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In recent years, there has been a big push to develop sustainable logging practices. Loggers and lumber merchants alike recognize it takes time to replenish the wood harvested each year. These practices have gone a long way towards protecting the forests. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are one billion feet of usable lumber available every year in demolished buildings alone. And that’s just one source of lumber waiting to be reclaimed. There are others that could be tapped into in the interest of sustainability.

Where does reclaimed lumber come from?

Old Buildings – One of the most common places to find old wood is in buildings that are being renovated or torn down. Gray and weathered barn wood is a popular decorating choice in many home remodeling projects. However, any building can be a good source of timber. Building reconstruction specialists come into a building before the demolition crew to remove structural wood beams, architectural details, and wood flooring. While they usually don’t sell to the public, you can buy the lumber they recover from a reclaimed lumber merchant.

Packing and Crating Materials – International shipping containers are often built using exotic hardwoods. These crates and pallets need to be sturdy to withstand the rigors of overseas shipping. Thus, they are a good source for Asian and European hardwoods that would otherwise be hard to find.

Wine Casks – These barrels, typically made of redwood, are a unique find. The beautiful redwood often takes on a reddish stain from the wine that was stored inside, making the wood in each barrel distinct and different from the last.

Shipyards – Deconstructing old ships to remove the lumber can be quite fruitful. The large, strong beams that have held the ship together on the rough seas still have a lot of life in them. However, they will need some processing after being in the water for so long.

Gym Bleachers – The high school gym may be the last place you would think to look for high-quality wood. These bleachers are typically constructed of thick, wide planks of Douglas fir. Despite their years of use during basketball games and assemblies, they are usually in good condition. A little planing to refresh the outer surface can reveal wood that looks new.

What is the process for reclaiming wood?
The most significant drawback to reclaimed wood is the time required to process the boards. First, the boards are sorted. Inevitably, some pieces are not reusable. They may be cracked, rotted, or riddled with insect damage. Damaged wood without major structural damage may still be reused in products like pallets. Anything determined to be a total loss becomes firewood.

Once the good wood has been separated from the rest, the process of removing nails and bolts from each piece begins. This step can be pain-staking. However, it may yield a sizeable amount of metal that can be sent away for recycling. The boards are then bound together and sent to a reclaimed lumber yard for sale. However, before they can be used, the boards may still require drying and planing to reveal their full beauty.

Why use reclaimed wood instead of virgin wood?
Reclaimed wood is both better for the environment and is often higher quality wood than popular choices in new wood.

Environmental – Using reclaimed lumber for your building project has a lower carbon footprint than using new wood. This benefit results from the fact that reclaimed wood does not need to be harvested, transported to the mill, processed, and shipped for distribution. All of these steps increase the production of carbon emissions. It takes 13 times less energy to produce reclaimed wood flooring than to make virgin wood floorboards. Salvaging this older wood also keeps it out of landfills where it would only rot and decay.

Quality and Variety – Searching through reclaimed wood, you may find a hidden treasure. There is bound to be a wider variety of wood species available. You may be able to find unique wood species like longleaf pine, cypress, and wormy chestnut. Reclaimed wood also comes in just about every size. It may range from thin trim pieces to 20-inch wide floorboards. If you are lucky, you may run across old-growth wood. These boards have a higher density and hardness and tighter grain than newer wood boards, making them especially desirable for high-quality wood furniture projects.

Where can I find reclaimed wood?
The best way to find reclaimed lumber is to find a company that specializes in the product. Companies that perform architectural salvage or building deconstruction often have access to old wood. However, they don’t always sell directly to the public. Remodeling contractors often sell what they remove from their remodeling projects but don’t offer much selection. The companies that will have the best variety will be those that specialize in acquiring reclaimed wood from its source and selling it to consumers.

Whether you are looking to make a decorating statement with old barn wood or reduce the number of trees harvested for your next building project, reclaimed wood can be a wise option to explore. In Colorado, Rocky Mountain Forest Products offers reclaimed wood suitable for a variety of consumer products. Come on in and find the reclaimed wood that’s just right for your needs.