When people need wood, one of the first places they go is the neighborhood lumberyard or home improvement store. A more sustainable alternative, however, is to use reclaimed wood. Reclaimed, or salvaged, wood is catching on as consumers increasingly look for ways to repurpose materials and minimize waste. When you’re seeking products that reflect your environmental values, reclaimed wood can help support your efforts.
The Reclaiming Process
Remember the saying, “Reduce, reuse, recycle”? Reclaimed wood falls under the “reuse” category. This type of lumber comes from buildings or products that have outlived their usefulness. Rather than send the wood to a landfill, someone salvages and prepares it for use as a new product – like reclaimed wood flooring and paneling. Here’s how the reclaiming process works:
Salvaging. Potential sources of reclaimed wood are everywhere, often hidden in plain sight. Often, salvaging is simply a matter of someone recognizing the value of the wood and taking the initiative to acquire it. Common sources include:
- Wood pallets from shipyards
- Crating and shipping materials
- Old barns
- Abandoned factories and warehouses
- Decommissioned school gymnasiums
- Used wine casks
- Water tanks
Sorting. Eco-friendly salvaging experts must sort through the refuse that comes with the lumber to separate the recyclable materials from the true waste. Then the wood gets sorted into separate piles and banded together. The lowest-grade wood becomes firewood or bio-fuel. The mid-grade wood gets turned into “utility-grade” lumber for building build shipping pallets and the like. The best lumber gets prepared so it can be made into useful products such as tables or reclaimed wood flooring.
Preparation. To eliminate the risk of termites and other insects – especially if the history of the material is unknown – most reclaimed lumber gets dried in a kiln before it goes to market. At the very least, experts recommend that you seek reclaimed lumber that has been heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures, this temperature kills any pests or eggs present. It’s also wise to source your reclaimed lumber from suppliers who do not accept wood that has ever been treated with chemicals and who work closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to keep invasive pests out of the country.
Sustainability of Reclaimed Wood
Reclaimed wood is good for more than just making tables, decks, countertops and flooring; you can use it to build an entire house. When you opt for recycled lumber instead of virgin wood, you help reduce deforestation. A single wood-reclaiming operation alone can help save 9,500 40-foot Doulas fir trees in a single year.
Even though wood is a renewable resource, it’s not always harvested using sustainable practices. Forests get cut down more quickly than they can grow. By working with a company that sells reclaimed lumber products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Rainforest Alliance, you ensure that your purchase will support sustainable harvesting practices and protect communities affected by deforestation.
Reclaimed wood products can also help save energy. For example, it takes 13 times more energy to create a wood floor from virgin lumber than it does to make reclaimed wood flooring. Because reclaimed lumber doesn’t have to travel as far to get salvaged, processed and milled, less fossil fuel gets consumed.
Why Reclaimed Wood is Better than Virgin Wood
Character and history. Reclaimed lumber has a story to tell about its past life. Perhaps it braved stormy seas as a crate. Reclaimed wood features oxide stains, charming flaws and a lack of uniformity, all of which add appeal and create a truly unique look.
No eco-guilt. Reclaimed wood makes it simpler than ever to purchase products made from beautiful exotic lumber. Because the material comes into the country as discarded packing materials, you’re actually doing the earth a favor by acquiring reclaimed products made from exotic lumber.
Strength and durability. Many reclaimed lumber products come from old-growth timber, which is stronger than the virgin trees that come from first-generation forests. Reclaimed wood, in fact, is up to 40 points harder on the Janka scale of hardness than virgin wood. For this reason, reclaimed lumber is more durable and resists wear better.
Reclaimed lumber is a win-win for you and the earth, and its possibilities are endless. If you can dream it, you can build it with reclaimed wood.
Author Bio: This post was contributed by Viridian Reclaimed Wood, a company that provides eco-friendly, unique and affordable reclaimed wood flooring, veneer, paneling, tables & counters.