Reclaimed wood

Reclaimed Wood Preserving The Past By Turning Trash To Treasure

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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What was once collected into landfills now beautifies homes and businesses across the globe. Whether it is reclaimed wood for remodeling or a custom-made piece of furniture, the mania for reclaimed wood is gaining ground.

Wooden details create an unparalleled atmosphere compared to new construction. Reclaimed wood immediately upgrades authenticity and works as a time machine, capturing lots of history with the beauty and character of each grain. The search for historical timber has become a successful business.

The area of reclaimed wood utilization is not only used in remodeling; some risky architects and homeowners have used it for full construction as well. There is no doubt that, whether it be in landscaping or interior design, the addition of antique rustic wood surely gives life to your home or space.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

Recovered wood is old used wood. It implies that you can use the wood for other purposes. Such wood is also called vintage timber or antique wood. Nevertheless, not all reclaimed wood is antique.

Reclaimed wood is known for its rustic look and various irregularities, which make it a favorite of architects, interior designers, and property owners. It needs some effort to prepare for reuse, but even after that, it’ll still look all beat up. But that's a pro, not a con.

The finest reclaimed wood generally comes from buildings built prior to the post-World War II building boom's construction riot. This kind of timber is better and more compact. Furthermore, it often was planks quartersawn or heartwood-selective milled. Both would make the grains look better, but they would also be considered waste today.

In contrast with other woods, Douglas fir, redwood, pine, and oak are the most commonly reclaimed wood species.

Not only that, reclaimed wood can be used for many different things, which will be discussed in detail below.

Reclaimed Wood Examples and Ideas

1. Reclaimed Wood For Construction: Seresin Retreat At Waterfall Bay, New Zealand

Image credits: Bossleyarchitects.com

This award-winning house recently appeared on BBC’s World’s Most Extraordinary Homes. The property is situated at a quiet bay in Marlborough Sound, and all the structures are made of recycled wood. The wood that surrounds the house resonates with the vibrant greenery in the forest behind it.

Depending on which type of wood you choose in various areas of the house, different textures and grains will create different moods. What completes this ensemble is the owner’s outstanding set of furniture and accessories positioned creatively against the building.

The old bridge's large, heavy ironbark columns and beams are the structural support of the house. This kind of timber (jarrah) is very hard to process due to its high density and interlocking grains therefore, use only metal drill.

2. Reclaimed Wood For Landscaping

It is hard to overcome the gorgeousness of old weathered wood in the outdoors. The reclaimed weathered wood will bring warmth, texture, and character to your planting beds, borders, outdoor furniture, and fences.

If you’re thinking about adding some history to your backyard, then here are some ideas that can help.

a) Outdoor Shelves

The plain and simple weathered outdoor shelving units can be used for anything from gardening tools to plants and other things. Make sure that it is neatly mounted to have a straight top.

Put the little tiny end tables on your balcony with the extra pieces you have.

b) Artistic Dividers And Fences

Reclaimed wood planks could be the best choice when separating your yard or building a fence. You can mix it with other materials, such as ceiling tiles, for an artistic and unique feel.

1) Materialize a geometric path from salvaged wood and river rocks.

2) Repaint your small wood planks fence and emphasize it them with planters.

c) Outdoor Station, Kitchen, Or Bar

1) These are for the lovers of entertainment. A terrific option than creating a full outdoor kitchen, this can be utilized as an outdoor barbecue area or for serving drinks and snacks.

2) An outdoor gardening station can also be one of the alternatives.

d) Timber Frames

Swap new timber with reclaimed wood to create a country vibe on your pergolas and set them apart from the landscape. You can also throw in some climbing plants; your space is rich in color and texture from the vibrant greens and yellows.

e) Retaining Walls And Beds

Reclaim your backyard’s natural look with rustic gardening beds and reclaimed wood walls, making it feel less installed.

f) Outdoor Furniture

The skies are the limit here; think of benches and tables made of tree stumps.

1) Playful outdoor bar from scrap timber and wooden palettes.

2) Exquisite tree stump side table.

3) Log bench emphasized by up-cycled wooden chairs.

4) Create an outdoor lamp stand with logs or tree stumps.

4) Branches and twigs used to realize portable privacy screens.

5) Tree stamp mosaic stools.

3. Reclaimed Wood For Warm & Vibrant Interiors

a) Exquisite Feature Walls

The subtlest decoration is, without a doubt, an accent wall created from reclaimed wood in a house or office. A brilliantly designed accent wall adds a great natural textural touch to a built environment. The paint of the existing room will affect the selection of the wood grain.

1) The racked and lit shelves, as well as the reclaimed wood walls, set up a breathtaking mid-century modern home office.

2) Reclaimed wood wall with industrial style will match your home office space perfectly.

b)Bespoke Furniture

1) A Rustic wooden desk can bring style to the room, whether it’s a corporate office or a living room.

Image credits: UrbanWoodGood.com

Old pipes, reclaimed wood, and even vintage crates will suffice to create a nice DIY work desk.

Wooden shelving and cabinets built to match can add more class, orderliness, and distinguishability to the room, as well as give the home office its own unique style.

Reclaimed wood shelves fit in the office home designs as much as it does in industrial and rustic designs.

2) This kitchen has reclaimed oak open shelves, a tile backsplash, and a farmhouse sink.

Image credits: Oberto Gili

Reclaiming Wood Process

The reclamation process starts after the wood has been cut. Once harvested, the wood can be found in various situations. The major issues include nailing and rotting, among others, that should be dealt with before the wood can be used.

a) De-Nailing

The lumber heads to the reclaiming process right after it has been harvested. The harvested wood can be in various different conditions. This includes having nails and rotting, among other things that must be dealt with in the first place before using wood.

Image credits: lawsonsyard.com

This is the most crucial area of the process so you will need to give it a lot of attention if you decide to try the wood reclamation. One missed nail could lead to complications in the process that follows.

b) Cleaning

Cleaning begins at the de-nailing portion too. The labor and time needed to clean the reclaimed timber will be mainly decided on the area where the wood was extracted from and the state it is in.

Image credits: YouTube.com

In other instances, the wood will need to be sanded down to eliminate significant flaws and irregularities or remove the paint. To ensure that you are only taking the wood into your home, it is crucial to clean it carefully.

c) Milling and Sorting

Milling involves shaping and forming the wood into different products. First, the timber is stripped down and divided into pieces that are better suited for installation during milling. An example is cutting a huge board into smaller pieces to make it suitable for flooring or wall paneling. Although the milling procedure doesn't take very long, it is laborious.

Image credits: woodbasedpanels.com

The wood is then sorted after milling to ensure you know the different types of wood available and that they are arranged accordingly. Once you know the types of wood, you are dealing with, treating and preparing becomes easy.

d) Kiln Drying and Treating

Before it gets to the customer, every wood has to be kiln-dried. A kiln dryer is comparable to a sizable oven for wood. The dried wood is then baked.

Image credits: tuscarorawood.com

As baking takes moisture out of the wood, it becomes progressively more rigid. It is due to this that the reclaimed wood is completely stable and its quality is not compromised.

e) Installation

It feels good to have the wood being put in by someone who's used to working on wood. They must ensure that everything is treated and looked after while supplying top grade reclaimed lumber that has been stepped through an extensive reclaiming procedure. Actually, it is okay to turn it into a DIY project if you have some experience.

Harvesting Process and Where to Get Reclaimed Wood

Getting or locating the wood is referred to as harvesting. The time required to gather the wood might vary greatly depending on where it is harvested. Harvesting can take a lot of time, depending on where the wood is.

In a high-end lumber yard, you should be able to ask about the origins of the reclaimed wood and learn about the steps taken to secure it. Additionally, before installing the wood, you can determine its age. Reclaimed lumber is frequently considerably tougher and more secure than regular wood because of how much time it has been exposed. Below are some of the places where you can find reclaimed wood.

a) Old Barn

Weathered beams or siding from abandoned barns can be your answer to that renovation project. With some scrubbing and a warm patinated finish, it looks new!

Image credits: grist.com

b) Shipping Crates

If you have a garden or yard project that needs an authentic feel, then shipping crates could be what you're looking for. Local companies normally buy these and resell them to customers. However, ensure you know what the crate was previously used for, as some may have been used to carry toxic or hazardous materials.

Image credits: southendreclaimed.com

c) Salvage Yards

A trip down to a salvage yard can land you some beautiful weathered pieces that can be reused around the home or office.

Always hire a professional to finish these wood pieces and remove any toxic paint containing lead.

d) Boat Yards

Some companies purchase ships and salvage the wood. Reclaimed teak popular on old boats gives a unique rustic character full of elegance and durability.

e) Remodeling Contractors

Express your interest in reclaimed wood to remodeling contractors, and they'll be happy to give you antique wood torn out of a house. This saves them the disposal costs and gives you.

Get in contact with some remodeling contractors in your area. Tell them you will haul away any wood they tear out of a house. Contractors will be happy to give the antique building materials to you; it will save them a bunch of money on disposal costs. This works best if you are in an area where there are a lot of old houses.

Make sure to let the contractor know you are recycling the wood and only take wood. No drywall, insulation, or other debris; only wood; nails are okay if they are in the wood. If it becomes a problem and you find a lot of debris, you can start charging a disposal fee.

f) Direct from the Owner

There might be a rusted-out barn near the town or on the outskirts. Negotiate with the property owner, who can typically be located by looking up the property's address at the county planning office.

Image credits: thecolumbusdispatch.com

You might discover that the owner is only pleased to permit you to transport wood away for nothing or at a low cost. On the other hand, you can negotiate using anything other than cash if the owner happens to be a neighbor or someone you know.

g) Recycling Centres

You should start there if you're fortunate enough to live close to a local company that recycles unwanted building materials.

You'll probably find any item there already de-nailed and ready to move. Additionally, since you can see it yourself, you'll avoid wood with issues like warping, decay, or significant insect damage.

h) Reclaimed Wood Retailers

Image credits: thereclamationyard.com

Retailers specializing in this product are the most trustworthy suppliers of salvaged wood, and locating them online is simple. There may be one nearby if you're lucky enough.

i) Online Sources

You'll find many results when you search "reclaimed wood" on Amazon and other major websites like The Home Depot. But take note: Not all wood purchased from major merchants is truly reclaimed. Instead, it is brand-new wood that has undergone distressing, staining, or other processing to make it appear older and more aged than it is.

Real reclaimed wood typically has numerous nail holes, is unpolished, and isn't stained. You may be certain that the wood you buy is reclaimed if it has the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification label.

Reclaimed wood from an independent vendor can be risky to buy without first seeing it. You might obtain some lumber that is insect-infested or partially rotting. A large dealer's reclaimed wood is more likely to be FSC-certified. Even if some of it is unsightly, it will all be functional.

Top 10 Reasons to Use Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood comes with many advantages.

a) Versatile

The timber can accomplish anything made of wood, for example, reclaimed hardwood flooring, decks, wall paneling, tables, countertops, cabinets, and shelves.

b) Eco-Friendly

Reclaimed wood uses less new wood and, hence, helps avoid deforestation. Moreover, reclaimed wood is a renewable resource that, when sourced in an eco-friendly manner, reduces the amount of waste in landfills while also preventing the use of industrial processes that are harmful to the environment.

To illustrate, fitting an engineered reclaimed wood floor ensures that the environment is protected, unlike installing a carpet made of petroleum.

c) Added Interest

The appeal of your finished product is increased by the history of the reclaimed wood you use. Old barns, ships, crates, demolished structures, schools, residences, railroads, pallets, and other structures are sources of reclaimed material.

d) Guilt-Free Exotics

Some now see exotic woods in the design industry as unsustainable unless made from salvaged lumber.

e) Strong

Because it frequently originates from old-growth trees rather than young woods, reclaimed timber is up to 40 Janka points tougher than virgin wood.

Your home will benefit greatly from purchasing reclaimed wood furniture. It's the ideal choice if you want things that will last a long time. Most salvaged wood is treated with oils and waxes to highlight and improve the wood's original character.

Treating the wood enables it to maintain its distinctive appearance for many years. However, you can also use stains and varnishes can also be used for a more durable finish, which may cause part of the wood's original appearance to disappear.

f) Unique

Everyone is looking for something that will stand out in their home. Reclaimed wood furniture is unique and full of character, no two pieces will ever be the same. All of your furniture is a unique piece of art that carries a special history behind it.

Your guests will be wowed by your decor and ask how they can copy the style you have so skillfully acquired. Furniture pieces in your living room or kitchen can be crafted from salvaged wood, offering a unique and attractive design.

g) Preserves History

You not only save the heritage of our country but the legacy of United States by employing recycled wood. As an illustration, you may harvest wood from a legacy industry that once employed hundreds of workers, a great old bridge, or an old beautiful barn.

Through the use of recycled wood you can maintain the past while progressing into the future. Using historical reclaimed lumber is the best way to show your love of history if you share that passion.

h) They are Original

So many products we purchase today are mass-produced. As a result, finding something unique for your home will be really expensive. But when you purchase reclaimed wood, you can be certain that every single piece is unique and wasn't mass-produced like other contemporary wood goods.

i) Are Stable

Dimensional stability of the aging forest wood is greater than that of recently cut wood. This is due to the many differences in humidity that the wood has undergone during the years of aging.

As a result, the wood from the old milling is much stronger than the new one. This makes it ideal for locations where there is high foot traffic, like your floors. Reclaimed wood is a favorite choice for flooring since it is already processed lumber that has endured many years or even decades of thermal expansion and contraction.

The wood has also experienced different periods of weather conditions and weather changes, and reclaimed wood gains its stability and its wear-resistant qualities from these. As a result, your furniture or flooring will not wear out so fast.

j) Inspiration

There is some kind of magic in salvaging useless things and bringing them back to life. It connects subconsciously to our common consciousness and reminds us that life is cyclical and can be prolonged if we commit to being creative and cunning. Refurbished wood is perfect for a trendy home design, whether you are building an add-on or just refurbishing the existing space.

What are the Disadvantages of Using Reclaimed Wood

Although reclaimed lumber has numerous advantages, it also has some downsides that you may need to know. This will ensure that you know what you are doing before getting any product made from reclaimed timber.

a) Price

Because of the processes involved, reclaimed wood could cost more than virgin wood. To make the wood safe for customer use, a dealer must first sort and prepare it, which frequently entails more effort than fresh lumber. You can reduce this expense in some circumstances by disassembling wood goods yourself if you have prior experience working with lumber.

b) Pests

A variety of pests prefer to live in wood. Look for indicators of an infestation before buying salvaged wood or disassembling something to get your wood.

Image credits: amdro.com

Asymmetrical holes in the wood, the presence of insects, or timber that crumbles when touched are all warning signs. In any event, recovered wood should be kiln-dried before being used as a building material to eliminate invasive pests.

c) Toxins

Companies may treat lumber with chemicals and paint containing volatile organic compounds, adhesives, preservatives, pesticides, or lead or may have done so in the past.

Image credits: makefromwood.com

Check the wood for toxins if you're getting the recycled wood yourself. You can learn about any treatments the wood has received by knowing about the wood's previous life.

d) Legitimacy

Some traders exaggerate the origins of their products due to the demand for salvaged lumber. Purchase lumber from a trustworthy merchant with certifications from groups.

e) Other Dangers

You can encounter hidden threats like nails or other organic debris if you don't buy recycled wood from a company that separates and processes it.

Image credits: urbanlegacy.com

Before beginning a project, handle the wood with gloves and look for potential problems.

The Average Cost of Reclaimed Wood Products

Reclaimed wood products differ in pricing depending on different factors like;


    • Source of wood

    • Type of wood

    • Size of your order

    • Condition of the wood

    • Type of product

Let's go through the costs of different reclaimed wood products.

a) Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Flooring is one of the most typical reclaimed wood products commonly sold and installed in homes across the United States. Additionally, it is simple to recover from buildings when owners decide to change the flooring, or the floors become dated.

Depending on the type and quality of wood you choose, you can anticipate spending from $9 and $15 per sq foot for installation and materials.

b) Reclaimed Wood Beams and Timbers

Given the scale of the sculpture, the cost of the timbers and beams varies substantially. For example, a single, solid piece of lumber 12–15 feet long will cost significantly more than a smaller beam that is 8 feet long.

Image credits: superiorhardwoods.com

c) Reclaimed Lumber Doors

Sometimes reclaimed wood doors receive a bad rap. However, if they are managed properly or rebuilt, you will receive a lovely wood door ideal for your house. Choosing the right door can make a huge difference in your remodeling or updating job.

Image credits: architecturalmillworkandrestoration.com

These doors typically cost between $300 and $1,000. Some doors that are more substantial or have more character will cost a little extra.

d) Reclaimed Wood Mantels

There is a wide difference in the price of reclaimed wood mantels, beams, and other materials. Therefore, it's essential to do a little comparison shopping to locate the greatest product at a price you can afford.

Image credits: woodtouchllc.com

Finding a product that will fit your budget and selecting the proper one for your home are both crucial. For example, wood mantels can range in cost from $300 to slightly more than $3000.

e) Reclaimed Wood Paneling

Another typical item is wood paneling, which, despite being extremely similar to flooring, sometimes has a lower price.

Image credits: dimensionalimpact.com

Ultimately, the price of paneling will depend on where you get it and the wood used to make it. Reclaimed wood paneling typically costs between $5 and $7 per square foot.

Helpful Tips For Buying Reclaimed Wood

We already said that salvaged wood is wood whose initial function has been changed. This implies that it may be tough to have the best one if you do not look well. Nevertheless, such recommendations will give you the results you want.

a) Select Dry and Tight Wood

Take into consideration the amount of cleanable wood. If the wooden boards are somewhat cracked or split, make sure the cracks are small enough so that they can be filled with epoxy. This, in turn, guarantees that they will not weaken the final product aesthetics or structural stability. Ensure that it is completely free from rot and is totally dry.

b) Examine for Inner Stability

You must ensure that the wood isn't rotten or damaged in any other way because it's impossible to know how long reclaimed wood has been exposed to improper handling, elements, or other unfavorable circumstances.

Look for soft areas, rotten or moldy patches, or pieces that appear to have sawdust on them because these are signs that wood-eating insects may be present. Wood that demonstrates decay should be thrown away. The inside will almost certainly be sound if the outside is.

Rough-sawn barn wood is a terrific choice if you're striving for an old appearance. Choose reclaimed wood from an old floor that has been smoothed out over time if you want a more finished job. If you find wood with some paint worn off, you can avoid the DIY hack of painting and sanding younger lumber, which is very popular now.

c) Wise Distributor Selection

Suppose you're serious about getting the greatest reclaimed wood goods. In that case, you should steer clear of broken-down barns and classified advertisements in favor of a business that specializes in recycling materials.

Image source: mountainmodernlife.com

Many distributors are concerned about their brand, and their clients carefully select wood that still has a lot of life before processing it to ensure that it is dry and free of objects like nails and staples.

Ensure to investigate reclaimed wood distributors if you decide to pay the additional prices connected with doing business with them.

d) Your Safety Matters

If you are not attentive, some old wood can have lead paint on its surface, and a person could be affected by it. Always sand outside; do not stay in the house when it's windy because it can whisk the particulates inside. Wear a mask all the time and sand using a HEPA-filtered sander to collect dust from the paint.

Image credits: instructables.com

Reclaimed wood that hasn't been processed and might contain lead-based paint should be kept away from children. Don't use the paint if there's a remote chance it contains lead. Because they perform the cleaning duties, utilizing a "middle man," such as a salvaged wood provider, is a good idea.

Frequently Asked Questions On Reclaimed Wood

1. Is reclaimed wood safe?

Reclaimed wood is wood, which is a natural organic substance. LEED regards solid wood as a VOC-emitting source that is inherently non-emitting. Therefore, anything added to the wood, such as a finish, fire retardant, substrate, or glue, must be considered.

The environment is safer and healthier when VOCs are kept to a minimum since the finished wood product emits little or no contaminants into the air. The majority of salvaged wood businesses are concerned with sustainability and the environment. Therefore, they probably use low or no VOC materials, although it is always a good idea to double-verify.

2. How is reclaimed wood milled?

The wood is checked for defects and other faults prior to its assessment for any damages, and all metal things, such as nails are removed. The milled material will have its final dimension based on the measurement of the wood that is used to build it.

Some of the boards will have to be removed if they are quite thin or narrow. Equipment-wise, it is more or less the same as machining fresh wood. The company will define how the product will be produced, and quality will be assured at every step.

3. Does reclaimed wood fade?

The wood may be slightly or dramatically altered by species, milling, finish and location of installation. Color variation from one plank to another would be possible if the weathered face was showing a fresh wood beneath.

Just like teak, this color variation will be less distinguishable as time passes by. The disparity in color in the first planks will eventually equalize making the teak-brown color of the planks homogenous.

The presence of moisture and temperature extremes found in outdoor areas will cause wood used for siding or decking to wear out faster compared to lumber used indoors.

4. Is reclaimed wood FSC certified?

Not all reclaimed wood can be FSC Certified Recycled, even though a lot of it can. Only post-consumer recovered wood is certified FSC. Post-consumer wood refers to wood that users have used in some way, such as fences, bridges, or other constructions like aging buildings. There are other additional ways to obtain recovered wood that keep materials out of landfills, but the FSC does not govern them.

5. Does reclaimed wood prevent deforestation?

Recycling used timber reduces the number of freshly cut trees. Nonetheless, deforestation could be a consequence of excessive tree felling. People should be aware of the roughly 18 million acres of forest that are being destroyed annually and the environmental, wildlife, and human consequences of deforestation. Knowledgeable customers can make wiser buying decisions.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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