Reclaimed wood refers to processed wood that has been taken back from its original uses for some future use. This kind of lumber comes from timbers and decking used in warehouses, barns and factories, now in disuse, and in some cases, from coal mines, boxcars and wine barrels.
Where to find reclaimed wood?
If you’re wondering where to find reclaimed wood, you’ll be surprised at the vast number of sources, most of which are perhaps all around you. They are:
- Barns in disuse: These are one of the commonest sources of reclaimed wood in America. Though in earlier times, barns were constructed out of a variety of woods, such as chestnut, pine, poplar, hickory and differently oak varieties, these are precious today for the large planks, beams or siding used then.
- Mill buildings: Just the sheer size of mills can give you a mind-boggling amount of reclaimed wood, especially if you consider that some of them spanned an area of one million square feet. As buildings they cannot be reused the way they are and can easily have a fire outbreak. To avoid such an eventuality, reclaiming its timber to be used elsewhere is a practical idea, such as in homes or vintage-type restaurants.
- Shipping crates: Shipping crates are usually made of beech, which is considered excellent for garden projects. These crates are usually found at ports, where shipping companies buy them to sell to users. By visiting these ports, you can find out what’s available on sale and in what quantity. Often, these crates are chemically treated, so it helps to ask for those devoid of toxic chemical treatment.
- Old buildings: Call it reclaimed wood or lumber, salvaged wood or recycled wood–sourcing old wood from a building now not in use for a modern construction project comes with a slew of advantages. It’s eco-friendly, durable, stronger than others since it is part of old-growth trees that are entirely pollution-free. It also comes with a beautifully natural weathered appearance, adding to its native rustic look that adds character and definition to any home it is part of. Some of this wood is extinct today, which adds to its value.
- Demolition companies: Builders or property developers who buy property usually demolish the existing building and clear away the debris. Part of it is the woodwork which you can pay for and take away. After all, property developers or demolition companies will only whisk away all the debris and dump it in a dump yard.
- Salvage yards and lumber yards: A salvage yard is the ideal place for some beautiful naturally weathered pieces of wood that you can use for your kitchen cabinets. It’s worthwhile to check out the wood species and quantity available and on the basis of these, determine what you would like to use it for. Once you buy salvaged wood, hire a professional woodworker to refinish the wood, as he would have the necessary tools to remove any paint, nails or screws lodged here.
- Boatyard: Just as in the case of shipping crates, there are some companies that buy ships only to salvage wood from it. To get reclaimed wood off a ship, look for a boatyard with old fishing boats. Usually, these boats are made of teak which, with age, usually develop their own rustic look, if grown in old-growth forests. Fashioning furniture out of this wood would be a great idea as teak is known for its durability, weather-resistance, elegance and toughness.
- Snow fence: Snow fence boards are usually seen at the end of mountains and plains. They are very durable, strong and dependable. Often, the water content of these fences drops to a mere two percent, thereby reducing the need for treatment and avoiding the possibility of dangerous off-gassing, linked with several species of reclaimed lumber.
- River logs: Another place you can find reclaimed wood is a river log. The wood from here can be used successfully for furniture, flooring and crafts.
- Used furniture: Sometimes, old wooden furniture like a chest of drawers, a desk or an old bed can be just the thing you’re looking for, if you want reclaimed wood for your DIY woodworking projects. Check out second-hand stores or yard sales where these things are usually sold.
- Internet: If you’ve asked every friend to put you in touch with people selling old barns or homes with good wood, obviously you haven’t scouted the Internet. For all things, this is an invaluable source of locating reclaimed wood, because here you’ll find people trying to get rid of old boards, window frames or trees that are getting in their way.
Why the interest in reclaimed wood?
There seems to be a big buzz in the market concerning reclaimed wood. Why? Well, for these five precious reasons:
- Wood species: This is the most important parameter of the value of your wood. If you own a wood species that is valuable in the antique market or that is unavailable today, you can sell it for a high price. Good examples of prized wood species are longleaf pine and American chestnut.
- Unique appearance: Its antique appearance can enliven and add charm to any home.
- Size: What’s highly prized today are wider boards that can be easily sawn. These include white oak, American chestnut and longleaf pine. Beams are more valuable than boards.
- Condition: If the wood you have is in superb condition, it can fetch you a high price in the timber market. So, check for any signs of damage, such as insect damage, checks, rotten holes, or if they have several screws, metal objects or nails. If any of these are present in the wood you own, it will fetch a low price in the market.
Any dry wood you own that has been saved from the ravages of extreme weather is more valuable than wood that has rotted over time.
- Contribution to green building: Using reclaimed wood to build homes is recycling at its peak. It is an excellent green building material which serves to save our natural resources (wood) rather than end up in landfills. By recycling reclaimed wood to make beams, flooring or staircases, you can add value to your home.
- Growth rings: The slow growth of certain trees ends up in premium quality sawn wood. This is evident in their growth rings. Some trees have growth rings that are very near each other to the extent that they cannot be distinguished from each other. Wider growth rings are less valuable than their slow growth counterparts.
- Bulk: Only if you have large quantities of good quality timber is it worth any buyer’s while, thanks to the exorbitant cost of shipping and handling.
Different types of reclaimed wood
How do you know which type of wood makes for good reclaimed wood? Use any of the woods listed below for best value:
- Oak: This hardwood is strong, durable and heavy and has a coarse grain and texture.
- Walnut: An excellent wood to work with, walnut takes well to finishing. It is also easy to shape, without losing out on its strength and durability. It can be used to make beams.
- Maple: Maple is tough and impact-resistant and has very distinct and eye-catching grain veneers. You can find it at bowling alleys.
- Mahogany: One of the toughest, most durable and hardest of hardwoods, Caribbean Mahogany is difficult to shape and cut but has a very high tensile strength.
- Other kinds of wood recycled to make new products include Redwood, hickory, red and white oak, Eastern White Pine and Douglas Fir.
Tips to work with reclaimed wood
- Buy straight from the source: If you do this, you’re sure to buy reclaimed wood at a bargain price. Demolition sites are good places to start your search, and perhaps you might not be charged for picking up old wooden planks.
- Buy as much as you need at the outset: If you want to use the same wood type for many projects at home, ensure that you buy as much as you need before you begin work. Else, you’ll have to manage with compromising on the color and grain of the wood you so badly want.
- Find out about the wood’s history: You can work best with the reclaimed wood you’re looking at if you know its entire history. When you buy reclaimed wood from a dealer, ask him where he got it from, how he stored it, its grading, etc.
Now that you know where to find reclaimed wood, you can start your new project as soon as possible. There are many present-day uses for reclaimed wood, such as making cabinets, furniture, siding, architectural detailing and flooring. However, when you’re renovating or refurbishing your furniture, you’ll find that using recycled timber isn’t just a cheap alternative to other kinds of wood but using it is also great fun. And yes, it’s also environment-friendly.