,” is there any difference between them?

Essentially, no. Distressed flooring is characterized by texture, either a smooth sculpted appearance or roughness like just-sawn wood. According to popular hardwood manufacturer Armstrong, distressed flooring has grown in popularity because of texture, which is now considered just as important as color. Texture, Armstrong states, stimulates the sense of touch and sight with the floor.

Two basic styles of distressed flooring are available: classic, which is characterized by a sculpted look, and rustic, which displays more character marks like knots, mineral streaks, and graining. For the flooring to get the distressed appearance, however, the hardwood is altered through scraping (Wire Brushed, Hand-Sculpted, or Hand Hewn and Rough Sawn), Finish (French Bleed or Pegged), or Aging (Time Worn Aged or Antique). In many cases, multiple methods may be applied to distress the hardwood.

Those looking for an even more distressed look are recommended to get a custom job, in which a professional comes in to hand-scrape an unfinished wood floor. He or she uses bleaching, pickeling, beating with chains, or fastening with antique nails to achieve this look.

Nevertheless, no matter if flooring is hand-scraped after installation or before, all techniques are traditionally done by hand by a trained craftsman, such as an Amish wood worker. In fact, certain distressed flooring is labeled as “Amish hand-scraped hardwood.” Yet, certain products labeled “distressed” aren’t actually worn by hand. Rather, the hardwood is distressed by machine, which presses a pattern into the surface of unfinished hardwood. The result is a distressed hardwood floor that has a repetitive look to it.

In terms of adding a distressed or hand-scraped product to your home, decide how long you will want this look for your floors and how great of an area it will cover. If it needs to blend in with existing flooring, consider purchasing an unfinished variety, one that can be stained. If, on the other hand, a full floor is being made to look rustic, opt for prefinished: it takes less installation time and no staining is necessary. On the other hand, if you plan to have a rustic character for only a few years, consider going with a product that can easily be replaced, such as thinner engineered flooring, or hardwood that can be sanded down, such as solid or a thicker engineered product.