Reclaimed wood is old wood that’s been salvaged, often from old structures, and prepared for a new purpose, including…
- Wall Accents
- Fireplace Mantels
- Support Beams
- Countertops & Cabinetry
- Other interior design features
Types of Reclaimed Wood
The two main types of reclaimed wood are post-industrial and post-consumer. Post-industrial reclaimed wood is lumber that was recycled when it was produced and has never been used commercially.
Post-consumer wood is lumber that was used to build structures, such as factories, barns, grain elevators, ships, water towers, windmills, fences, box cars, gymnasium bleachers, and even old bridges.
Post-consumer wood also features character, which includes everything from oxidation, saw marks, nail holes, and streaks of paint, to bug scarring. Natural character can’t be faked. It’s not possible to manufacture the daily signs of weather and wear that accrue over a long period of time.
How old wood is made new
Reclaimed wood needs to be prepared for interior use before it reaches consumers. First, the best wood is selected, and any nails and fasteners are removed, usually by hand. If necessary, the wood is also pressure-washed.
Next, the wood is kiln-dried at high temperatures to remove insects and anything undesirable. The final product is high-quality, seasoned wood that’s ready for a new beginning.
Because of the effort involved in procuring and preparing the wood, reclaimed wood is more expensive than ordinary lumber.
Strong and unique reclaimed wood gives designers, architects, woodworkers, and DIYers a long list of possibilities for any number of projects.
Why is wood better with age?
Reclaimed wood is strong, stable, and provides a connection to nature, narrative, and history.
It’s part of an earth-friendly approach to building and interior design. Upcycling old wood for new projects allows you to get the most mileage out of the wood. Reusing old wood is not a new concept, but the popularity of reclaimed wood has surged with green building initiatives and a focus on sustainability. With reclaimed wood, you help to conserve trees and support the growth of forests.
Reclaimed wood is also sought for its unique look and toughness. It’s the perfect option for adding a rustic element to a space. When you build or design with reclaimed wood, people with discerning taste will notice. That’s why it’s a perfect conversation starter. Many people become intrigued learning that wood can have a past life from another time and place.
Over the years, people have grown accustomed to throwing everything away. But today, more are turning to reclaimed wood for its strength, story, and ecological value.
The difference between antique wood and reclaimed wood
Antique wood is typically 100-300 years old. Reclaimed wood can be antique, but most reclaimed wood on the market today is less than 100 years old.
You can ballpark the age of lumber by looking at the end of a standard plank to examine the growth rings, measuring the growth of the tree by rings per inch. Modern lumber will have far fewer rings than old-growth lumber.
Take pine, for instance. In today’s pine, it’s common to see 6-8 growth rings in an inch of material. With reclaimed pine, that same inch could contain 20-25 growth rings or more.
This won’t give you the exact age but a general idea about the age of the tree when it was milled.
Old-growth lumber & reclaimed wood
Old-growth lumber comes from primeval forests, which are forests with large trees that aged undisturbed for hundreds of years. As a tree ages, the fibers increase in density, strengthening the wood, so the timber from these trees is extremely dense and strong.
Old growth lumber was a common building material in the past; however, today, old-growth forests are protected. Timber is sourced from new growth forests where trees grow for 15-20 years before they’re milled.
Nowadays, your best chance of finding old-growth lumber is from pre-1920 structures. Prior to 1920, old-growth lumber was widely used in construction. Most of the reclaimed wood you see on the market today comes from structures built after the 1920’s.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a rare piece of wood in your hands from a tree that was a baby in the 1800s, you have valuable antique wood with the highest level of durability.
Reclaimed wood is wood that has been salvaged and given a new purpose. It’s divided into two main types: post-industrial and post-consumer. Post-industrial reclaimed wood was recycled during the time it was produced while post-consumer recycled wood was used to build factories, barns, ships, water towers, and more.
Reclaimed wood is prepared for interior use by removing nails and fasteners, pressure washing if necessary, and kiln-drying at high temperatures. Selection and preparation results in a higher cost than wood you find at the store or lumber mill.
Overall, reclaimed wood provides a connection to nature, narrative, and history while being an earth-friendly building material. Designers, wood workers, and DIYers appreciate how it adds character to a project with greater stability than new lumber.