The Advantages of Hand-Scraped Hickory Flooring

So, you want to add hickory flooring to your home and are aware of the challenges present in installing this hardwood species. On one hand, hickory tends to be difficult to sand, machine, and finish; on the other, hand-scraped hickory flooring removes the finishing and sanding out of the process. If you are considering hickory hardwood for your home, which type of product is best for you?

In appearance, hickory has tan to reddish heartwood, which is juxtaposed with white to cream-colored sapwood. In composition, on the other hand, hickory has rough and closed grain with some definition and a Janka scale rating of 1820, making it one of the denser domestic species. As a result of these two qualities, hickory flooring cannot be machined and sanded with hand tools and can end up blotchy when stained.

For a smooth appearance, a belt sander should be used with hickory hardwood. With an 80-grit belt, sand with the grain with the belt sander. To smooth out the surface, switch to a 120-grit belt, and for any finishing touches, go with a 220-grit belt.

For staining, hickory’s grain can either be opened through water-popping or closed with wood conditioner. For the former, wipe down the unfinished wood with a damp rag. Once the wood is dry, immediately finish it. Wood conditioner, on the other hand, seals the grain to prevent blotching. A stain in either of these cases should not obscure hickory’s contrasting heartwood and sapwood.

Rather than finding an alternative method for finishing, go with hand-scraped hickory flooring. With a rustic and antique appearance, hand-scraped hickory flooring is aged, brushed, or finished and hides imperfections better. Several brands carry unfinished and prefinished hand-scraped hickory flooring for solid and engineered hardwoods. Distressing techniques for hand-scraped hickory vary, however. Some hardwood is aged, sold as “time worn aged” or “antique,” and in many cases the appearance is exaggerated through finish. The wood may be altered physically: Wire brushing accents the grain and removes the sapwood; hand sculpted is brushed and scraped but still smooth overall; and hand hewn and rough sawn provides the roughest appearance available, with even saw marks visible. For a third option, French bleed hickory has deeper than average beveled edges, with are further accented with dark stain.

Although distressed hickory flooring can be purchased through several brands, ordinary unfinished hardwood can be custom hand-scraped. To do this, install the unfinished hardwood onto your floor and then have a professional come in to bleach, pickel, beat with chains, or fasten the wood with antique nails. Once the distressing is done, the hardwood needs to be finished.

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