Reclaimed Wood: The Reclaiming Process, Benefits & More

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Below is a guest post by Joe Mitchoff, co-founder of Viridian Reclaimed Wood. Viridian provides eco-friendly, unique and affordable reclaimed wood flooring, veneer, paneling, tables and counters to cities across the nation. The Viridian team is committed to finding the best use for every stick of wood we reclaim to reduce demand for new lumber.

Reclaimed wood flooring and cabinets

Of all the materials that you can reuse, wood isn’t always at the top of list. After all, it doesn’t have a number within a triangular recycle symbol on it. The truth is that landfills are full of wood products that are perfectly usable. By salvaging the wood before it goes to the dump, you get a new product (like reclaimed wood flooring), reduce deforestation and help the environment.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is perfectly good lumber that is salvaged instead of sent to a landfill. For example, when you obtain a wooden shipping pallet that a warehouse was going to throw away and reuse it for another purpose, you reclaim the wood. On the DIY level, you may use reclaimed wood for crafts and home projects. Professional lumber salvagers turn the lumber that they save from the landfill to make items like reclaimed wood paneling or hardwood floors.

The Wood Reclamation Process

The reclaiming process begins with finding a source of lumber. Such sources can include old barns, wine casks, water towers, boats, shipping crates, gym bleachers, the decks in shipping containers, buildings destroyed in natural disasters, gym bleachers and so on.

After salvaging the wood, professionals sort it by quality and recycle the materials found with the lumber, like nails and pieces of plastic. After repurposing the lower-grade lumber, the pros group the pieces of high-quality wood together, dry it in a kiln and mill the lumber so it’s ready to make into paneling, furniture, tabletops and decks.

How Reclaimed Wood is Eco-Friendly

  • Consumes less energy: It takes up to 13 times more energy to make flooring with virgin wood than it does to make reclaimed wood flooring. Since reclaimed wood is typically manufactured locally, it doesn’t require as much energy to transport.
  • Less CO2 emissions: The manufacturing of virgin wood floors creates 470% more CO2 emissions than the manufacturing of reclaimed wood floors.
  • Less global warming: Products made with virgin wood contribute to deforestation, creating five times the potential for global warming than reclaimed lumber products. Choosing reclaimed timber that’s Rainforest Alliance-certified helps stop deforestation and makes businesses more accountable.

The Benefits of Reclaimed Wood

  • Sustainability: While wood is a renewable resource, it takes a long time for a tree to produce strong, durable lumber. Reclaimed lumber often comes from old-growth trees that had decades or centuries to mature, making them strong and durable. Plus, like virgin wood, you can recycle reclaimed lumber.
  • Great, unique look: Anyone can get a nice hardwood floor, but no two people will have the same reclaimed wood paneling or flooring. Salvaged wood has the natural, warm look and feel that you get from virgin wood and is trend-proof.
  • Offers a story: When you purchase an item made from reclaimed wood, you get a story instead of a cookie-cutter model. Reclaimed lumber had a previous life as another product, and the patinas and stains serve as proof.
  • Long-lasting: Reclaimed wood is stronger and more durable than virgin wood because it tends to come from older trees. This means that the reclaimed lumber is less prone to warping and splitting, making it a great choice for any area of your home or office.

How to Reclaim Your Own Wood

Reclaimed wood deck

If you enjoy DIY projects, salvage old wood to make your own items from reclaimed lumber. Sources of wood that you can salvage in your area may include shipping yards, farms, old buildings and warehouses with discarded shipping palettes. Before you start hauling the wood away, ask the property owner for permission to remove the wood. Also, ask the owner if the wood was treated with any chemicals. If so, look for another source of wood.

When salvaging the wood, keep safety a priority. Wear a hard hat, safety goggles, dust mask, work gloves and closed-toe shoes. Use pry bars and hammers to free the lumber. As you work, separate the recyclable materials from the trash so to dispose of them properly.

If you don’t have experience deconstructing a building, enlist the help of a friend who does. Alternatively, purchase the reclaimed wood from a retailer who specializes in this material.

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