Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Reclaim, Reuse, Repeat
Increasingly, buyers and builders seek out reclaimed wood, used lumber “harvested” from old homes, factories, warehouses, barns, wineries, breweries and even bridges and railroads.
|Apple cider stained the wood in this floor to many shades of deep red. Mountain Lumber reclaimed the wood from the Bulmer’s Cider brewery in Hereford, England.|
Hardwood competes with few other building and finish materials in its natural look and feel, its elegance (or rusticity), its design flexibility and the way it resonates with home buyers. Increasingly, buyers and builders seek out reclaimed wood, used lumber "harvested" from old homes, factories, warehouses, barns, wineries, breweries and even bridges and railroads.
Reclaimed old-growth shows its age, and that’s why people love it. It is seasoned, generally denser and stronger, and age and a long history of use give it a patina that can’t be replicated. Builder Ron Jones in New Mexico speaks reverently of the 24-foot-long, 12x12-inch beams saved in the demolition of a century-old railroad trestle that ran across a bay of Great Salt Lake. "The salt impregnated them, leaving them with an iridescent glow that shows in the light. When we were cutting those timbers and working on the corbels, you could actually smell and taste the salt in the air. Incredible."
A popular choice for flooring, reclaimed wood can be used in the same applications as new wood, including paneling, millwork, beams, timbers, cabinetry and built-ins, stairs, handrails, mantels and exterior siding. Expect it to have scars, oxide and other stains, nail holes and other character marks because it brings the story of its former life with it - and often that story cinches the deal with custom home builders and buyers. Mountain Lumber in Ruckersville, Va., sells European Cooper’s Oak floors made from wood that stored beer in the original Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland. TerraMai in McCloud, Calif., recently acquired the last of the 80-year-old, 20-foot-high by 20-foot-diameter redwood wine tanks from the Sebastiani vineyard in Sonoma, Calif.
Salvaged wood’s attractiveness increases for some when one considers sustainability - the more old wood saved from landfill and reused, the fewer trees get cut down - although energy expended in harvesting, finishing and transportation might diminish those benefits somewhat. Reclaimed wood is hardly an entry-level production product - price is the biggest hurdle to more widespread use, followed by availability and transportation.
Where to Get It
Good places to start are www.smartwood.org and www.forestethics.org. While not comprehensive, these sites combined list more than 50 purveyors of reclaimed wood and reclaimed wood products for use in residential buildings.