When you buy a hardwood floor, the planks either come prefinished or site-finished. Site-finished is also called “unfinished.” That means that the planks have not been stained or sealed with oil or polyurethane. After they have been installed, the floor will be sanded, stained, and sealed. However, many homeowners have begun to skip the final two steps. They sand the floor after it’s installed, and then leave it in its raw state. The raw flooring trend has practical as well as aesthetic reasons.
From a practical standpoint, raw floors make some sense because you don’t have to do as much work. When you stain and finish a floor, it takes some time. If you do a coat of stain, it takes the time to apply it. Then you have to wait for it to set. You might need to then wipe it down to even out the hue. Then you apply a layer of finish. You have to wait for that to cure, which could take several hours. You apply another coat of finish and wait for that to completely cure. It could be 24 hours before you can walk on it barefoot and days before you can move your furniture back in. you also have to contend with the smell of the polyurethane or varnish for a few days.
For a raw floor, you can move your furniture back in as soon as you’ve cleaned up the sawdust. Since there is no sealant on the floor, it will be susceptible to water marks, oil from your hands, scratches, and dents. For aesthetic purposes, some people find that desirable.
Hard sealants such as polyurethane and varnish protect wood against moisture as well as physical damage. Oil penetrates the pores of the wood to protect against moisture. None of that protection exists for a raw floor. The raw floor will be susceptible to scratches from furniture, pet claws, high heels, and dirt. It will also absorb water if you spill a drink or set a cup on it. Nicks, scratches, and water marks can be very desirable if you want a rustic look. That’s why many people choose raw floors. They don’t intend for the floor to stay unfinished forever. Instead, they live on the floor for several years to pick up natural signs of wear and tear. Then, they can stain and seal it to hold that look.
Distressed and rustic wood is very popular now; the most authentic way to get it is through age. It’s very difficult to replicate the randomness of true wear and tear. This is a way to do that.