how to use reclaimed wood

To some extent, wood ages like fine wine. Just like fine wine, you can tell someone where reclaimed wood is from, what it was first used to build, how it got into your possession, and how you’ve used it to build the fine piece of furniture or the rustic accent wall he/she is now looking at.

That is why reclaimed wood can be very precious. It has history, a story you can tell from time to time whenever you have someone around in your home.

Reclaimed wood is wood that has already served a certain purpose, but then then retrieved from its original purpose and reused or repurposed for something else.

It can be wood from a no longer functioning barn, an old tool shed, the old wooden deck outside, wood from wreckage, demolished building, dismantled furniture pieces, pallet wood, fence boards and so on.

You can get reclaimed wood from any wooden structure. Provided the wood in question is no longer serving its original purpose and still in good condition, you can take it and use it for something else.

Tips For Using Reclaimed Wood

reclaimed lumber

Yes, reclaimed wood is special. It’s a very suitable material you can use for your woodworking projects, and I’ve been emphasizing that since the start of this article.

The question now is, how do you use it properly? How do you prepare the wood for your projects? Here are some tips you should follow to use reclaimed wood properly.

Clean Off the Dirt

You’ll find reclaimed wood from old barns, factories and warehouses that have not been used for decades, maybe centuries.

Guess what. They’re dirty. They’ve been exposed to the weather and elements for a very long time, so don’t be surprised to find cobwebs, dead bugs and other substances covering the entire surface of the wood.

Before you even think about using it, clean off the dirt first, so you can see what you have your hands on.

Take a stiff bristle brush and rub it all down to remove any foreign material from the surface. You can also pull out the air hose and hose it down to remove finer materials and dirt from the surface as well.

Related: 7 Wood Stain Tips You Should Know

Check for Bugs

If the wood in question is reclaimed from a barn, then there’s a good chance that it may contain bugs. Bugs you don’t want inside the wood because they can keep damaging the wood or even worse get into your home if you use the wood for furniture or for flooring.

Your supplier should be able to tell you the measures that have been taken to eliminate any bugs from the wood.

Suppliers usually kill of bugs using chemicals or by kiln drying the wood, which is often better. Kiln drying kills off the bugs and also removes moisture from the wood.

If the supplier used chemical to kill the bugs, then you have to be careful when sawing or milling the wood so you don’t breath in any sawdust from it.

Inspect Thoroughly for Nails and Any Other Metals

inspect reclaimed wood for nails

Reclaimed lumber is not fresh new lumber. Wherever you get it from, whether from old barns, factory or demolished building, one thing is almost certain, it’s going to have nails buried in.

Once you start cutting the wood or planing it, any nail or metal left undetected by you will probably come in contact with your saw or planer blade and nick or get it damaged.

That is why this step is very important. You need to carry out a thorough visual inspection of all the boards to ensure there’re no nails left embedded in them.

If possible, get an inexpensive metal detector to examine the wood so you can fish out any nails or metal you could not detect with your eyes alone.

Related: 11 Ways To Make Use Of Scrap Wood

Plan Your Cuts

Unlike lumber from your local lumberyard that all comes in the same length, reclaimed lumber usually come in different lengths.

You’re also going to be dealing with defects such as knots and rotting spots on the wood which you may likely cut off the better part of the wood.

So, cutting it requires a little bit of planning so that everything about your project goes as planned.

Advantages of Using Reclaimed Wood

According to Grand View Research, the global reclaimed wood market size is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7 percent from 2020 to 2027.

This means the demand for reclaimed lumber is going to keep increasing for the foreseeable future. Why is that so?

Here are some of the reasons why it’s a very important and sought after building material for many woodworkers today.

Unique Appearance

reclaimed lumber has unique appearance

The appearance of reclaimed wood cannot be replicated through any artificial means. The unique rustic, aged, weathered and antique look of reclaimed wood endures people to them.

If you compare it to new lumber, you’ll see that the rings in reclaimed wood are more numerous, they’re wider and closer together due to the age of the wood.

Rings or grains of new lumber are more widely spaced because they’re not as aged as reclaimed wood.

Age and Strength

Go ahead and ask any seasoned woodworker about how reclaim wood compares to new lumber, and one feedback you’ll surely get is that reclaimed wood is stronger than new lumber.

But why? Most reclaimed wood where originally sawn from old-growth trees which took decades or even centuries, from 200 to 400 years to mature.

And the fact is, the more slowly a tree grows, the denser the fiber making it up becomes, which makes them naturally stronger than new timber.

Nowadays, you can’t buy old-growth trees anymore because the forests where they’re gotten from are now protected due to the age and diversity of the trees in them.

But you can still get old-growth trees today by buying reclaimed lumber gotten from these trees long time ago, giving you the opportunity to take advantage of the natural strength of these woods.

Forest and Wildlife Conservation

Why cut down aged forest and trees and the natural habitat of wildlife so you can get old-growth timber when you have them available already in reclaimed wood.

Making use of reclaimed wood helps us recycle what we already have and help preserve the countryside, the natural forest and the wildlife in them rather than deplete it.

Tall trees provide habitat for beds, monkeys, squirrels, sloths and even provide cover for many other species of plants that rely on the cover of the trees to survive.

While you think about traveling to Mars, using reclaimed wood helps us preserve what we already have. Our home – Earth.

It Has History

every reclaimed wood has history

I mentioned this in the first paragraph of this article. Reclaimed wood has a lot of history you can share. Was the wood used to make that coffee table in your living room first used by your grandfather to build the first family barn?

Was it recovered from a factory? Or from that old demolished 1960’s building in your city? You can tell people where the wood came from, how old it is and what it was used for.

The beautiful, antique and unique look of the furniture you make with it will spark peoples curiosity and will make them to ask questions, and you’ll have the opportunity to relate the rich history of that elegant piece of furniture they’re staring at.

It Can Be Sawn Into Wider Planks

can be sawn into wider planks

If you happen to get your hands on reclaimed wood beams, you can resaw them into wider planks for use for hardwood flooring purposes.

This cannot be said of new timber which are often not allowed to grow to full maturity and full size before they’re harvested for their timber.

On the other hand, reclaimed wood are often old-growth wood that took decades and centuries to grow to their full maturity and size.

Thus the offer you the ability to saw them further into wider planks you can use for your projects. Because of their age, maturity, hardness, density and strength, they’re often less likely to split as you work with them or use them for your wooden floors.

Related: 9 DIY Woodworking Projects You Can Do By Yourself

Where to Find Reclaimed Wood

Here are some of the best ways to find reclaimed lumber for your woodworking projects.

Reclaimed Lumberyard

reclaimed lumberyard

Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you might find a reclaimed lumber yard in your city. That should be a great place to start look for good ones you can use for your project.

When you get there, you can start looking for good ones that are ideal for your project. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can always take their number or drop yours so that they can inform you when they have a fresh barge in stock.

Check Craigslist

If you don’t have a local reclaimed lumber yard, you can check craigslist to see if there’s any up for sale. Who knows you might find barn wood from demolitions sites close by you might not even be aware of.

9 Ways to Use Reclaimed Lumber

Now that you know how or where to find reclaimed lumber and how to prepare it before use, here are 10 ways you can make use of it around your home.

1. Wood Beams

reclaimed wood beams

Remember, one of the main reasons why barn wood is so sought after is its unique rustic and weathered appearance.

That’s why most people use it for making decorative ceiling wood beams inside the home. The wood can be used just the way it is after it has been cleaned of every dirt and bugs or it can be resurfaced and stained accordingly to fit into the present interior design.

2. Hardwood Flooring

reclaimed hardwood floor

Hardwoods such as Oak, maple and beech are very good for flooring, because they last for a very long time. As a result of that, they can be harvested from old homes or homes being renovated and used again for another flooring project.

3. Decking


You can extend the living area of your house with a good deck. Just like flooring, salvaged hardwood lumber can also be used for it if you want to add that rustic look and feel to it.

As expected, salvaged lumber do come in different sizes, and they can be dimensioned, resawn and resurfaced to get a uniform size and look throughout the deck.

4. Accent Wall

reclaimed lumber accent wall

When all the walls of a room are painted with just one color, the room looks boring and lacks a solid theme.

Accent walls or feature walls help add character to the room by contrasting the other walls. Instead of using paint, an accent wall can be created with several other elements such as wallpaper, wood (reclaimed or fresh) wall panels, tiles and even bricks.

Using reclaimed wood for an accent wall adds some natural and rustic feel to the room. If you choose the right lighting and the right furniture to go with it, you can portray a stunning contemporary or traditional log cabin look in your room.

5. Headboard


If you ever feel like making your own headboard, wood is one of the most interesting materials to use, especially if it has some age and history to it. Just like with the accent wall, it can add that traditional and contemporary feel to your bedroom if the headboard wood has some age to it.

6. Mantels

barn wood fire mantel

A fireplace is one of the most attention grabbing spot in any living room, and if you really want to portray an antique and rustic vibe, decorating it with salvaged timber mantel will surely do it for you.  

7. Indoor and Outdoor Furniture

barn wood furniture

Whether you want to make patio furniture outside, kitchen cabinets or you want a rustic-looking coffee table in your room or living, salvaged timber is a very good material to go with. Like I mentioned earlier, old growth timber like this are usually harder and stronger than new timber pieces, and thus furniture made from it usually lasts longer.

8. Exterior Siding

barn wood exterior siding

Barn wood can be used for exterior siding. Yes, this will make the house look old, as if it has been built there for a very long time. But if that’s the look you’re going for, it’s totally worth it. This can be ideal for building a cabin in the woods or a little tree house.

9. Resaw Beams

Large beams pulled from old houses, farms and barns can be resawn and given fresh life in new projects. Depending on the size of the beams, several pieces of timber can be resawn from them using a bandsaw, and used for making other items such as coffee tables, patio chairs, bed frames and so on.

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