Q. We are planning an addition to our house, and we want it to be efficient and “green.” I heard using reclaimed lumber makes sense. Is this more efficient and as strong as new lumber? What are its sources?
Reclaimed (recycled) lumber is popular today for many reasons. Most of the reclaimed lumber salvaged from old buildings was made from old-growth trees. This wood is typically very strong as compared to fresh lumber produced today. The grains are straighter, and it is more dense.
Using reclaimed lumber for your room addition will not dramatically improve energy efficiency. The only time it might help is if timber beams are used to support the structure. One hundred-year-old reclaimed old-growth wood is very stable, and beams made with it should remain true. Any shrinkage or warping happened decades ago.
Although there is some energy intensive handling and milling required to make reclaimed lumber usable, it is significantly less than starting from standing trees. This does not mean it is less expensive than new lumber. There is much hand labor involved with deconstructing the old building, removing screws and nails, storing and milling it.
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The best way to select the proper types of reclaimed wood for the various areas of your addition is to work with a reputable reclaimed lumber dealer or directly with the mill. To the experienced eye, it is easy to pick out very old reclaimed lumber. To most homeowners, though, someone might be able to pass off low-cost new lumber as more pricey old reclaimed lumber.
Much of the reclaimed lumber used for current timber frame construction comes from old factories, barns, water towers or warehouses. These stable timbers often have old nail and screw holes, metal rust stains, etc., which give them character for indoor exposed timbers.
Residential wood flooring is another common use of reclaimed lumber. This can be milled from large timbers, but smaller pieces of wood from old barns are often used. Wood used from old tanks is some of the highest-quality reclaimed wood for interior millwork. Tank wood has a vertical grain and no knots and often picked up the color of the liquid stored in it.
The following companies offer recycled old wood: Aged Woods, www.agedwoods.com; Bear Creek Lumber, www.bearcreeklumber.com; Big Timberworks, www.bigtimberworks.com; Pioneer Millworks, www.pioneermillworks.com; and Timeless Timber, www.timelesstimber.com.