How To Distress Hardwood Floors (5 Easy Steps)

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To give hardwood floors a vintage or rustic look, most people opt for a distressed look, and this style of wood floor is starting to gain popularity amongst many homeowners.

Creating distressed hardwood floors is easy in concept but can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, and you will need some prior artistic skills.

The process is known as “distressing,” which consists of expert techniques where the hardwood floor surface is carefully scuffed and abraded to create the appearance of a wood floor with a long, colorful history of use. 

In this article, you’re going to learn how to distress hardwood floors to make your hardwood floors look rustic.

How To Distress Hardwood Floors

How To Distress Hardwood Floors

Step 1: Lightly Sand

Whether you are distressing a new floor or an old one, it needs to be lightly sanded before you begin the distressing process. 

Sanding the floor smooths out imperfections, cleans and prepares the wood surface so it adheres to the paint better. 

This is highly recommended, especially if the floor area receives high traffic; this enables the paint to bond better and lasts longer.

Use a 100-grit or 80-grit screen sandpaper to lightly sand the entire floor surface. When you’re done sanding, vacuum up any dust and thoroughly clean the floor so there’s no debris left.

Step 2: Paint

After sanding, you can skip the primer and just move on to the painting. 

You can use any paint of your choice; a good enamel paint is, however, recommended. 

You can use oil-based paint if you want a tough finish or water-based enamels if you would prefer. 

Step 3: Scuff Sand

Allow the paint to dry for about 24 hours before strapping some 80-grit sandpaper on the belt sander and sand down the floor. 

Sand along the direction of the grain, not against it or diagonally to it; this helps to ensure the scuffing looks as natural as possible.

Decide how much “distressed” you want the floor to look and scuff the paint until you achieve that look. 

You can scuff the paint a little bit more for higher traffic areas to give it a naturally worn outlook since those spots are usually worn out from decades of foot traffic.

You only need to reveal some of the wood underneath the paint; how much wood you would reveal is totally up to you. 

After achieving your desired look, use a vacuum to get the floor completely clean before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Stain The Floor

After achieving a perfectly white floor that is all scuffed up, it’s time to give it a rustic and vintage look. 

Apply a stain of your preferred color using a cotton rag, buff in the stain thoroughly, and wipe off immediately. Apply the stain in small sections so it doesn’t dry before you buff it in.

If you are working alone in an ample space, you might want to request a helping hand as the job is best carried out as a two-person operation, so one person applies the stain and the other wipes it off right behind them.

Please note that when you wipe off the stain, it should be wiped in the direction of the wood grain, and it should be wiped off thoroughly too. 

Do not leave any lap mark or any signs of it being a faux finish. You know you want the result to be as natural as possible, right?

When the stain is applied, the bright paint turns a nice antique cream color, and areas where the paint has been sanded, develop a deep color that reveals the wood grain underneath.

Step 5: Seal The Floor

Allow the stain to dry for a day or so before you can move on to the final step of sealing the floor, and there’s a couple of ways you can do so. 

Some of the most effective sealers include poly-acrylic, lacquer, or paste wax.

If you are using a paste, wax buff it on the floor, allow it to sit till it hazes over, and you can buff it off. 

A few cans of spray poly or lacquer works just fine for smaller projects; simply apply 2-3 coats, and that should be all you need. For even better protection, you can apply three coats of poly-acrylic.

Oil-based polyurethane is not recommended for sealing wood floors as it changes the floors’ color, giving it a slight amber tint.

Conclusion | How To Make Hardwood Floors Look Rustic

Creating distressed hardwood floors might seem simple and straightforward, but you are going to need a lot of elbow grease and prior sanding knowledge. 

But then again, with dedication and patience, you will achieve a beautifully distressed floor; meanwhile, if you can’t take on the job yourself, you can always hire a professional.