These days when it comes to choosing your hardwood floors, you are not just considering colour and species anymore. You also have a choice of technologies as well as fashion to choose from. Let me break it down a little bit better for you.
In term of technology hardwood flooring is available both as solid planks and engineered hardwood floors. Since the introduction of engineered hardwood flooring into the market, which allows for wider and longer planks, more and more companies are also experimenting with the surface texture of the floors. In the past, the finishes were all smooth with varying degrees of shine. The issue with these floors is that once you create a nick, scratch, or dent the smooth finish will show these imperfections a lot more. The reason behind that is the rest of the adjoining surface is perfectly smooth and therefore the one area that is not so smooth becomes the irregularity and therefore, making it more visible. Since both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood floors are built to last a lot longer these years (manufacturers often provide warrantees as long as 35 years) manufacturers are trying to find ways to make their floors look new for longer. Hence the introduction of low sheen finishes and fashion on hardwood surfaces.
Fashion on hardwood refers to the surface treatments applied to the surface of the wood before it is stained and finished by a manufacturer. These treatments include: wire-brushing, hand-scraping, band-sawn effect, and distressing. Let us look at each fashion in detail.
Wire-brushed hardwood floors are usually from the oak family, because the grain in these species is softer than the flesh of the wood and it is usually this softer grain that is susceptible to being scratched and dented in use. Wire-brushing is the process of running a coarse wire over the surface of the unfinished plank in order to scratch off the soft layer of the wood from the top layer. This process makes the raw wood harder to scratch. And since the finished surface will have imperfections built-in, and a matte finish as well, it will make imperfections created later on much less visible and part of the character of the floor. Wire-brushed naturals and white-washed wire-brushed naturals are becoming trendier and more desirable over the oil-finished or hand-scarped finishes. This finish also has the added benefit of showing off the grain pattern on the floor without the grain being a different colour from the rest of the flooring when the wirebrushing is done in the direction of the grain. However is it also possible to do the wirebrushing against the grain (in the direction of the width of the plank instead of the length), which produces a more velvet like texture on the hardwood and makes the imperfections less subtle. Wirebrushed hardwood flooring gives a more subtle and organic look to the floors. It is as close as you can come to a set-it-and-forget-it hardwood flooring option.
Hand-scraped hardwood flooring is the product of unevenly planed planks. This texture gives the appearance of waves on the floor. It is essentially paying homage to the first pioneers that were using wooden planks for their floors. Since they did not have machine planers, they would hand-plane the planks and they wouldn’t come out perfectly even. It gives the floors an age-worn aesthetic without the floors actually being old. This surface treatment is especially useful on the species of hardwood that don’t lend themselves well to being wirebrushed, such as Hard Maple, Hickory, and Walnut. This is an especially popular treatment on hard maple hardwood flooring because the grain disappears when you stain Hard Maple which gives rise to a very uniform floor, especially if the Hard Maple is in Select & Better grade. In this case, any imperfections created on this surface will become very obvious and visible. In order to minimize this uniformity, a handscraped texture is used on Hard Maple hardwood flooring, as well as on other species such as Hickory, Red Oak, White Oak, Ash, and Walnut.
The bandsawn texture is a by-product of manufacturing. When the logs are cut, they are cut using massive saws with massive teeth. Overtime, these teeth can bend inwards and when this happens, they leave small saw marks on the sides of the plank that they cut. Manufacturers used to discard these pieces are defective and unsellable. With the introduction of textured hardwood floors however, these pieces were given a new lease on life. In fact, there are now saws that come pre-bent in order to create this texture on the hardwood flooring planks. It is a subtle, almost brushed look on the hardwood floors. Bandsawn fashion is more meant for aesthetics and does not necessarily affect the longevity of the hardwood floors the way that wirebrushing does. However, it does create imperfections on the hardwood surface which would make it less likely to ugly out over time.
The last fashion is called distressed. Distressed hardwood flooring is one that includes more than one type of surface treatment. These floors usually include a combination of wirebrushing, handscraping, resin-filled knots and cracks, saw marks, hammer marks, and more. These floors are meant to be highly texturized. Distressed hardwood floors are pre-beat up. They will include a lot of “imperfections” so that as you create more with use, you are just adding to the character of these floors. These floors have personality and are not a great choice for those with a more conservative and traditional tastes towards interior design. However, these are great options for high traffic areas such as commercial spaces, design studios, restaurants, or cottages. These floors also have a more rustic appearance and can be used in high end contemporary designs as well as in eclectic and cottagey design plans.
So the next time you are looking at your flooring options, you will know more about the textures you find in the market. Our goal is always to provide you with all the necessary tools and information so that you can make the most informed decision about the floors you will see in your home for at least the next decade or two. For more advice, and design options please do not hesitate to visit our showroom.
Written By: Mary Amini, M Squared Flooring & Design Centre In-house Design Consultant