Looking for a weathered, wabi-sabi look in your new apartment? Look no further than reclaimed wood, the ultimate sustainable furniture statement piece.
This unique approach to wood furniture captures all the beauty of old-growth hardwoods without putting any strain on the delicate ecosystems that those trees support. If you aren’t sure what reclaimed wood is or don’t know if it’s for you—don’t worry. We’ll tell you everything you need to know.
This article will cover all of the important facts about reclaimed wood, like what it is and where it comes from. We’ll also answer some short questions at the end in our FAQ.
What is Reclaimed Wood?
Reclaimed wood is the ultimate sustainable and eco-friendly furniture material. Reclaimed wood is sourced from old structures, like barns and warehouses, then salvaged and repurposed for construction and design projects. The popularity of reclaimed wood has surged in recent years owing to its unique qualities and sustainability.
Reclaimed wood offers an extremely unique and rustic look that’s unachievable with freshly milled wood. It possesses a rich history and character, usually with marks from its previous life like nail holes, knots, and a beautiful weathered patina. The authenticity and charm of the final product make it a highly sought-after material for furniture.
Reclaiming wood involves carefully dismantling and salvaging the wood from its original source. The wood is then processed to remove impurities like nails, screws, and other contaminants.
Afterward, the wood is cleaned, dried, and milled to the specific dimensions, making it ready for reuse. The process requires extensive skill and preparation, which can drive up the cost of reclaimed wood.
Reclaimed wood isn’t only valued for its aesthetic appeal—it represents the ultimate symbol of sustainability. By reducing the demand for new timber, reclaimed wood helps minimize the environmental impact typically associated with deforestation and wood waste. Besides reducing the strain on the environment, reclaimed wood keeps wood from becoming waste.
Benefits of Choosing Reclaimed Wood
Choosing reclaimed wood for construction and design projects has many benefits, making it a popular choice for both the design-minded and eco-conscious.
The biggest draw of using reclaimed wood is that it is undeniably the most environmentally responsible choice. By reusing wood from existing old structures, the need for new timber is reduced.
This helps conserve forests and mitigate deforestation. Reclaimed wood is an effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of home projects, which tend to be wasteful and environmentally taxing.
Reclaimed wood also has a unique and distinct aesthetic that’s impossible to replicate. Since it carries the character and history of its previous uses with features like nail holes and knots, reclaimed wood adds a special charm to any space. The rich, natural textures and colors make it a versatile material for any space or design style.
And, of course, there’s reclaimed wood’s unique durability. The wood used to build most old structures was often harvested from old-growth forests, so the wood used was much denser and more robust than newer lumber.
As a result, furniture made from reclaimed wood tends to be especially long-lasting and resilient. This longevity, combined with its aesthetic appeal and eco-friendliness, makes reclaimed wood the perfect investment piece for a sustainable home.
What Types of Wood Are Typically Reclaimed?
A wide variety of woods can be reclaimed from old structures and salvaged from sources like barns, factories, warehouses, and other buildings. The types of wood usually reclaimed include:
- Antique or Salvaged Pine: Reclaimed pine is a commonly reclaimed wood.
- Oak: Oak is another commonly reclaimed wood. This includes white and red oaks. These are valued for their durability, rich grain, and ability to take stains. Reclaimed oak is a popular choice for flooring and cabinetry.
- Chestnut: One of the rarer kinds of wood, chestnut was prized for its deep, rich color and fine grain. Chestnut has become much rarer due to the chestnut blight.
- Douglas fir: Douglas fir is known for its warm reddish-brown color and is often reclaimed from industrial and commercial buildings.
- Maple: Reclaimed maple has an excellent light color and fine, even grain. This is a perfect choice for furniture and woodwork.
- Redwood: Reclaimed redwood, a staple of reclaimed wood from California, is loved for its beautiful color and natural resistance to insects.
- Teak: Reclaimed teak is often salvaged from old boats and ships. This is another great choice for furniture.
- Cherry: Reclaimed cherry wood has a distinct reddish-brown color and is used primarily in fine furniture.
- Walnut: Reclaimed walnut is prized for its distinctive grain patterns and deep brown color.
- Elm: With a bright tone and beautiful grain, reclaimed elm is a great choice for its unique and pronounced grain pattern.
- Hemlock: This softwood is often found in old structures and works well for paneling and framing.
- Exotic Woods: Though they’re much more difficult to source, reclaimed exotic woods make the perfect conversation piece. These include woods like mango and eucalyptus.
Each type of reclaimed wood offers a unique aesthetic and distinct functional quality, so the choice that is best for your project is ultimately up to you. No matter which you choose, reclaimed wood’s unique combination of visual character, historical significance, and minimal environmental impact make it a great choice for all kinds of projects and furniture pieces.
What’s the Difference Between Recycled and Reclaimed Wood?
While recycled and reclaimed wood represent two great environmentally conscious options for using wood in construction and design, they differ in their sources, processes, and characteristics.
Recycled wood usually comes from discarded or surplus wood products like shipping pallets, construction debris, and old furniture. In contrast, reclaimed wood is sourced from old structures, such as barns, warehouses, and factories. The distinction in sourcing is one of the main differences between the two.
The way that reclaimed and recycled wood are processed is also different. Recycled wood can be processed in many ways but is typically chipped into smaller pieces and sorted before being pressed. Large pieces of recycled wood can be used to make furniture and household items. Small pieces, like wood fibers, can be used to make mulch, composts, and landscape surfaces.
In contrast, reclaimed wood doesn’t go through the process of being chipped. Instead of being broken down, reclaimed wood is carefully dismantled from its original use and cleaned to remove things like nails and screws.
Depending on the application, reclaimed wood is also milled to the appropriate size for whatever project it’ll be used for. Reclaimed wood can also be kiln-dried, especially if a pest infestation is suspected, though this isn’t always necessary.
One of the key differences between reclaimed and recycled wood is its visual appeal. Recycled wood can look many ways, but reclaimed wood usually has a uniform and consistent appearance. Recycled wood tends to be made of chips pressed together, so it’s not ideal for furniture where the wood will be outward-facing.
Recycled wood does, however, work well for things like couch and chair frames. Reclaimed wood, in contrast, has distinctive features like nail holes, knots, and weathering that give it its highly sought-after appearance.
Is Reclaimed Wood Cheaper?
Whether or not reclaimed wood is cheaper than other types of wood depends on many different factors. In general, however, reclaimed wood is often more expensive than traditional or recycled wood.
There are a few reasons for this higher price tag, so you’ll want to remember these when shopping for reclaimed furniture or flooring.
First, the process of salvaging the wood is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Sourcing reclaimed wood involves finding buildings and structures in good condition that the wood can be salvaged from, which requires know-how regarding land ownership, property laws, and more. Actually, removing the wood takes considerable skill, as the wood can easily be damaged or broken in the process.
Once the wood is removed from its original source, it has to be cleaned. Cleaning involves removing any nails or screws that may be embedded in the wood but not obvious—this often requires a metal detector. The wood may also be sanded or milled, depending on its future use.
In many cases, reclaimed wood is kiln-dried to prevent warping and to address any lingering insects that might be hiding inside.
All of this, combined with reclaimed wood’s unique appeal, helps drive up the cost. Because of the incredible history some reclaimed wood represents, customers, designers, and builders are willing to pay a premium for the authentic and rustic aesthetic it represents.
Traditional and recycled woods don’t require this same degree of attention to prepare them for use, which makes it a more affordable choice, depending on your application.
However, that shouldn’t deter you from using reclaimed wood. While the upfront cost of purchasing furniture made from reclaimed wood might be more expensive, it is often an excellent investment due to its durability and longevity.
The quality of reclaimed wood, which often originates from old-growth forests, is usually better than that of newly harvested wood, which tends to be less dense and robust. This means furniture made with reclaimed wood will likely last longer, reducing the need for replacement or repairs.
There’s also the question of environmental impact. By supporting businesses in the reclaimed wood industry, you’re supporting sustainable practices and reducing the demand for new timber. This is important because fewer trees are being cut to supply wood. Paying a little more to support the planet is a noble investment.
Furniture Brands that sell Reclaimed Wood Furniture
In an era where sustainability is not just a preference but a necessity, numerous brands are stepping up to meet the demand for eco-friendly furniture.
These dedicated creators are turning reclaimed wood into more than just furniture; they’re crafting stories of sustainability and style.
Urban Wood Goods
We’ve featured Urban Wood Goods before, and we’re big fans of their furniture. Using reclaimed wood sourced from all over Chicago, Urban Wood Goods produces pieces with the unique patina of the city.
What WE Make
Made in Illinois, What WE Made offers a large selection of heirloom-quality, beautifully crafted pieces of furniture.
Etsy is an excellent resource for artisan furniture made from reclaimed wood.
Modern Timber Craft
Located in Pennsylvania, this small, family-owned business is dedicated to salvaging barns for reclaimed wood furniture.
Furniture From The Barn
This brand uses both reclaimed and new wood, but they offer many beautiful, handcrafted pieces of furniture for all kinds of uses and applications.
Many larger brands, like West Elm and Pottery Barn, will also occasionally release pieces of furniture made from reclaimed wood. This isn’t always the case, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for changes in their merchandise.
Is Reclaimed Wood FSC Certified?
Nope. FSC certification pretty much applies to newly harvested wood that’s sourced from responsibly managed forests. Reclaimed wood comes from previously used sources, such as old buildings and structures, and isn’t subjected to the same certification process as newly harvested wood.
Despite this, the use of reclaimed wood is considered a sustainable practice because it repurposes wood that would otherwise go to waste and reduces the demand for new timber. While reclaimed wood may not have FSC certification, it still offers a lot of environmental benefits.
Is Reclaimed Wood Safe?
Yep, reclaimed wood is totally safe when it’s properly handled, prepared, and finished for its intended use. Be sure to find reputable suppliers when looking for reclaimed wood furniture or flooring. Sourcing reclaimed wood on your own may have some hazards, so it’s best to work with a professional.
Does the Source and Age of Reclaimed Wood Matter?
Yeah, the source and age of reclaimed wood matter. These qualities influence the wood’s characteristics, quality, and suitability for different applications. There are plenty of experts who can guide you through the process of finding reclaimed wood that has the qualities you’re looking for.
Does Reclaimed Wood Need to Be Treated?
Reclaimed wood may or may not be treated. It depends on the source and intended use. However, reclaimed wood should be properly prepared and finished to ensure safety and durability.
Can Reclaimed Wood Be Used Outside?
Reclaimed wood can be used outside! Just make sure it’s been properly finished and maintained so that it can withstand the outdoor elements and preserve its longevity.