What is Reclaimed Wood & Is it Eco-Friendly?

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These days I often hear environmentally conscious people talk about the benefits of reclaimed wood because of its potential to be eco-friendly.

But what is reclaimed wood, exactly? Where does it come from, and is it really as green as people think?

In this guide, we'll explore those questions and more. We'll also look at some of the benefits of using reclaimed wood in your home or business, and whether or not you should buy products that are made from it.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is simply salvaged lumber that is rescued from old buildings or other structures.

It can come from a variety of sources, including floorboards, beams, decking, fencing, and even wine barrels. Because it is often well-seasoned and very sturdy, reclaimed wood is prized by furniture makers and other artisans.

In addition, because it has already been used once before, reclaimed wood is a sustainable choice that helps to reduce deforestation.

Once the wood has been cleaned and sanded, it is ready to be used in a variety of projects.

Where Does Reclaimed Wood Come From?

reclaimed wood recycled and reused in lumber yard

Reclaimed wood is wood that has been previously used in construction or other applications and then later removed for reuse.

It can come from a variety of sources, including

  • Old buildings
  • Barns
  • Factories
  • Fences
  • Decks
  • Sheds
  • Ships
  • Barrels
  • Railroad trestles
  • Felled / storm-damaged trees

In many cases, the wood is still in good condition and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as flooring, paneling, or furniture.

Which Types of Woods are Reclaimed?

Potentially, any type of hardwood can be salvaged and reused as long as it is in good condition.

The most popular types of reclaimed wood are oak, maple, and Douglas fir. However, other types of wood can also be used, including pine, cedar, and spruce.

The type of wood that is used will depend on the intended purpose for the finished product.

For example, oak is often used for flooring because it is durable and easy to maintain. Maple is often used for furniture because it has a smooth grain and a consistent color.

Douglas fir is often used for wall paneling because it has a unique grain pattern that can add visual interest to a room.

How is Reclaimed Wood Milled?

The first step in milling reclaimed wood is to inspect the boards for damage. Any boards that are cracked, split, or otherwise damaged are set aside as they are not suitable for milling.

Once the damaged boards have been removed, the remaining boards are cleaned and sanded to remove any dirt, grime, or paint. Depending on the intended use of the wood, it may also be necessary to remove any nails or other fasteners

Once prepped, the wood can then be cut to the required dimensions. The most common method is to run the boards through a bandsaw, which can cut them into any desired shape or size.

Another popular method is to use a hand planer to remove the saw marks and create a smooth surface. This is often followed by running the boards through a jointer to ensure that they are perfectly flat.

Finally, the boards can be sanded and finished as desired.

What is Reclaimed Wood Used For?

reclaimed wood uses - flooring, decking, furniture

Reclaimed wood is prized for its unique appearance, which is the result of its previous life. The patina of reclaimed wood is often more beautiful than that of new wood, making it a popular choice for use throughout the home.

Furniture

There are a number of great eco-friendly and sustainable furniture brands using reclaimed wood for their products.

Repurposed wood has a unique beauty that creates stylish, sustainable, and long-lasting home furnishings that will look fantastic in any room of your house.

You can also find it used in sustainable bed frames which require superior hardwoods to support your mattress and body weight.

Wooden Flooring

Many eco-friendly flooring brands choose reclaimed wood such as oak, beech, maple, and other more exotic woods to make their solid wood flooring ranges.

The old wood may be lightly sanded and partially resurfaced to make it suitable for use underfoot, especially if it has not previously been used for flooring in its past life.

Feature Walls

Many interior designers and homeowners are starting to incorporate salvaged wood elements in their building projects. One great use is to create wall panels to make a feature wall.

Doing this can add a great deal of character to any room, particularly living and dining spaces.

The darker effect of the old wood can be used to make a stunning contrast with a lighter and brighter non-VOC paint color scheme on the other walls of the room.

Decking

Reclaimed lumber products are perfect for outdoor use, particularly decking.

Whether the salvaged lumber is planed to smooth it out, or just left in its original state to provide a naturally uneven, rustic finish, it can create a stunning look for your outdoor spaces.

Exposed Beams

Another way that recovered lumber can be used in a building project is to create exposed wooden beams.

The unique individual character of older wood makes it perfect for this purpose and an ideal material for those wanting to create a rustic look in their home.

Is Reclaimed Wood Environmentally Friendly?

Reclaimed wood is environmentally friendly for a few reasons. The most obvious reason is that it doesn't require new trees to be cut down, and they can continue to do their job of removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

A lesser-known benefit is that sourcing reclaimed wood is comparatively energy-efficient. It actually uses up to 13 times less energy to produce than newly harvested wood.

Reclaimed wood is also more durable than new lumber because it's older and has had time to cure properly. That means it will last longer, which reduces the need for new lumber in the future.

Also, old-growth wood is actually a better insulator than virgin wood, because of its cellular structure. It is able to trap air better, which means when you choose reclaimed wood flooring, it contributes toward a more energy-efficient building, and can help lower your heating bills.

For all these reasons, choosing reclaimed wood is certainly a sustainable and eco-friendly option.

Is Reclaimed Wood Safe?

There are two main concerns when it comes to reclaimed wood: lead paint and asbestos. If the wood was used in a structure built before 1978, there's a chance it could be contaminated with lead paint. And if the wood comes from an industrial setting, it could be contaminated with asbestos.

That said, not all reclaimed timber is unsafe. If you buy reclaimed wood products such as furniture or hardwood flooring from a reputable manufacturer, you can take it for granted that they have tested the wood already before they used it.

If you're buying salvaged wood direct from reclaimed lumber companies for use as a building material, or in your own DIY projects, then you need to check with them to confirm where it came from.

If you know the source of the wood and can confirm that it doesn't come from a structure built before 1978 or an industrial setting, then it's probably safe. If not, it's always a good idea to have the wood tested for lead and asbestos before using it in your home.

Is Reclaimed Wood Expensive?

Many eco-friendly products are slightly more expensive to buy, but their benefits usually outweigh the additional cost.

When it comes to reclaimed wood, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of cost.

The price to purchase reclaimed wood will vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of wood, its age, and the source.

For example, antique heart pine beams can be quite expensive, while sourcing salvaged lumber from a local sawmill will be less so.

In general, however, it is important to remember that most reclaimed wood is a premium product and should be priced accordingly.

Should I Buy Products Made From Reclaimed Wood?

In a word - yes you should! There are many reasons why buying products made from reclaimed timber makes sense.

  • Eco-Friendly - Because it is recycled, reclaimed wood is an environmentally friendly option for furniture and other products.
  • Durability - Reclaimed wood is often more durable than new wood, creating sturdy, durable products that last longer and offer better value for money.
  • Character & History - Unlike new wood, every piece of recycled wood is unique, with its own individual history, character, and appearance. You can't buy old-growth wood anymore, as old-growth trees are protected. So using reclaimed antique wood is the only way to get these much sought-after characteristics.

When shopping for reclaimed wood products, it is important to look for items that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

This certification ensures that the wood has been responsibly sourced and that the manufacturing process meets stringent environmental standards.

Buying products made from reclaimed wood is a great way to support sustainable forestry practices and reduce your impact on the environment

Is All Reclaimed Wood FSC Certified?

Not all reclaimed wood is FSC certified, but it's easy enough to confirm the certification before you buy.

The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) has three different labels which verify that any wood used in the product has been harvested responsibly.

The FSC recycled label verifies that a product is made from 100% post-consumer reclaimed wood, has met the FSC standards, and has a low environmental impact.

It's a solid eco-friendly label and definitely one I would look out for.

Is Reclaimed Wood Flooring Suitable for Kitchens and Bathrooms?

Reclaimed wood flooring is a good choice for both kitchens and bathrooms because it is durable and easy to clean.

Kitchen floors must be able to withstand constant foot traffic, spills, and dropped dishes. Reclaimed wood is exceptionally strong and resists scratches and scuffs very well.

It is also water-resistant, making it ideal for kitchens where spills are common. In a sustainable bathroom, reclaimed wood is resistant to moisture and won’t warp or swell when exposed to high humidity.

It is also easy to clean and maintain; simply sweep or vacuum regularly and mop as needed. Reclaimed wood floors add both beauty and function to any home, making them a great choice for any room.

What are some common problems with reclaimed wood?

Reclaimed wood can be a beautiful and sustainable way to furnish your home. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you're considering using reclaimed wood in your home.

First of all, if you're buying reclaimed wood direct for use in your own building project, you need to make sure it is structurally sound. It's important to inspect the wood for signs of wear and tear and to avoid using it in any load-bearing applications.

Secondly, reclaimed wood may have been treated with chemicals during its previous life, that could be harmful to your health. If you're concerned about chemicals, look for reclaimed wood that has been certified as safe.

Finally, reclaimed wood can be more expensive than new wood, so be sure to shop around and compare prices before making a purchase.

Does Reclaimed Lumber Change Color or Fade Over Time?

One of the benefits of reclaimed lumber is that it has already been exposed to the elements, so it is more resistant to weathering and/or changing color.

In addition, the patina that develops on the surface of the wood over time can actually help to protect it from further damage. However, it is important to note that reclaimed lumber is not immune to the effects of weathering and should be properly maintained in order to ensure its longevity.

For example, if the wood is not sealed or otherwise protected from moisture, it can warp or rot.

Ultraviolet light can cause old wood to fade over time. As a result, it is important to take these factors into consideration when using reclaimed lumber in an outdoor application.

The Final Word

Reclaimed wood is an eco-friendly, renewable resource and one of the most sustainable materials you can buy in 2022.

Reclaiming wood gives new life to large quantities of timber that would otherwise end up as landfill waste, and stops new trees from being cut down.

It also looks great and, with appropriate maintenance, can last a long time, meaning it's an excellent long-term investment.

So if you're deciding between buying mass-produced, fast furniture products made from virgin wood, or stylish, durable, and eco-friendly products made from reclaimed wood, I hope this guide has given you enough information to make the right decision.

Do you own any reclaimed wood products, or are you thinking of buying one in the near future? Get in touch and let us know your thoughts.

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With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of renewable energy. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.
Stephanie Cole
With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of renewable energy. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.

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