Using lumber that has been reclaimed from the timbers and decking of old buildings, barns and warehouses is a growing trend in design. Reclaimed or antique lumber is used primarily for decoration and home building. Typical uses include siding, architectural details, cabinetry, furniture and flooring.A number of woods, either due to natural supply constraints, are only available as reclaimed lumber. These woods were abundant but for one reason or another—overlogging in the cases of the western redwood and Longleaf Heart Pine or a blight in the case of the American Chestnut—large quantities can only be amassed through reclamation.
Barns are perhaps the most important source of wood for reclaimed lumber. Those built around the turn of the 19th century are typically constructed from wood that was available in the area. Beams are hand hewn and limited to what could be moved by draft animal.
After this period, modern sawmills began to come into the picture and beams and slats began to be made in a more typical manner.
Reclaimed Lumber is Inherantly Eco Friendly
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) benchmark for designing, building and operating green buildings.To be certified, projects must first meet the prerequisites designated by the USGBC and then earn a certain number of credits within six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design process.1
Reclaimed lumber is LEED certified.
Using reclaimed wood can earn credits towards achieving LEED project certification. Because reclaimed wood is considered recycled content, it meets the ‘materials and resources’ criteria for LEED certification, and because some reclaimed lumber products are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, they can qualify for LEED credits under the ‘certified wood’ category.
Reclaimed Lumber is Stronger and More Durable
Another reason consumers and designers alike choose reclaimed lumber is it’s unique appearance and it’s strength, stability and durability. Many experts believe the relatively increased strength of reclaimed lumber is due to the lack of air pollution that existed up until the 20th century.Wood naturally expands and contracts through the year as the moisture content and temperature of the air changes. Newly sawn lumber does this inherently more than lumber that has been reclaimed. Reclaimed lumber has been through this expansion and contraction hundreds of time in many cases rendering the wood more stable than new lumber.
Using Reclaimed Lumber
Reclaimed lumber can be used in it’s aged, rustic form or it can be resawn into high quality boards. Reclaimed beams can often be sawn into wider boards than are available from trees today due to the larger size of virgin timber.
The most common reason reclaimed lumber should not go straight from the barn into your home is insects.In either case, there is some precaution that must be taken when utilizing reclaimed lumber in your project. Reclaimed lumber can contain foreign metal objects.
In some cases, reclaimed lumber may have been treated with unknown compounds that could have environmental or health consequences.
The most common reason reclaimed lumber should not go straight from the barn into your home is insects. Often time these barns and antique structures are not completely dry, making opportunities for ants, bees, termites and other harmful insects to take up residence.
1: Usgbc: Leed