Reclaimed wood has quickly become a popular material in wood design. It's being used to create unique furniture, bring nature indoors, add character to modern elements, and gain points for LEED certifications. While reclaimed lumber's rise to mainstream use has not been without a few issues, consensus remains overwhelmingly positive.
Benefits of using reclaimed wood span environmental, design, and practical realms. Everyone can guess the most obvious reason - it helps save trees! This is important and definitely provides a significant help to the environment, but the most amazing benefits are way more exciting and interesting. Let's explore some of these ideas today.
This abandoned barn is ripe for reclamation (Pixabay - stock photo). Imagine the possibilities!
Sustainability - beyond saving trees
Reusing lumber from old barns, warehouses, and factories not only keeps more trees planted in the forest, but it also keeps it out of the landfill. In 2002, wood from demolition or deconstruction made up 17 percent of wood waste in our landfills. Reclaiming wood can help reduce that number significantly.
Approximately 18 percent of 160 million tons of wood waste were suitable for reclamation, according to a 1998 study. That's 30 million tons of wood that could have been re-purposed and saved from the landfill! The industry has come a long way but is only beginning to scratch the surface of possible sustainability.
The carbon footprint of recycled wood is approximately 80 percent of newly processed hardwood, saving 20% and gaining so much character. Reusing the lumber delays the release of carbon and reduces the number of emissions needed to re-purpose the material.
Repurposed - the art of upcycling
Recycling vs. Upcycling - it can be confusing! Upcycling is taking a used item that would normally become trash and instead of breaking it down (as recycling does), it is repurposed into something better.
Everyone's grandma and grandpa probably practiced upcycling throughout their lives. Our elders who lived through the Great Depression, wars, or other tough times used upcycling to make ends meet. We see these ideas becoming popular on sites like Etsy and Pinterest.
Furniture makers specializing in using reclaimed wood are the perfect example of companies using upcycling. 2-Day Designs is one company saving loads of wood destined for the landfill. They use parts of or whole used wine barrels to create beautiful, eco-friendly furniture. Urban Woods uses reclaimed wood from the greater Los Angeles area to create gorgeous upscale furniture.
In America today, only 3 percent of the old-growth forest survives.
Durability - a rarity today
Old-growth timber that has grown in a natural environment for 100 years or more is denser and stronger than new-growth wood. America's industrial revolution and post-WWII developments consumed much of the old-growth forests available. In America today, only 3 percent of the old-growth forest survives.
Deconstructing old buildings from the early to mid-twentieth century yields significant amounts of old-growth wood that is hard to find today. Reclaiming those woods continues to protect the remaining old-growth forests by providing important building structures. Architects and designers needing load-bearing beams will often utilize reclaimed old-growth wood for its durability and sustainability.
Aesthetics - a story to be told
Many people choose to add wood to their homes in different ways - furniture, wall coverings, siding, etc. The aesthetics of wood can be pleasing to look at and complement other building elements with ease. It's an easy way to add character to your home. Much of that pleasing feeling can be scientifically explained.
People love to be connected to nature. Research shows seeing or being in nature can be relaxing and rejuvenating. However, people are spending 90 percent of their time indoors. If bringing natural elements to indoor spaces improves mood and increases productivity, why not do it? Reclaimed wood takes this a step further by enhancing the effects. The aged color and grain can more accurately reflect nature.
The nostalgia and romance of reclaimed wood add to its appeal. There's a story of where the wood came from and how it ended up in your home now. Regaling the story of your reclaimed wood's past life and it's new life to family and friends is powerful for the storyteller and audience.