Preserve Your Home's Character with Reclaimed Lumber

Brett Freeman

Older homes are, by definition, "fixer uppers." In most cases this isn't due to neglect or natural disasters, it's simply because the structure of the house--those huge wooden beams that make up its frame and the thick stone and mason foundation--was built to last forever. Inside the house, it can be a different story. Hardwood floors may have developed warps and gaps, staircases squeak and sag, the original doors and woodwork have swelled from moisture or developed cracks as they've dried out. You can replace it all easily enough, but how do you replace the look and feel of something that was hand-crafted several generations ago? The answer is to use reclaimed lumber, which allows you to maintain the character of your old house. As a bonus, reclaimed lumber tends to be higher quality than new hardwood, and is environmentally friendly because no new trees will need to be cut down.

They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To
Once relegated to construction landfills or simply burned as part of the demolition process, lumber from old barns, homes, and even wine casks is now being recognized for the unique value it possesses. A century or more ago, lumber was abundant and the industry unregulated. Old growth hardwood was routinely harvested and milled into the enormous beams that formed the frames of barns and other large structures. It was common for trees well over 100 years old--trees that are protected under modern environmental law--to be harvested.

By contrast, modern hardwood is milled from trees that are about half that age, typically between 40 and 60 years old. The lumber from older trees has a much tighter grain, making it stronger than new hardwood, despite coming from a tree that was cut down 100 or more years ago. In addition to being of higher quality, reclaimed lumber might also come from hardwood trees that can no longer be legally harvested, making it a unique addition to your home. Lumber that has been aged for so long also has character and depth of color that can't be faked.  

One Century to Grow and Another to be Torn Down: You Can Wait For It
For the most part, reclaimed lumber is milled to order, so you first need to visit a reclaimed lumber dealer to select your lumber, and then wait while it is kiln dried (this prevents future warping as well as killing any hidden infestations) and then milled to order, a process that can take up to a year. Be patient. Doing the right thing for your house and the environment is worth the wait.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.

About the Author
Brett Freeman is a freelance journalist. He also owns a landscaping and irrigation company in North Carolina. Previously he has worked as a beat reporter, a teacher, and for a home improvement company, and he used to own a bar/live music venue.


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