We asked our readers last week to chime in on the topic of hand-scraped wood floors. We wanted to know if this trend is growing, peaked or in decline. 54% of those who answered the survey indicated that the trend is still growing slightly. In our estimation based on knowing our readership we’d guess that the trend is increasing in the midwest and probably peaking on the coasts. We also have noticed some regional tastes have developed regarding how people want the scraping to look. Our contributors from the industry have weighed in on what they are seeing in their respective markets.
Rick Merwin from Costa Mesa, CA based Fontenay says “handscraped floors have diverged into a few groups. Hand-scraped and hand finished floors with very intricate attention to detail occupies the high end of this market. Then you move down a notch into hand-scraped but machine finished and finally the low end of the market is full of machine scraped and machine finished products.
Categorizing hand-scraping flooring has become very difficult in the recent years. It’s like calling something ‘rock music’, it’s become difficult to put it in a box. That being said in our experience we see the trend is here to stay for a while.” Rick notices that so many of trends that start out as the the request of a high end client eventually trickle down into the medium grade and then low end products. “The problem is, once they’ve reached that lower end of goods they all start to look the same and lose their appeal, then you slowly see the next concept take center stage.”
Tim Igo from West Plains, MO based The Master’s Craft distributes 53 different flooring lines 17 of which are all hand-scraped products. “Our territory covers Texas to Iowa and we are seeing some regional trends develop in this niche. Texas and Oklahoma for example are still demanding very heavy scraped products. It’s almost like you can’t scrape them enough for those markets as they really want them rough. As you move north in our territory through Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa we are still being asked for hand-scraped products although the requests are for more subtle hand-distressed looks. Our private label solid line Durango which is a random width hand-scraped product is really growing in those areas. 82% of the floors we sell in the Hallmark Hardwoods brand, which is our biggest line, are hand-scraped. Based on what I’m hearing, seeing and reading I think this trend will be around for the long-term.”
Jim Oliver from Plantation Hardwood Floors adds “hand-scraping and distressing is a surface texturing technique that seeks to emulate the natural wear and tear of decades of foot traffic on a wood floor. It has the added advantage of creating a mildly uneven surface that reflects light irregularly, so the surface appears to be vibrant. Additionally, the uneven hand-scraped surface, along with a beveled edge, disguises wood movement attributable to moisture problems. Aesthetically, surface-textured flooring is unusual, looks different than a smooth-surface floor, and has a boutique cachet. Genuine hand-scraping is an artisan craft historically found in high-end flooring projects. Mass-produced flooring has adopted the ‘hand-scraped look’, but the craft resists automation, because it is by definition irregular, and to be authentic, must be hand-done. But this hand-done requirement has not stopped the effort to mechanize scraping, which is usually found in low-cost imported wood flooring. Still, the mechanized version sacrifices authenticity– and high-end customers buy authenticity. Genuine hand-scraping is thus an expensive proposition. The survival and growth of hand-scraping depends not on its aesthetics, but rather on the underlying demand for high-end features in wood flooring. The downward pricing spiral evident in so many flooring products has created the false expectation among consumers that premium features, such as genuine hand-scraping and distressing, are available at or below their actual cost. The upshot of this false expectation is that genuine hand-scraping cannot really penetrate the “popular” market, because it is not low-cost, and day-to-day consumers are led to believe they can have premium features at low cost. On the other hand, high end consumers, seeking and willing to pay for authenticity, create steady, long-term demand for this and other hand-done materials. Thus, hand-scraped flooring devolves into two markets: the fake hand-scraping at low cost, and the genuine handscraping at premium cost. The low-cost market is faddish, and fake hand-scraping will certainly fade away as other faddish techniques emerge. Genuine hand-scraping will persist in the boutique and demanding upscale market.”
At Real Wood Floors we see both the high end demand for truly unique products but also the middle to low end demand for a similar but more affordable look. I think one of the real appeals of the hand-scraped products is that the floor is already banged up and the homeowner is less worried about putting that first scratch or ding in the floor. I’d equate that to the first time you wear brand new white tennis shoes and you’re worried about getting that first mark or bit of dirt on them. My wife used to immediately rub a little dirt on her brand new tennis shoes so she wouldn’t have to worry about that initial marring. I think this is part of the appeal of the hand-scraped look. Surely there is also an aesthetic side to this as well.
As wood flooring moved into machine line finishing the surface of these prefinished products kept evolving into a more and more plastic looking surface finish which was much less appealing than the site-finished wood floors of a generation ago. The hand-scraping process brought texture back to wood flooring and increased its appeal. There is an issue that often gets overlooked when deciding to purchase a scraped product however and that is longevity and investment value. Solid wood floors and engineered products with thick wear layers are products that are given ratings by the NAHB as “lifetime” products, in other words they should last as long as your house simply because that thick wear layer allows the floors to be refinished multiple times. But when that surface is dinged, dented and scratched some of that usable material is lost. Manufacturers are happy to sell the wood floors as they can make a premium on the additional upcharge for the service but also because they can reasonably assume that those floors will have to be replaced sooner than if they had been flat sanded floors. We can’t deny however that the trend is still growing and emerging and will continue to evolve over the next few years.