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We hear a lot of talks these days about using reclaimed wood instead of new wood. With conservation efforts in full swing, there’s a growing need for recycled and refurbished goods. It ultimately begs the question, ‘what’s the difference between reclaimed wood and new wood?
Reclaimed wood is lumber that has been reused or repurposed from old buildings, flooring, construction, or other. New lumber is virgin wood sourced directly from trees. Using reclaimed wood lessens the demand for ‘new’ or virgin wood, which has been recently harvested from the forest and then manufactured or processed.
Now that you know the difference between reclaimed and new wood let’s take a closer look at this in more detail below. We’ll discuss why reclaimed wood is better and how it compares to new timber in terms of cost. We’ll also explore the different types of reclaimed wood and how it can be used in crafting, building, and home decor.
So, if you’re ready to learn more about the benefits of using reclaimed wood as opposed to new wood, then let’s get to it!
What is Reclaimed Wood?
Reclaimed wood is that which has been recycled or repurposed from various sources, including factories, barns, shipyards, stock farms, warehouses, etc. It’s wood that was once new and has since been taken from its place of origin for reuse. At most demolition sites, there’s usually plenty of air-dried wood left behind or discarded, just waiting to be repurposed. Such is the case with reclaimed wood.
Why is Reclaimed Wood Better than New Wood?
Nowadays, reclaimed wood is highly sought-after for its rustic appeal and old-fashioned charm. It offers a unique, ageless appeal to both furnishings and flooring. In terms of architectural quality, it simply can’t be beaten! Each piece of wood is unique with a character all its own. There are endless uses for reclaimed wood, from home décor to crafting, and its sustainable nature is an additional bonus!
Reclaimed Wood vs. New Wood Safety
Ok, I think most of us know the answer to this question. But safety is a concern when it comes to some reclaimed woods.
Safety concerns to consider before using reclaimed wood.
- Know the source of the reclaimed wood.
- Has it been treated with any chemicals?
- Does it contain lead paint?
- Are there any signs of bugs or insects?
- Does it potentially contain a lot of metal?
Why Choose Reclaimed Wood Over New Wood?
The main reasons why people often choose reclaimed wood instead of new wood include the following:
An Impulse to Conserve Natural Resources
If you want to do your part for the environment, then choosing reclaimed wood over new wood is the way to go! Reclaimed wood helps preserve forests rather than deplete them. Animals can thrive in their natural habitats when deforestation (the cutting, transporting, and processing of virgin wood) is reduced.
An Aspiration to Preserve History
By choosing reclaimed wood over new wood, you help support the history of North America and keep the legacy alive. Utilizing pieces of lumber reminiscent of the past is a great way to add character and integrity to any building or home.
A Love for Old-Fashioned Style
Reclaimed wood has a style and charm that new wood simply can’t replicate. Its timeless beauty is only matched by its architectural quality. Old-fashioned, weather-beaten wood is said to have more ‘heart’ than mass-produced pieces made from new lumber.
A Need for Strong, Durable Wood
Reclaimed wood is sourced from decades-old wood that has stood the test of time. It’s often made from trees consisting of hard, strong lumber that is very durable and able to withstand harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme wind, heavy rain, and intense sunlight.
Working with Reclaimed Wood Can be a Fun Challenge.
Having done a ton of woodworking myself, I can tell you from personal experience that working with reclaimed wood can be a challenge and very enjoyable to create something with it. It is a challenge in the sense that selecting your pieces and where you cut takes time and effort. You don’t always see the cracks or imperfections in the wood. I find creating woodworking pieces with reclaimed wood is exceptionally satisfying. Every piece is unique, as will be your project when it is complete.
What is Reclaimed Wood Used For?
Reclaimed wood has a multitude of uses (both indoor and outdoor) including the following:
Reclaimed wood flooring is that which was laid in an old building years ago and has been preserved or repurposed following demolition. It’s usually made from oak, maple or beech ‘strips,’ making it highly durable and easy to maintain. It provides a sense of rustic charm that’s both timeless and elegant.
Home and Office Building
Reclaimed wood is often used to construct beams, rafters, posts, headers, and cabinets in homes and buildings. Installing the repurposed wood ‘as is’ without staining or painting it, keeps its inherent charm and character while providing structural strength and integrity to any construct.
Reclaimed wood can be used outdoors as well as indoors. It’s great for decking, planking, and siding. It’s also suitable for making outside window and door casings. Repurposed wood, if properly treated, can sustain intense atmospheric conditions including sunshine, wind, humidity, and precipitation.
Home Décor and Interior Design
Reclaimed wood is often used for mantels, feature walls, or furniture. Its robust and durable nature makes it great for tables, chairs, and other in-home furnishings. As it’s often difficult to distress new wood, its best to use repurposed wood whenever possible to create an understated, yet contemporary style.
There are so many things you can make with reclaimed wood, including bathroom caddies, wine racks, message boards, cup holders, picture frames, etc. Instead of buying mass-produced items that are often manufactured from new wood, try making your unique crafts to use, sell, or giveaway.
Is Reclaimed Wood More Expensive than New Wood?
In terms of cost, reclaimed wood can be somewhat expensive. On average, it can run you around $12 per square foot or more (up to $20 per square foot)! The price is usually dependant upon the origin of the wood, the type of finishing used, and the amount of work involved.
As far as reclaimed wood flooring is concerned, the minimum cost is typical at $8 per square foot. The maximum price, however, is about $10 per square foot. In addition to the purchase price, homeowners must also factor in the labor costs as well. These will vary from $50 an hour to $80, on average.
Is Reclaimed Wood More Sustainable than New Wood?
Reclaimed wood is eco-friendly and, therefore, sustainable. As it can be reused or recycled, it eliminates the need for newly manufactured wood, which helps minimize deforestation. Virgin wood requires significant energy to process. If harvested correctly, reclaimed wood is a renewable resource that not only lessens landfill waste but also limits environmental hazards associated with new wood production.
Is Reclaimed Wood Real Wood?
Reclaimed wood is often sourced from real wood, including fir, beech, maple, pecan, and redwood. Lumber from barns on farms in the 19th century is a commonplace of origin for much of the reclaimed wood used today in North America. These barns were typically built from whatever trees were growing on or near the property, including chestnut, hickory, oak, pine, or poplar.
Is Reclaimed Wood as Strong as New Wood?
In most cases, reclaimed wood is stronger and more durable than new wood after it’s been properly treated, that is. The main reason is that reclaimed wood is decades old. It has stood the test of time and is more climate-resistant than new or virgin wood. As well, most reclaimed lumber was harvested from resilient species of trees, including ash, elm, oak, beech, and maple, which are types of hardwood.
Does Reclaimed Wood Warp?
In most cases, reclaimed wood doesn’t shrink or warp because of its durable, flexible, and resilient nature. It’s often harvested from mature trees in old forests. The generations of trees in existence today simply aren’t as reliable or resistant to ‘the elements’ (including sun, wind, and rain) as old-growth wood.
To conclude, reclaimed wood is often ‘old’ lumber that has been recycled or repurposed. By utilizing it whenever possible for home building and interior design, reclaimed wood lessens the demand for ‘new’ wood. It thus has a positive impact on both the environment and the forest industry.
This highly sought-after wood is durable, beautiful, and original. It provides for an abundance of practical and aesthetic uses both indoors and outdoors, so why not consider it for your next home renovation or crafting project? Its strength and resiliency are only matched by their beauty and charm!