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Hardwood Flooring New York City & New Jersey Dust Less Refinishing


Distressing Wood Floors to Make Them Unique


Antique / Vintage Wood Flooring Styles

The following distressed flooring techniques can be performed on most of our flooring to provide that truly rustic looking floor you've been dreaming of.

Hand Scraped

Hand Scraping your hardwood floor can make it look older than it actually is. This technique gives wooden floors a warn appearance and adds to the authenticity or antiqueness of your wooden floor. We utilize hand scraping methods that have been used by wood craftsmen for centuries. Choose hand scraping when you want your wooden floor to have a more "antique" quality. Hand Scraped floors are also easier to maintain as any fresh nicks or scratches will blend right it with the rest of the floor.

Wire Brushed

Our Wire Brushed technique will provide you with a floor that is less slippery and easier to maintain. By wire brushing the flooring we remove any of the softer wood and leave you with the more durable hardwood that is underneath, making the floor last even longer. Wire brushed floors have a rough, down to earth feeling. This technique is applied when someone wants to add that unique "European" look to their floor.

Hit or Miss (Skip-Planed)

The Hit or Miss technique is done in the planing process when the wood is run through the mill. Using this special teqnique we can provide a wooden floor that looks worn and used right from the beginning. Hit or Miss combined with circular-saw and/or wire brushing techniques will provide that true rustic looking floor you're looking for. We'll make your new floor look antique.


Whether you’d like to achieve a time-worn rustic appearance or a dramatic modern feel in your design space, Board Brokers can achieve any look with a variety of handmade surface and finishing treatments for virtually any wood species. Our expert craftsmen and artisans bring distinctive character to each Board Brokers floor by applying a combination of finishing techniques, such as hand-scraping, hand-plaining, fuming, wire brushing and more. These custom surface treatments are used to create the distinctive looks of our French White Oak Collections, to add character to antique or reclaimed hardwood, and to achieve your exact specifications for any custom product.

While reclaimed hardwood flooring boasts original details such as worming, hammer marks, nail holes and more, Board Brokers craftsmen are able to apply distressing techniques to achieve the look of a well worn floor with any lumber. All of these techniques are done by hand, ensuring you get the exact effects you desire.

Wood stains color only the surface of wood, but fuming is a technique that uses gas to penetrate colors deep into the wood fibers and through the board. Our Board Brokers craftsmen utilize this finishing method to achieve the distinctive colors of many of our French White Oak Collections, and can use it to achieve your desired color for any custom project.

Plank flooring was originally plained by hand to smooth out any roughness caused by sawing. Today, this method is use to recreate the authentic look of antique floors, and the distinctive plaining marks of the past.

Hand scraping gives the warm appearance and character of a well worn floor. From a light scraping to enhance the handcrafted look of the floor, to heavy scraping to achieve the look of centuries of foot traffic, our craftsmen can deliver the exact effect you desire. Choose from hand scraped surfaces, had scraped edges, or a combination of the two.

Often found in our reclaimed hardwood floors, saw markings, often called saw kerfs, add a texture, depth and character to your flooring. Board Brokers craftsmen can recreate these markings to any new wood, or add more to enhance the rustic feel of reclaimed wood. Select between circular saw marks and band saw marks.

One of our most subtle and popular surface treatments, Board Brokers craftsmen create a slightly worn texture using wire brushes against the smooth wood surface. This treatment is typically paired with several other techniques to achieve a distinctive look.


Distressing Wood Floors to Make Them Unique

In most cases, if you walked onto a jobsite with newly installed hardwood floors and started hurling around axes, chains and saw blades, it would be the last thing you did—before the flooring contractor turned you into a human inlay on the floor. If the contractor were distressing the floor, however, he might ask you to join his crew. While making burn marks, gouges and holes in the floor normally would make a contractor spout a few choice expletives, many distressed flooring craftsman would consider these violent acts methods of adding character to the floor.

Hand-scraped and hand-distressed floors are gaining popularity throughout the country. Though hand-scraping floors is one of the oldest ways to sand a floor, it fell out of vogue when modern sanding and finishing techniques were invented and smooth, shiny floors were the standard. In recent years, distressed floors have seen a resurgence in California and other pockets of the country. More decorators are specifying distressed floors as a way to make a new floor look like it's 100 years old, and to give the floor a rustic, casual feel. Distressing also is a way to match antiqued cabinets and furniture.

The natural scratches and gouges in a distressed floor make it a perfect choice for homeowners who don't want to cringe every time their kids or pets leave a mark on the floor. There's also a certain amount of prestige for the homeowner to have a custom, hand-scraped floor. Distressed floors also are becoming popular in commercial applications such as restaurants, retail stores and museums, because they add personality to the room yet withstand high traffic.

Contractors who master the art of hand-distressing floors not only have more options to offer customers, they can charge a premium for their work. Distressing is not for everyone, however—it's a labor-intensive process that requires a high degree of skill and artistry.

The Art of Distress

While it may seem easy enough to beat the floor with various tools and other objects, hand-distressing floors is a true art form, involving much more than just hacking up a floor. The masters in the trade have spent years experimenting with different tools, perfecting their techniques and developing their own sense of style. The best craftsmen are artists who are passionate about their work and constantly are looking for inspiration on ways to add character to the floor.

Experts suggest that one of the best ways to get ideas for distressing a floor is to look at how wood and nature react over time. Find a historic building with wood floors to see how they have worn. Go to flea markets and check out old furniture. Look at old wooden buildings such as barns and sheds. Study the lines and contours of the wood grain and see how it wears and ages. Study trees and timber to see how bug and worm holes are formed. The more details you notice, the more realistic and creative the floor will be.

Creating the Look

The flooring craftsman creates the distinctive features of a distressed floor by hand—he doesn't use machines, and he turns each floor into an original masterpiece. There is no standard technique or tool used to create these floors, but there are many tricks-of-the-trade that professionals in the industry use.

Most contractors start by hand-scraping the floor, either on-site after the floor is installed or off-site before installation. Hand-scraping is a labor-intensive, tedious process, but it gives the most control over the look of the floor. Scrape with the grain, following the grain pattern and avoiding the knots. Adjusting the angle at which you scrape, the pressure you use and the sharpness of the blade all change the look of the floor. Depending on your technique, you can either tear the grain or burnish the floor, creating either a rough or a smooth look and feel. Some contractors also make their own custom blades to create different looks.

Because hand-scraping is an individual process, no two contractors scrape the floor the same way. That means if you have several employees working on a large floor and they all stay in the same area, you'll be able to notice the differences in the floor. Crews need to alternate the boards they scrape and move around the floor to keep it looking consistent.

It's also helpful to know which floors scrape better than others. Walnut, oak,hickory/pecan and pine are common species that adapt well to hand-distressing and scraping. Harder species such as teak, maple and some exotics are difficult to scrape and don't lend themselves to the worn, antiqued look. Always try a sample before attempting to distress species you haven't used previously.

Adding Character

Scraping the floor sets the initial tone of the floor, but using other tools and techniques is what gives the floor its personality. This is where the contractor turns into an artist. Wire brushes further add texture. Chains, hammers, chisels, awls and saw blades are just some of the tools used to create dents and cracks on the wood. Drills, ice picks and wire are used to create worm hole effects. Some contractors hammer nuts and bolts into the floor or pour liquid metal to create a bullet-hole effect. The possibilities are endless. Even a broken beer bottle has been used on a floor to create a crystallized effect.

Another popular effect is to add burn marks to the floor. Ways this look can be achieved include using a soldering iron, heated nuts and bolts or lacquer thinner. Obviously, extreme caution should be used with this technique.

After the character marks are made, many contractors accentuate them by adding black wood filler, resin, acid, inks or dyes. Resin in the knot holes gives the appearance of sap. Applying dark stain traps the color in the nooks and crannies of the floor. Some contractors apply several colors to the floor and randomly scrape them off to give the floor an antiqued look.

The best techniques are created by research and development. Experimenton pieces of wood and test floors. Go to the hardware store or look to other trades to find unconventional tools that can add character to the floor. The more time you put into creating your own style and signature mark, the more valuable you'll be to the customer.

Know your Worth

Hand-distressed floors require a great deal of skill, artistry, time and labor. It's a physically demanding job that takes a lot of time.

Hand-scraping and distressing are labor-intensive, and even the most efficient and physically fit contractor is doing well by creating 150 feet of distressed flooring a day on the job site. You need to bid the job accordingly and charge a premium for your time and effort. Estimate the hours and manpower it will take not only to create the actual floor, but also to assemble samples. If you're going to scrape the floors off-site, you need to charge for the actual number of feet you'll be scraping—far more than you'll be installing. Many contractors are intimidated by the huge number in the estimate, but sit down with the client and explain the charges. If the customer doesn't have the money to do a hand-distressed floor, suggest a factory distressed floor. It's better to turn down a job than to end up losing money on the job.

Inform the Customer

It's best to involve the client in every step of the process. Sit down with the homeowners and find out exactly how they want the floor to look. Distressing is subjective and can be interpreted myriad ways. Present several options, make samples, and have the client sign off on them before you start work on the floor. Having the homeowners there while you make samples not only will help you pinpoint what look they're trying to achieve, it also will show them how much work isinvolved. Also inform them that distressed work is permanent—no amount of sanding or buffing will get those marks out of the floor. That's why it's important to agree and sign off on the final design.

Before you start using every tool in your shed on your customer's floor, however, know your boundaries. Take the time to practice and learn the tricks of the trade from craftsmen who are experienced in distressing floors. Use industry contacts, such as the instructors at NWFA's Advanced School, to find a mentor willing to get you started. Once you learn the basics, you can create your own style and increase your value as a wood flooring craftsman.

Distressed Flooring: A Step-by-Step Guide

Distressed flooring is one of the hottest looks in the wood flooring industry right now. It seems every factory-finished wood flooring manufacturer is offering some sort of distressed product. These floors are a great option to add to your offerings, but you can really distinguish your skills as a craftsman by hand-scraping flooring yourself. With hand-scraping, each floor becomes a unique work of art. In my contracting business, three-quarters of our work is on hand-scraped floors. We've done everything from floors that look like old barn walls to floors with horse nails and even a bullet lodged in them.

For inspiration, simply look around you. Examples are evident everywhere from old barns to covered bridges. I've spent time poring through books showcasing old European chateaus. The point is to observe how wood actually wears over the years and then to replicate those effects on your floors.

There isn't any one right way to hand scrape a floor, and much of the look will be dictated by your customers' tastes. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to involve the customer in every aspect of these floors. I work with customers to develop samples of floors exactly to their tastes, then do a sample area on the actual floor as a final check. These floors are labor-intensive, so you better be sure the floor is exactly what the customer had in mind before you do all the painstaking work. In our estimating, we figure that one worker will only be able to produce 50 to 75 square feet of flooring per day. Obviously, this means that you better charge accordingly.

With such expensive floors, it's especially important to have the right acclimation. We absolutely will not install a floor that hasn't been acclimated to its job site, which must have the HVAC system operating. A great advantage with these floors is that once they're installed, wear and tear simply adds to the natural character of the floor. Keep in mind that recoating these floors in the future means getting back down on your hands and knees to hand-sand the floor; so be sure to charge enough for that, too. Also, make sure the customer realizes that once the floor is distressed, it is that way forever—there's no going back across the floor with a big machine to flatten it out.

Necessary tools and supplies:

hook scraper
standard floor scraper
colored filler
putty knife
maroon pad with 180-grit abrasive strips
Step 1:

You can turn any wood floor into a distressed floor, but plank best lends itself to the distressed look; the floor we're using here is a 3-5-7-inch oak plank. Our first step is to use a 4-inch circular grinder. This gives us a lightly dished out look, replicating years of foot traffic.

Step 2:

Next, we use a hook scraper to emphasize the worn look throughout the floor. Be extremely careful when sharpening the hook-scraper, and never leave it sitting blade up on the floor (a long scar on my left hand will attest to that careless mistake). Make sure you don't use the scraper in a forward motion, which quickly dulls the blade.

Step 3:

Then, we come back on the floor with the lighter scraper. We use this to "pillow" or "roll" the edges of the boards. When going across the grain on the edges, watch out for chatter. A little bit of chatter works well on a distressed floor, but too much looks unappealing. We also go over the surface of the flooring to lightly clean up the bigger gouges from the hook scraper.

With both scrapers, make sure that the blade isn't flat, which will dig into the floor too much.

Step 4:

From here, we can add other interesting character marks. Just be sure not to add them in any sort of distinguishable pattern.

One common and easy mark to add is worm holes. Simply take an awl and stab it into the floor with varying force,which will leave holes of different sizes. For larger holes, you can use a drill.

Step 5:

To add to the aged look of the holes, we use different colored fillers in some of the holes.

Step 6:

You can use the edge of the putty knife to create the look of larvae trails in the wood, too. Again, make sure they aren't too uniform.

Step 7:

Another good effect is to use the chisel to chip off a part of the end joint, or a little piece of flooring from a board's edge. Once the piece is gone,come back with the light scraper to clean up the jagged grain for an authentic worn look.

You also can use the chisel to whack a few natural-looking dents into the floor.

Step 8:

Once all the character marks are added, go over the entire floor by hand with 180-grit sanding strips backed by a maroon pad. On larger floors, you may want to consider wearing gloves to avoid sanding your hand along with the floor. Do not use a sanding machine on the floor for any part of this process.

Step 9:

We usually stain our floors, then scrape them again to highlight certain areas. Once we're done, we're ready for finish. Choose the lowest sheen possible. When using polyurethane, you may find you'll need a bonding agent to help between coats (follow the manufacturers' recommendations). Once you're done, you'll have a floor unlike any other.