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What Is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is old lumber that’s been recycled/repurposed for use in new projects. It’s commonly retrieved from old buildings, barns or homes and processed through different techniques for reuse. Companies follow a step-by-step approach to deconstruct wood elements and process them to preserve the beams’ integrity and shape. That way, new construction projects can use these beams and boards.

The concept of using reclaimed wood in construction projects is not new. However, it gained popularity due to the green building and remodeling movement. It’s considered an Eco-friendly material with past life and new purpose because it’s recycled. However that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. In fact, because of all the labor and processing it takes to repurpose the older wood, it’s typically more expensive. Especially for premium cuts. And it’s rare, which also adds to the price. You can’t just go to the local hardware store and buy repurposed wood, it has to be found and processed to make it usable again.

  • Factories
  • Old Barns & Farms
  • Wooden Ships
  • Warehouses
  • Wine Cellars & Casks
  • And More

Eventually, most structures built out of wood are demolished. When this happens, there’s a lot of of air-dried wood that can be reused. Not all of it is a candidate to be recycled but some of the large beams make beautiful reclaimed timber.

There is a real charm to this type of wood because it contains a lot of history and a look that can’t be reproduced. It’s sort of like an antique in that way. You can buy a new table at just about any furniture store. But there’s something very special about owning one that’s hundreds of years old.

In today’s article, we will discuss the features and limitations of reclaimed wood. Read on.

Features of Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is famous for its uniqueness, because due to its age, weathering, use, and other factors, each piece is different. This allows companies to make unique furniture designs with no duplication.

For many people, using wood that’s rich in history and character adds a beauty and charm that new materials can’t match. For some, it’s the conservation aspect that makes reclaimed wood more appealing. Others choose reclaimed wood for its durability and strength. Using old wood for a new project adds a story element to can’t reproduce by other means.

Adding a reclaimed wood to your home provides a rustic look that connects your design to the natural world. It injects a character through the use of beautiful wood textures and color that can’t be matched with new products. It’s something special and unique. And it’s a versatile style that looks great in just about any style home ranging from a Country Cottage to an Ultra Modern Penthouse.

It’s also a very versatile material in terms of it’s applications. We use it to build all sorts of things like:

  • Custom Beam Wraps. Ceilings and walls.
  • Wall paneling. Wrap entire walls or just an accent area.
  • Furniture. Tables, chairs, benches, cabinets, etc. Just about anything can be built out of recycled wood.
  • Trim. Use it as an accent or for an entire home.

Here are some of the best features of reclaimed wood.

Durable and Stable

Durability and stability are the essential aspects of reclaimed wood. Because the boards have already undergone or experienced aging, time, and weathering. When companies recycle them, they can make a unique furniture piece with high durability. Wood also airs out and drys over time which makes it harder.New timber carries with it a lot of moisture.

Reclaimed wood is 40 points harder and stable on the “Janka Hardness” scale than newly sourced wood. This is the scale that rates the hardness of wood.

If you want a highly durable wood then consider something aged.

Multiple Uses

Another reason companies and individuals prefer reclaimed wood is due to its multiple uses. For instance, you can use it for a wide range of applications, such as hardwood flooring, wall paneling, decks, cabinets, countertops, shelves, etc.

It’s such a beautiful look that creative people can use it to make just about anything.

According to the USDA, one billion feet of recycled lumber is produced from demolishing buildings. When you buy and reuse old wood, you’re also purchasing a piece of history.

It’s easy to change to look of your home with a few reclaimed wood features. For example, using old beams in the ceilings or walls is a great way to add character and charm to a home. It’s a much cooler look than wrapping beams with new wood. Old wood also makes a great table top. And I really love recycling old doors by turning them into a barn style. Using old wood again allows you to be more creative.

Have fun with your designs by doing something different and unique. Reclaimed wood is great at creating an interesting focal point in just about any room of the house.

Eco-Friendly

Eco-friendliness is one of the best feature of reclaimed wood because when companies use it, they decrease the demand for new lumber. The purpose is to prevent deforestation and promote environmentally friendly practices. Reclaimed wood is a renewable wood source if companies make efforts to harvest it responsibly. That way, they can reduce landfill waste and avoid environmental hazards.

Using reclaimed wood decreases the demand for freshly cut virgin wood from forests. This helps preserve the environment rather than deplete it. Then there are the creatures that live in these forests to consider. We’ve all heard of deforestation. This can be reduced by recycling old wood rather than chopping new trees down.

Fresh wood involves chopping down, transporting and processing the trees which has a big impact on the environment. Using reclaimed wood reduces this impact every time it’s used. Studies show it takes 11 – 13 times more energy to cut, transport and process fresh wood than it does to recycle it.

Another Eco-friendly aspect of using reclaimed wood is when you use it as flooring. Due to its cellular structure, it’s great at trapping air. This makes it a great insulator which saves money on energy bills.

When recycled wood is harvested and processed responsibly, it’s a renewable resource that cuts down on deforestation and saves energy in processing. It’s far better for the environment to reuse old wood rather than cutting down, transporting and processing new trees.

Reclaimed wood is an environmentally responsible choice, and it’s a great reason to use it.

Unique Appearance

Because reclaimed wood undergoes many years of aging and weathering, it adapts a unique look, which is hard to find in newly sourced wood. As a result, reclaimed wood adds significant appeal to your residential and commercial projects. Old barns, ships, crates, schools, decommissioned buildings, homes, pallets, railroads, etc., are common sources of reclaimed materials, making them unique and attractive.

Reclaimed wood is unique because it offers a beauty new wood can’t match. It also provides a unique quality as no two pieces age in exactly the same way. Old wood has a different color and texture than new. Every piece is different and can’t be replicated. Reclaimed wood has a special character. Its age brings out an allure, depth and color that can’t be reproduced commercially. Which means whatever you create will be rare and valuable.

Old wood pieces have a quality that mass produced items can’t match because they’re real. The texture,color and markings happen over time naturally. None of the look is planned out or designed.

Every piece has its own history and unique appeal. This quality provides a talking point since every piece has a look that can never be found with modern wood.

Tight Grain Patterns

Besides its unique appearance, durability, and strength, reclaimed wood is available in multiple colors due to weathering it has undergone over the years. Exposure to sunlight, rain and other environmental factors also lead to tight grain patterns.

Old Growth

The term “old-growth” refers to trees that have reached their full maturity in an environment that allows slow growth. Old-growth trees are typically stronger and larger than others because they took so long to grow and mature naturally without interference.

The slower a tree grows, the denser the fibers becomes. It takes time for a tree to fully mature, and these days, trees are cut down much too young.

Old growth forests are now considered protected so you can’t buy old-growth wood anymore. That means using reclaimed old-growth wood is the only alternative if you want the most durable wood.

Limitations of Reclaimed Wood

Although there are several benefits of reclaimed wood, it also comes with limitations or downsides. In this section, we will discuss the limitation of reclaimed wood to help you make an informed decision whether you should use it.

Higher Prices

Unlike virgin wood, reclaimed wood is more expensive because of the unique processes it undergoes. Companies use state-of-the-art machinery and methods to sort and prepare the wood for safe consume use. And then there’s the sourcing part. You can’t just go to a hardware store and buy it. Companies have to go out and find old structures to take the lumber from and then ship it to a shop for treatment and recycling. It’s a labor intensive process that increases the price per foot quite a bit.

There is a lot of nail pulling and preparatory work involved in processing the old wood. That’s why it’s costly. However, if you know how to deconstruct old wood or lumber, you can reduce the costs by doing it yourself. It makes a great project if you can get your hands on a few old beams.

Pests and Infestation

Many pests make their homes in wood, meaning when you opt to buy reclaimed wood, make sure you inspect it properly. Look for signs of pest or infestation to avoid the damaged product.

Asymmetrical holes, bugs’ presence, crumbling wood, etc., are a few signs of pests and infestation. Even if you use reclaimed wood for construction projects, make sure you kiln-dry it to kills invasive pests.

This is more of an issue when you recycle wood yourself. When you buy it from a company this work should have been done already.

Chemicals and Toxins

Most companies treat reclaimed wood for chemicals and paint. It can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), preservatives, adhesives, insecticides, and lead. Therefore, if you want to use reclaimed wood, make sure you test it for toxins and chemicals and have it cleaned.

This is another issue that comes up when you recycle wood yourself. If you buy it from a company it should be done for you.

Uses For Reclaimed Lumber

Because of it’s beauty, character, durability and charm, reclaimed wood can be used to make all sorts of things, such as:

Beams

Reclaimed wood beams are one of my favorite uses. You can slice an old beam into slivers and wrap a new beam with it or use an old beam whole. Either way it adds a beautiful and unique look to ceilings and walls.

One of the great thing about using reclaimed wood beams is how versatile the look is. We use it in just about any style home. Since the old wood contrasts all the new materials around it, the beams become an immediate focal point.

Decking, Planks and Siding

Old wood decking, planks and siding are great uses for old timber. And typically they come ready to install because old buildings used a lot of wood siding, plans and decking. This makes it easier because the wood doesn’t have to be processed that much. Once it’s cleaned you can simply reinstall it.

The wood can be left with its old edges exactly as it was originally or it can be re planed to whatever dimension you need. Leaving the original edge gives the wood a rustic look while trimming it makes lines more perfect. Either way the surface will still have the same beautiful coloring and texture. It’s a really nice look if you can find enough material for the job.

Wood Flooring

Old wood flooring is another great product that can be used as is. Since it was already flooring there’s no need to cut or trim it. Just clean it, remove the nails and reinstall.

You could resurface the wood, trim it or cut it down if your looking for a specific look. But in most cases, reclaimed wood flooring is simply reinstalled. One of the great things about it is the size of the planks. Old floors were often differently sized than new floors. Either really thin or really wide.

Wood patterns like Parquet were also a common thing in the past. The great thing about using a recycled Parquet floor is that all the cuts and measurements are done for you already. All you need to do is reinstall. This greatly reduces your labor costs.

Wood Mantels & Fireplace Surrounds

I love creating wood mantels and fireplace surrounds out of reclaimed wood. These pieces are supposed to be focal points anyway so using a special material only adds to the effect.

All you need to do is hang an old reclaimed wood beam over a fireplace and the entire space is transformed. It’s a very popular look that’s used a lot in the Modern Farmhouse with white brick. And it’s so simple to pull off the look. All you need is some white paint and an old beam.

Wood Furniture

Beautiful furniture can be made from old recycled wood. I especially like it as a tabletop. Large flat surfaces are a great way to showoff textures and color.

Feature Wall

Using old wood planks as a feature wall is a great way to bring interest, texture and color to any room. Try using it in a room that’s otherwise light and bright.

Final Words

People use reclaimed wood for construction because it’s more durable and stable than new wood. Not to mention it’s beauty, charm and character. However, if you buy reclaimed wood with poor quality, you may not achieve your goal.

A high-quality reclaimed wood with proper processing can withstand environmental pathogens, pollutants, and allergens, standing the test of time. Therefore, reclaimed wood makes a lot of sense from an ecological standpoint. But, remember, reclaimed wood is more expensive than new or virgin wood.

Summary: What Is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is old lumber that’s been recycled/repurposed for use in new projects. It’s commonly retrieved from old buildings, barns or homes and processed through different techniques for reuse. Companies follow a step-by-step approach to deconstruct wood elements and process them to preserve the beams’ integrity and shape. That way, new construction projects can use these beams and boards.

The concept of using reclaimed wood in construction projects is not new. However, it gained popularity due to the green building and remodeling movement. It’s considered an Eco-friendly material with past life and new purpose because it’s recycled. However that doesn’t mean it’s cheaper. In fact, because of all the labor and processing it takes to repurpose the older wood, it’s typically more expensive. Especially for premium cuts. And it’s rare, which also adds to the price. You can’t just go to the local hardware store and buy repurposed wood, it has to be found and processed to make it usable again.

  • Factories
  • Old Barns & Farms
  • Wooden Ships
  • Warehouses
  • Wine Cellars & Casks
  • And More

Eventually, most structures built out of wood are demolished. When this happens, there’s a lot of of air-dried wood that can be reused. Not all of it is a candidate to be recycled but some of the large beams make beautiful reclaimed timber.

There is a real charm to this type of wood because it contains a lot of history and a look that can’t be reproduced. It’s sort of like an antique in that way. You can buy a new table at just about any furniture store. But there’s something very special about owning one that’s hundreds of years old.

If you have any questions or comments about reclaimed wood E-mail any time.

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