Reclaimed wood is an important, relatively new option for your new home. Demand is soaring as homeowners build greener homes and the availability of old growth wood necessary to make the larger-plank-size wood flooring that homeowners want dwindles. This has led manufacturers to reclaim wood, says Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Kirsten Lytle, NCIDQ. Reclaimed old growth wood is very desirable because of its history; tighter grain; and character (think color variations, hand saw marks, nail holes, knots and insect trails) says Robbie Williams, who co-owns Carbondale, Colorado-based reclaimed wood supplier Distinguished Boards and Beams with his wife Pam Zentmyer. “These antique timbers were used to build America; it’s the history of the United States,” he says.
Reclaimed vs. Recycled Wood
The main difference between reclaimed and recycled wood is in how it’s processed into new wood, according to a blog on Portland, Oregon-based altruwood.com. Reclaimed wood has been removed from its original location and used in a new location without being broken down by machine processing and made into a completely new product. Lytle adds that reclaimed wood can include antique wood previously milled and installed; wood from dead trees (standing and fallen); wood salvaged from scraps, shipping pallets or other sources; and manufactured wood reused for a similar purpose (e.g. old gym floors turned into residential floors). Recycled wood can be either wood that is salvaged and reused (essentially reclaimed wood), or when it comes to FSC®-certified recycled wood, wood that has been broken down by machine-processing to make an entirely new product. Reclaimed wood can be FSC-certified, but it’s a fairly recent (April 2011) and complex process. Ask your wood dealer or supplier for more information.
Reclaimed Wood Uses
Flooring, siding/paneling, beams and countertops are the most popular uses for reclaimed wood. Most reclaimed wood has been previously milled into plank form and lends itself most easily to wall panels, stair treads, shelves, countertops, and home accessories (cutting boards, shutters, and window boxes) Lytle says. Reclaimed beams can be cut down to flooring or used as exposed beams, mantle pieces, and architectural accents.
Before You Buy
Williams, Lytle and Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS, designer and owner of A Kitchen That Works in Bainbridge Island, Washington offer smart tips on what you need to know before buying reclaimed wood.
1. Location, location, location. Access to good, local reclaimed wood depends on where you live, the species of trees that grow there, and whether those types of wood are (and were) interesting to people for building purposes, (think cypress, oak, and maple).
2. Buy local if possible.
Use local manufacturers who source local wood if possible. When you have to use a national supplier to get the type of wood you need, try to buy FSC-certified reclaimed wood from a reputable dealer.
3. Know the history. While it’s hard to track old wood that’s been salvaged, it’s important to know whether the reclaimed wood you buy was treated with arsenic or other chemicals that could cause problems in your home.
A lot of people don’t have the expertise to correctly identify different types of reclaimed wood and what they can be used for. If you don’t know, work with someone who does.4. Don’t get bugged. Some reclaimed wood, especially blowdown wood, may have lots of bugs inside that can invade your home and cause unpleasant problems.
5. Trust the experts. Unless you know a lot about wood and have the equipment to safely dismantle old buildings, have your designer or general contractor buy the wood from a reputable supplier. Your supplier should be able to tell you whether the wood is local or not, what it can best be used for and whether it’s been chemically treated. Also, it’s a good idea for your contractor to talk with the wood supplier before installing reclaimed wood if he or she has not worked with it before.
Reclaimed Wood Resources
An increasing number of companies specialize in dismantling old barns and other usually derelict buildings and re-milling the wood for floors, cabinetry, siding, beams, furniture and more. Reclaimed wood dealers, deconstructionists and salvage companies are a good place to start. You can find local companies easily by checking online.
For homeowners in the Northwest, McCabe recommends Coyote Woodshop, owned by Dave Kotz and located on Bainbridge Island, Washington, which sells local reclaimed wood and furniture.
For the mountain states and beyond, William’s company Distinguished Boards and Beams deals in red and white oak, pine, elm, beech, Douglas fir and mixed hardwood species. Clients range from Whole Foods, The Gap and architectural firms to small businesses and local artists.
AltruWood.com, founded in 2004 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, offers reclaimed and antique timbers, beams, and flooring as well as hard-to-source FSC-certified Western red cedar timbers
and Douglas fir flooring (reclaimed Douglas fir beams shown above, courtesy AltruWood).
Barnwood Industries, founded in 2004 and based in Bend, Oregon, sources primarily fir and pine from Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California and offers everything from cabinetry and millwork to
dimensional wood beams and vintage timbers (house photo with board and batten siding courtesy Barnwood Industries).
Green Depot offers environmentally friendly building materials, including salvaged wood. Green Depot has 10 stores, with locations in Seattle, Portland, New York and 20 distribution warehouses across the country.
They currently offer flooring called "BridleTrails Plank" (shown above, courtesy Green Depot), which is salvaged red and white oak from from fences of thoroughbred horse pastures in Kentucky.
Habitat for Humanity ReStores sell new and used building materials, including reclaimed wood, at below retail prices. Drew Meyer, senior director of ReStore Operations Group, Habitat for Humanity International, says: “ReStore follows a strict set of criteria for accepting reclaimed wood.”
Pioneer Millwork offers six reclaimed wood flooring species that run about $7 per square foot. Pioneer Millwork’s office-showrooms are in Portland and McMinnville, Oregon and Farmington, New York.
The company’s reclaimed “Mixed Brown-Gray Barn Siding” adds elegance
to this modern bathroom: it’s on the walls and wraps the base of the platform tub (see how the highly textural rug cleverly resembles wood chips!). The company has an entertaining blog called Designing Against The Grain that gives a running commentary on current projects.
TerraMai offers reclaimed wood sourced from the United States, Asia, Africa and South America. TerraMai’s Lost Coast Redwood – Weathered paneling, a mix of woods reclaimed from structures in the San Francisco
Bay Area, shown here courtesy TerraMai) won two awards at NeoCon 2015 in June. Based in White City, Oregon, TerraMai has offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Asia and more.
Reclaimed teak (from Terramai) was used for the cabinet fronts on this pool counter. Available woods include redwood, walnut, white oak, Asian exotics and other species. TerraMai provided decking and benches for The High Line in New York, and some years ago Sunset magazine used TerraMai reclaimed wood in an Idea House.