From Trash To Treasure
Reclaimed Wood
Finds A New Life

Chair made from wine barrels

Reclaimed wood is finding a new life as furniture, flooring and construction.

Have you ever seen an old building or structure being torn down and thought what a shame, a piece of history being lost. Sometimes the building is still useful just old, old buildings demolished to make way for the new.

I don't know much about construction but I can look at wood from an old building or warehouse and think that much of it looks like it could be reused somehow.

Many of the buildings, houses and warehouses were built years ago from sturdy woods from older mature trees and were constructed to last. These trees were readily available in old growth forests that were at one time plentiful.

Things are different today

According to the Reclaimed Wood Council:

  • An old growth tree is at least 200 years old.

  • Ninety percent of old growth trees have already been logged.

  • Only 8-9 million acres left in the US.

  • Most of the remaining trees are found on federal land.

  • These are trees that should be protected and not cut down for our personal use.

    Saving Old Growth Trees

    The wood from an old growth tree is harder, denser, more stable, tighter grained and less prone to splitting. Very desirable traits in any kind of building, furniture or flooring use.

    These trees are becoming harder and harder to find. Manufacturers look to other countries for their wood from old growth trees. Many times these are trees from unmanaged forests where cutting too many of them down destroies once majestic forests and delicate eco systems.

    Now think back to that old building being torn down. Many individuals and companies have begun salvaging and recycling this reclaimed wood before it can be sent to the landfills.

    Wood beams and lumber salvaged from dump sites, residential properties, barns, warehouses, bridges, water tanks and even from the bottom of a river are finding new life in home construction or as a piece of fine furniture.

    An interesting fact from the
    SmartWood Rediscovered Wood Program

    Did you know that an old warehouse with one million board feet of reusable lumber can offset the need to harvest one thousand acres of forest? Plus that's tons of wood that would have ended up in landfills if it hadn't been recovered.

    A Piece Of History

    It's possible to learn quite a bit about reclaimed or recycled wood. Dates, locations and even craftsmen involved may be available. Giving a real sense of history to any designs using this wood. Some woods have even been certified by an organization like the Rainforest Alliances SmartWood Rediscovered Wood Program.

    This program insures that wood has been "recovered with procedures that meet the highest environmental and social criteria". This is particularly important with wood that is recovered from river bottoms, lakes or other water areas but also protects the environment during any type of wood or tree harvesting. And also ensures that worker safety was a priority.

    A chain of custody can also provide us with the knowledge of exactly where the reclaimed wood was found down to it's final destination as a fine piece of furniture. Unfortunately, just yet it is not easy to find certified reclaimed wood furniture.

    For now we can always ask where the wood came from and how it was acquired. Look for quality retailers that provide information about their own commitment to the environment.

    And if you buy something online make sure they offer a guarantee in case you get something home and discover a particle board base and a reclaimed wood veneer.

    Where To Shop

    We are just beginning to see reclaimed or recycled wood items available and as you might well expect they can be expensive but many are high quality pieces well worth the investment.

    If you can find a local company it is better for your budget and the environment.

    To see the possibilities that can be accomplished by people with a passion for reclaimed wood go to Whit McLeod. Their Arts and Crafts style hand crafted furniture has been made to enhance the beauty found in reclaimed materials. This is heirloom quality furniture. It's an interesting website with great info.

    Check out their Folding Wine Barrel chairs (pictured above), in their outdoor furniture section, made from salvaged oak wine barrels. Very cool and they have a great price, less than I have seen elsewhere.

    Recleimed wood flooring If you are looking for new countertops, flooring or new paneling for your home consider using wood from Elmwood Reclaimed Timber. The picture on the right is an example of beautiful flooring made from reclaimed cherry wood. Just one of many items available. Great information here if you want to learn more.

    Look for more reclaimed wood to be available in the future, it's a promising new way to save our forests, preserve history and help keep our landfills from overfilling.


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