Is Reclaimed Wood a Trend?

Is Reclaimed Wood a Trend?

Titus Gilliam

Here at Reclaimed Lumber Products we take pride in providing sustainable building products, yet we are brutally honest. Recently we attended a forum where a number of the attendees very well could have had strong inclinations to whisper sweet nothings to trees. They may have rather have heard about a sawmill going out of business than knowing an old growth tree fell to a logger's chainsaw. You can imagine the dirty looks and jaws dropping to the floor when the owner of RLP told them do not buy our product strictly for green purposes. Even though that warm and fuzzy feeling that envelopes you by saving the life of tree by using reclaimed and salvaged wood may be pure bliss, stop to think if it makes sense. First buy our product because it compliments your design, the look is appealing, and you care about quality. Our products are much easier to implement in a project where the customer has unique requirements and discerning tastes; we are not necessarily trying to appeal to the masses or the ultra budget conscious consumer. Yet we counsel customers with value engineering options when choosing our products to give them the most bang for their buck.

Our millwork is going to cost more than similar substitutes made from virgin materials. We can't lower our price to compete with the high volume commodity type items made today- especially since many are made overseas. Our product is made local to the highest quality standards by craftsmen right here in Idaho, USA. If you don't love our product, then use the offsetting cost savings by using a cheaper substitute to pay for other green building practices such as blown-in insulation or high efficiency and heating and cooling equipment. The payback on these investments are easy to monetize.

It takes a lot of effort to take a reclaimed wood board and repurpose it into a new life. Think of all the steps that are involved in demolition, denailing and freight to get it from the barn to the millwork shop; after this there may still be a 25-75% waste factor on that material. That is how one can make practically free material become very expensive. Then once it arrives at RLP's yard it is handled again many times to be millwork ready such as metal detecting, pressure washing, resawing, kiln drying, and dozens more times in the final milling. Because the boards have so much personality they take more effort, but this personality is what makes them interesting. Virgin material on the other hand is much more predictable (boring) and easier to machine.

Reclaimed Lumber Products has been making custom millwork from reclaimed materials for over twelve years. For much of the time, we have been considered a niche market. Now reclaimed wood finishes have become mainstream. Even the big box stores are attempting to market it. Some say being copied is flattering, but we worry that the trend may be flash when everybody starts jumping on the bandwagon. Is reclaimed wood the next avocado green? What we find looking back at history is that natural and quality building materials never go out of style. Man made finishes have a shorter lifespan. Hopefully if you choose the best quality, natural materials they will remain timeless.