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Distressed Flooring: The Look And Feel Of A Lived-In Floor

The new methods that today’s leading wood and tile floor producers use to create a worn, rustic appearance and a warm texture for distressed flooring. What makes these effects so appealing?


When it comes to the floors of your home, the more perfect they look, the better. Right?

Not everyone wants a floor that they can see their reflection in. In fact, the appeal of distressed tile and wood floors is more apparent than ever. Maybe that’s because we live in a world where we’re constantly faced with lower-quality, easy-access products that disintegrate at a moment’s notice.

Flooring that looks aged and worn brings to mind the hard work and craftsmanship that went into the homes of yesteryear. There’s a comfort in the feeling of a uniquely textured wood under your feet, especially if its been finished carefully.

distressed flooring

This is a solid cumaru hardwood floor (“Brown Stone” from BuildDirect’s South American Collection ) that has been hand-scraped (so, it’s called “handscraped” flooring, of course). Look at the way the floor reflects texure and variation as the light hits it.

Maybe you’re a hipster in need of an original flooring option or a traditionalist just looking for something old and weatherworn. Either way, you’ll love the look of distressed flooring. In this article, we’ll talk about the new methods that today’s leading floor producers use to create a worn, rustic appearance and a warm texture.

Whether you want true hardwood or the same effects in laminate flooring, or you want to enter into the world of beautiful, wire-brushed or tumbled travertine stone tile, a distressed floor can make your home extraordinary and unique.

Distressed wood flooring

Today’s distressed hardwoods are treated in the factory to replicate the effects of age. This lends that old world or lived in look that many people look for in distressed wood flooring. This is accomplished in a few ways.

One is hand-scraping with a specialized tool to create distinct groove patterns in the planks. Another is wire-brushed wood flooring, which has literally treated the boards with a wire brush (or equivalent of one) to remove some of the pulp between the grains on each plank in order to accentuate the patterns a bit more. Both of these processes replicate the look of a hardwood floor that’s been around a while.

distressed flooring

“Titanium” oak flooring from BuildDirect, representing the European Brushed Oak collection from BuildDirect. This is white oak flooring that has been brushed using a literal wire brush to distress it. The result is a more pronounced grain pattern, and a subtly contoured surface  when compared to a standard hardwood floor plank..

Distressed wood flooring is available in solid boards, and in engineered boards. For the best option for you, think about where you’d like to have these floors installed as some varieties of real wood floors flourish more so in some areas rather than in others. Talk to us about the differences between solid and engineered wood, and which one suits your space best. Either way, the look of age and experience in a wood floor can be yours, even when you’re buying a brand new floor.

Browse for distressed solid wood flooring.

The luster of handscraped laminate

Laminate floors can boast a delicate hardwood finish, but with their melamine wear layer, sometimes with aluminum oxide for added resistance against wear, you can get all of the visual benefits of distressed wood without any of the worry of splinters or long term damage, because laminate isn’t real wood. The distressed effects are the result of high-definition photography and an advanced extrusion process at the factory to replicate the groove patterns found in real handscraped flooring.

This type of product brings to mind the natural hardwood ideal that you want for your home, but it is also incredibly easy to install for even the first time DIYer. If you have young children or dogs at home, as well, the added benefit is that there will be limited damage or spot-based wear and tear on your floors, which means that your floors will remain exceptional looking for years to come.

distressed flooring

“Symphony Distressed Pine” laminate flooring on the Lamton label from BuildDirect. Is it actually, physcially distressed? No. But, like all high quality laminates, it provides the look of being distressed very convincingly.

Try a laminate with overt grain patterns and a handscraped surface texture that mimics the most beautiful hardwoods in patterns that look and feel like organic wood to touch. These textures and colors can easily mimic the most beautiful hardwoods the world has to offer, and they can look wonderfully distressed, but they are always going to remain smooth to the touch.

Browse for “distressed” laminate flooring.

The texture of travertine

A uniform, flat look is very rare for travertine tiles, unlike other tiles that are produced with pressed granite, glass, or marble segments. Created originally for the Mediterranean homes of ancient Romans, travertine tiles are drawn and cut from the rock beds that were once the site of underground river systems.

This natural stone tile is cut straight on the sides, but it has natural pitting or pores in its surface related to its cavernous origin. The cavities in the tiles are formed by carbon dioxide bubbles trapped in the stone. Even so, these tiles are creamy and smooth underfoot because the travertine holes are often honed and then filled to provide a more tailored look. Sometimes, they are unfilled for a more natural look.

distressed flooring

An example of an unfilled travertine tile surface (“Walnut Dark” travertine tile from BuildDirect).

Like wood flooring, travertine can also be distressed to reflect the look of the ancient world. This is done similarly to wood with wire brushing. But, chisled travertine is another method to get that weather-worn appearance.

distressed flooring

An example of a “brushed and chisled” travertine tile (“Classic Medium Beige Standard” travertine tile from BuildDirect).

Yet another is what’s called “tumbled” travertine tile, in which the tiles are placed in a machine that literally tumbles them together, kind of like a laundry dryer, so that the edges and surfaces of the tile appear to have been aged over a long period of time, like an ancient Roman palace.

distressed flooring

Tumbled travertine tiles in a 4″x4″x3/8″ format (Izmir label “Rustic Beige” from BuildDirect).

Browse for tumbled travertine.

Travertine tiles can be a lovely option for a distressed look in a bathroom, kitchen, or even an entry hall. Travertine with a brushed finish is smoother to the touch than those that are just filled. You can also try travertine planks rather than wood floors in any area of the house.

These planks are made of the same organic material as the tiles, but are cut in non-traditional sizes and are not slippery like wood, which means that they are a great option for those parts of your home that are subject to wet, like a bathroom or laundry room.

Browse for travertine plank flooring.

Distressed flooring unique benefits

Whether you want an original hardwood floor, a uniquely finished laminate, or the natural, organic beauty of travertine tiles, there are so many new options in distressed flooring for the modern or traditional home from which to choose. From sources in old world caves to new world forests, you can find the look you want to bring out the rustic charm in your home.

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