For a number of reasons, the use of reclaimed lumber has risen in popularity over the past 20+ years. Let’s take a look at the top 5 pros and cons of choosing reclaimed lumber for your next project.

 

Pros

1. Better Quality

Let’s face it, aside from the name, today’s farm raised lumber doesn’t have much in common with the old growth lumber used during America’s early building period. With a dense grain structure and often little to no knots, old growth lumber tests 30-60 points higher on the Janka hardness scale than second growth lumber. The density of grain, limited knot content, strength, and stability make reclaimed lumber more durable and easier to work with than its new lumber counterpart.

2. Environmentally Friendly

Reclaimed lumber has a number of positive environmental impacts. Using local reclaimed lumber was found to use 11-13x less energy than producing new lumber with 3-5x less Global Warming Potential. Additionally, the use of reclaimed material helps alleviate the demand for new lumber, allowing trees to grow longer and larger, taking more carbon out of the air. Reclaiming lumber also frees up space at our ever growing landfills. Given the beautiful possibilities of reclaimed lumber and the limited space of our nation’s landfills, it’s really a crime for any usable lumber to end up there.

3. Story/History

Often reclaimed lumber is accompanied by fascinating history. Reclaimed Redwood from the Bay Bridge, Pine from the pilings used to construct Treasure Island, and Fir joists from the Alameda Marina represent just a handful of the historical lumber products we offer at The Lumber Baron. Reclaimed lumber often speaks to us, its voice rustic features like oxidized nail holes and weathered patinas. Incorporating reclaimed lumber with an interesting backstory can lead to some fun conversations that would never occur had new lumber been used. Salvaged from old barns, turn of the century water towers, significant buildings and structures, wine vats, or bridges; historical nuance can instantly be added to your next building project.

4. Unique Weathered/Patina/Reclaimed look

Often imitated but never replicated, new wood cannot match the beauty, charm, and durability of our reclaimed lumber. Left untouched, the patinas create a sense of warmth and old world charm. When milled, our reclaimed lumber’s natural colors are brought back to life, sometimes paired with incredible color variations caused by sediment intake or metal oxidation. Whether milled or left in its natural reclaimed state, you are sure to make a statement with a material that has already stood the test of time and that will remain beautiful for decades more.

5. Large Sizes/Lengths

Cutting down the huge old growth trees of the past, lead itself for mills to produce some incredible timbers that just aren’t possible given the size and diameter of today’s farm raised trees. Amongst other items, we’ve acquired some special 6×16 and 6×18 dense structural redwood timbers and large 12×14 fir timbers. They can be used as is to make incredibly unique exposed beams. We also have the capability to re-man them into more common beam sizes or spectacular 18″ siding.

The ability to source long lengths is another huge perk of using reclaimed material. Take our reclaimed flooring options for instance. When compared to retailers’ new genuine “wood” products (often made up of thin veneer strips over plywood) our reclaimed flooring options really stand out. Why deal with short 1′, 2′ and 3′ pieces that leave you with a busy, cheap looking floor? Our real wood reclaimed flooring products are 3/4″ thick, solid wood, and average over 10′ in length! They are beautiful, natural, warm, and can be refinished over and over again if need be.

 

Cons

1. Poor Quality

Reclaimed lumber and reclaimed lumber companies are not created equal. Oftentimes the material is too deteriorated to be used again with any sort of confidence. Rot, heavy splitting, and insect infestation are some of the most common quality issues with reclaimed lumber. At The Lumber Baron, we visually inspect every batch of reclaimed lumber before making a purchase, with an eye geared toward any potential quality concerns. Sticking to our motto, REAL.GOOD.WOOD., we are very selective as to what we acquire. Family owned and operated with over 45 years in business, you can rest assured we aren’t a fly by night company and what you will receive will be a quality product.

2. It’s Not “Perfect”

Reclaimed material is just that, it’s reclaimed, it’s used, it’s had a prior use. Reclaimed lumber is almost always accompanied with some kind of defining characteristics; occasional nail or bolt holes, checking, and/or color variations, etc. The rustic nature and imperfections of reclaimed material should be embraced, not shunned. If you are expecting perfection, or something off of an assembly line, reclaimed lumber (or any lumber for that matter) is probably not a good choice for you.

3. Price

Some people are surprised to find out reclaimed lumber is more expensive than new lumber. Hopefully, given the points in the Pros section above, the reason as to why this is has become more clear. Not mentioned is the labor involved in acquiring quality reclaimed material. The lumber needs to be deconstructed in a very careful manner. This requires a lot of man hours and often, expensive equipment rentals. Prior to milling, each piece must be painstakingly checked with a metal detector. The de-nailing/de-bolting process is quite cumbersome, especially when nails start to deteriorate or the heads aren’t accessible. Still, reclaimed lumber is a lot cheaper than doing the job twice, often a result of using cheap inferior finger jointed products or sapwood.

4. Toxins

Some nasty chemicals were used in the past under the guise of longevity or just plain ignorance. Creosote and lead based paint were two of the main culprits. We test anything that resembles lead based paint and don’t buy anything that is pressure treated or contains creosote.

5. Lack of a Constant Supply

Customers can be disappointed when material isn’t available in a certain size and/or when a certain historical product sells out. Unfortunately this is a part of working with reclaimed lumber. There is no constant supply of material, once something sells out it’s gone forever. Although we are constantly on the lookout, sometimes we go months without acquiring any “new” reclaimed inventory. If there is a reclaimed product of ours that you like, we always recommend to secure it as quickly as possible. Arrangements can be made to save and store our material for projects as long as 6-12 months out.