Texture in wood flooring is where a wood flooring product has been hand-carved or sculpted, resulting in an uneven surface. Texture can be developed in many ways, including scraping, wire-brushing, carving, distressing, or even in how the flooring is put to use. The textures we’re seeing in the field today are drastically different from those wildly popular just 10 years ago and even more extreme from 20 years ago.
Here are some of the details of each:
One of the most-common and historic textures on a wood floor is a hand-scraped texture. Before the wood flooring industry was introduced to sanding equipment, wood floors were installed and scraped by hand. The scraping process is a labor-intensive process that requires skill and artistry. The purpose of scraping back then was to flatten the floor by knocking down uneven planks. The result was nearly impossible to replicate with machines.
Scraping today has a much different purpose, to create texture. There are no standards established for scraped floors as each board scrapes differently, each scraper scrapes differently, and each craftsman and consumer have a different perception of acceptable textures on the floor.
The scraper blade typically is made of a heavy-duty tempered metal designed to remove material from the floor. When scraping a wood floor, the shape of the blade dictates the texture left behind on the floor. A flat blade will result in a flatter, smoother surface. A curved blade will produce a slight gouge in the flooring surface. The tighter the radius on the blade shape, the deeper the gouge. Sculpted floor scraper blades usually can be shaped on a standard grinder. After the blade has been shaped to the desired radius, it must be hooked. The hook is formed by “turning over” the blade’s edge, which does the wood cutting. This hook is created by using a smooth steel rod that must be made of harder steel than the blade itself and forcefully burnishing against the blade’s cutting edge. The ultimate goal is to turn the edge over at about a 90° angle to achieve a “hook,” which, when sharpened, can remove wood rapidly. Once a blade is shaped and hooked, it must be sharpened using a mill/bastard file.
Other scraping tools include hand planes or block planes that usually are pushed rather than pulled, which can give different effects on the surface. Spoke-shave scrapers utilize a similar blade with handles on either side. These are similar to a draw knife, but are for use on wood floors. Paint scrapers work well and can be modified and shaped to be more or
Different floors can achieve various effects through other scraping techniques.
- The angle at which the scraper blade comes into contact with the floor will determine the rate at which the material will be removed.
- Cross-grain scrapes can give a torn-grain appearance or, depending on the approach with the scraper, a unique cross-scrape chatter effect.
- Chatter the scraper to achieve a chattered appearance.
- Highlight the edges of the boards with the scraper blade.
Today there are machines that many flooring manufacturers use to try and replicate that hand-scraped appearance, but none achieve that same feel or appearance as a real hand-scraped wood floor.
Wire brushing is another texture effect designed to remove the soft grain of the wood from the flooring surface. The finished effect gives a unique texture to the wood floor that can resemble the weather-worn appearance of wood after it has been exposed to the elements.
Wire brushing can be achieved on an existing, unfinished wood floor with the proper tools. Wire brushes typically are made of carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, or even nylon-type brushes. Normally on wood flooring equipment, manufacturers will use either stainless steel or brass wire brush attachments.
Wire gauge or diameter of the actual wire can vary from coarse (.032”) to very fine (.005”). The coarser the wire, the more aggressive it will be on wood removal.
Several floor sanding equipment manufacturers have developed attachments and tools to help you achieve this wire-brushed effect on an installed floor. Standard buffers with multi-head attachments or planetary equipment now can be outfitted with wire-brush heads. The process of wire brushing a floor can vary depending on the tools you’re using and the desired outcome. Hand-held wire brushes or grinder wheels with a wire brush attachment also can be aggressive enough to remove soft material from the flooring surface. Many wire brushed floors also are given this effect before installing the flooring by using automated machines specifically designed to produce the brushed effect.
Wire brushes typically are made of carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, or even nylon-type brushes. Normally on wood flooring equipment, manufacturers will use either stainless steel or brass wire brush attachments.
Carving wood is another less-common approach to creating texture in a floor surface. Wood carving is a craft in-and-of itself. A few craftsmen in our industry have showcased some of the carving they have implemented in their wood floors. Kyle Neuroh of Neuroh Hardwood in Nashville, Tennessee, has created some masterpieces in this category. Carving requires a different set of hand tools, which can vary tremendously.
Using a router with different types of cutting bits can produce all sorts of textured effects in a wood floor, including the recreation (or creation) of bevels. Sharp chisels are a more-common tool that can produce about any effect. Files and rasps come in all shapes and sizes. You can produce many textures when using rasps on wood, depending on their shape, size, and how coarse they are.
A more-common approach to creating texture on a wood floor is by using an angle grinder. Sanding disks can be attached to the grinder, but specific shaping wheels and rasp disks can make for quick wood removal.
Some of these textures can produce splinters or sharp edges that need to be addressed before putting them to use. With any sculpting or texturing of a floor, it always is recommended to lightly abrade the surface to knock down sharp edges and remove splinters. This can be done by hand, with a hand-held random orbital, or with a buffer using a thick pad and finer grit abrasive to somewhat smooth out the rough surfaces. Some manufacturers recommend going over the floor with a Tampico brush to help remove splinters before coating.
Wood gives us so many ways to manipulate it to create an unlimited pallet of design options. Texturing is an art and a craft. You can now become designated as a “Master of Textures” through the NWFA certification path. You also may earn the designation as a “Master of” all of the specialty skills, including “Master of Circles and Curves,” “Master of Colors and Finishes,” “Master of Marquetry and Inlays,” “Master of Medallions,” “Master of Parquetry,” and “Master of Wood Bending.” You can find more information on our website by visiting nwfa.org/become-cp.
Brett Miller is the vice president of technical standards, training, and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.