Do you appreciate hardwood that has unique, even “one of a kind” qualities? Do you want to contribute to a sustainable environment and maybe even save a few bucks along the way? If your answer to those questions is “Yes,” then reclaimed lumber may be the perfect fit for your next home improvement project!
What is reclaimed lumber? It is wood that has been rescued from old houses, barns, abandoned warehouses and factories, docks, and all sorts of other buildings. What are some reasons to use reclaimed lumber? And what are some factors to consider before purchasing and remodeling?
4 Benefits of Reclaimed Lumber
- Reclaimed lumber is a great option for home improvement or decor projects is because it offers truly unique qualities that brand-new hardwood simply does not have. Because each piece of reclaimed lumber comes from old, recycled wood, and has already weathered years of use, no two pieces will be an exact match in color or shape. That truly makes each piece “one of a kind!” Moreover, each piece of reclaimed lumber has its own origin story to tell, which can add depth of meaning to your completed project.
- Reclaimed lumber is often more durable than commonly available hardwood. That’s because these pieces originate in old-growth wood, which nowadays is harder to come by. In fact, pieces of reclaimed lumber can rate up to 40 points higher than newer wood on the Janka Rating System of hardness, (a system that measures the force needed for a standardized metal ball to penetrate wood to a depth of half its diameter).
- Using reclaimed lumber can also be highly cost-effective. Depending on the type of wood you plan to use, selecting reclaimed wood can save you over $10 per square foot!
- If you use reclaimed lumber, you are also making the environmentally conscious choice. Trees may be a “renewable resource,” but at the rate new-growth trees are being cut down, it is hard to imagine that they will be a sustainable resource in the long run. That’s why reclaimed lumber makes such sense; using recycled wood can cut down on the demand for deforestation, while at the same time providing you with those unique, high-quality, and cost-effective attributes mentioned above.
How to Find the Best Quality Reclaimed Lumber
If you are thinking of using reclaimed lumber, there are a few things you need to be aware of, in order to gain the most value from the wood, and also protect yourself and your family.
- Be careful to buy your reclaimed lumber from a reputable supplier. It’s important that reclaimed lumber has been properly processed and treated before it’s put up for sale. Some shady suppliers will try to pass off used wood as “reclaimed lumber” and offer cheap prices as an incentive to buy. Keep on the lookout for unrealistically cheap prices, or lack of professionalism.
- Make sure that your reclaimed lumber has been thoroughly dried; if at all possible, kiln-dried. Wet wood can shrink and shape-shift over time, so it’s important to remove every last trace of moisture before the piece is used. Also, heat treatment will kill off any bugs that are living in the wood, and have burrowed in too deeply to be removed by sanding.
- Reclaimed wood may have been chemically treated at some point, and you don’t want those chemicals to hurt your young children, your pets, or anyone else. So do what you can to discover the wood’s source, and then be mindful to use the lumber in a way that won’t be a hazard to anyone’s health.
How to Save Money When Shopping for Reclaimed Lumber
Thanks to savvy dealers, demolition experts and everyday folks who rescue building materials, furnishings and plumbing fixtures from homes being demolished, there’s a good supply of valuable reclaimed lumber and other home building materials ready to be recycled and reused.
Here are a few resources for cutting project costs as you create and improve using reclaimed lumber and building materials.
Architectural Salvage Yards
Modern green-building principles meet the architecture of the past in these gardens of historical finds. Take a stroll through a dealer’s offerings, and you may find replacement hardware, a period-correct fixture or an amazing garden ornament. Salvage gurus travel far and wide to collect the nearly-priceless artifacts that renovations and demolitions leave behind, and their breadth of knowledge is as valuable as their road stories are amazing. Visit the online yards of Ohmega Salvage and Recycling The Past to get a coast-to-coast feel for the latest in salvage finds, and then dig in with a visit to your local dealer.
House-Part Recycling Centers
Less-glamorous but equally usable items like cabinets and flooring are available from house recycling centers. Contractors and homeowners often donate excess new materials and remodeling cast-offs for recycling by others. Several of these centers also extend the goodwill by donating some or all of their profits to support needed services and green endeavors in their communities.
Be sure to browse online destinations like Craigslist for local deals and steals. You can find everything from new entry doors to railroad ties for landscaping projects among the listings, and with a careful, common sense approach, arrange to purchase and pick up items in record time.
Other online collectives like Etsy feature a number of independent vendors offering great vintage furnishings, fixtures and fittings alongside original art and handcrafts. Reclaim an Eames-era chair for your remodeled living area and accessorize with a nouveau-retro, artist-signed print all in one stop!
Ideas for Using Reclaimed Lumber
There are so many ways you can use reclaimed lumber! Many homeowners love the antique look of reclaimed hardwood flooring, and the origin stories that go along with it. Reclaimed lumber can also be used for counters, for cabinets, shelves, or drawers, for accent walls, or for partitions. Lots of furniture pieces are built from reclaimed wood, such as conference tables, desks, bar tops, and stools. You can even give your ceilings an amazing new look!
Combine a limited home improvement budget with a desire to go green and you’ll soon discover many ways to use recycled lumber and other reclaimed materials to save big on your next home improvement project project.
If you decide to use reclaimed lumber on your next project, you may just find that this unique, durable, cost-effective and eco-friendly wood will make your project a smashing success.