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Reclaimed Wood: Why Buy New When You Can Reuse?

by Marc Dickinson

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Everything always comes back into fashion. Whether its retro clothing, vintage cars, or designer antiques, people love it when the past catches up to the present again. But bringing a little history into the home isn't just limited to decorative knick-knacks and old-fashioned furniture. It can extend to the actual construction of the house as well. Reclaimed wood has become a popular way to recycle pre-existing wooden structures by incorporating them into newer homes.

Where Does It Come From?
Older buildings will eventually fall apart and become dismantled, but the timbers inside these historic structures are still useable and are often salvaged for resale. This reclaimed lumber often comes from old barns, bars, warehouses, or homes and can be reused to add an old-world look to modern homes.

Where Can They Be Used?
There are limitless possibilities when it comes to reclaimed wood. Often it's used for two distinct purposes: structural support or decorative furnishings.
Recycled Construction: Old timbers can be installed in very practical places, giving an aged look to new additions. They can be transformed into decking, siding, paneling, and molding. Exposed beams have become a popular trend (especially in vaulted or cathedral ceilings) to help create the appearance of an old-school log-cabin.
Distressed Décor: But reclaimed wood can also be re-shaped to imitate brand-new, antique furniture. This may sound like a contradiction, but why not turn an old piece of wood into an authentically preserved chair, cabinet, counter, or bar-top for your home.
Reclaimed Wood Flooring: People buy new hardwood floors because of their rustic appeal. Buy why buy brand-new floorboards when you can get the real thing? Reclaimed wood flooring is a great way to achieve a truly authentic old-style look for your floors.

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Why Buy the Old Stuff?
Reclaimed wood comes with a history. Not only does this mean that it has a beautifully aged appearance, which can add value to your home, it also means that it has stood the test of time. It has an inherent integrity in its composition. There's nothing more reliable than old-fashioned construction due to its hand-craftsmanship, natural weight, durable thickness, and sturdy constitution. Plus, if nothing else, they make for an excellent conversation piece and will earn you some additional bragging rights.

Where Can I Get It?
There are many nation-wide companies out there who can get reclaimed lumber from any region of the country, or even throughout the entire world. It's best to go with these professionals who have extensive knowledge about the product and its capabilities. They know which species works best for your specific needs, and they are trained in expert installation methods (especially for larger, structural projects). But if you're a do-it-yourselfer, there are still some easy remodels that can be accomplished. Go to auctions or antique stores and buy salvaged items that can be reused. Buy some solid-wood doors (that often come from torn-down churches, schools, or homes) to replace your hollow ones. Old desktops can make for great counter spaces, whether it is for the kitchen or bar area. And antique hutches and vanities can be turned into new bookcases or liquor cabinets.

What are the Costs?
It isn't cheap. Why? Because reclaimed lumber is an antique. Also, it often needs to be modified to fit your home's design needs. Plus, it's a rare product and you're at the mercy of supply and demand. If you have a big remodeling project, like a deck, there may not be enough of the same type of wood available. Even if you do find enough, it may not all be usable condition. Plus, it takes a lot of care to keep it in shape. So though it's a big investment in terms of installation and maintenance, once established in your home, the final product is always worth the initial price.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.