Reclaimed Wood for DIY Projects

Reclaimed Wood for DIY Projects

Titus Gilliam

Reclaimed Lumber Products (RLP) primary business is selling completed millwork such as barn doors, reclaimed engineered flooring, accent wall paneling and custom tables, but frequently we get contacted by the customer who just wants to buy lumber to use for their own project.  Here are some considerations that one should think about when approaching this endeavor and buying the material from RLP.

For local drop-in customers always make an appointment to come visit our yard.  We have two different locations, and we don’t necessarily staff them for retail storefront sales.  The primary focus is selling through the website.  We are not set up as well to sell a couple boards like a retail lumber yard.  There is a $200 minimum purchase on lumber.  The way we handle sales is to let the customer look through the yard and pick out what they want.  This way they can fully see what the options are and find just the right personality of material for their project.  They will need to be prepared to walk in the dirt, have a tape measure, and be able to haul away the treasures that they find.

We normally sell as is lumber by the board foot.  The cost varies depending on type of material and quantity, but normally we charge somewhere between $4-9 per board foot.  A board foot is a unit of volume measurement that is typical in the lumber industry; it equates to roughly 144 cubic inches.  Here are some sample comparisons for different material with the thickness first X width of stock for every linear foot of material this is the board foot conversion: 1x6", 0.5 bf; 1x12", 1 bf; 2x6", 1 bf; 2x8", 1.33 bf; 2x10", 1.67 bf; 6x6", 3 bf; 3x12", 3 bf; 3x14", 3.5 bf.

From our experience most people are not prepared to work with reclaimed lumber in an as is condition.  It is a whole lot different buying reclaimed wood than going to a retail hardwood lumber store.  We put the lumber through a number of steps before it is cabinet or millwork grade such as pressure wash, de-nail and metal detect, kiln dry and sterilize, saw or calibrate to certain dimensions, and so forth where all of these things will not be done when you buy as-is lumber.  We can do these items to your material but it is never cost effective on small batches and will cost extra.  RLP is used to getting the request where the DIYer wants to build a table and essentially they need the wood ready to glue up and assemble.  By this point 70% of the work is done, and the customer should just have RLP build a complete table.

Also be cautious about waste factor.  Rarely will you find planks the exact size that you want.  Often times you need to buy a slightly larger size so you are paying for extra material.  Also when RLP pulls lumber for their projects, we always pull extra material because Murphy’s Law says that something will go wrong.  There are always hidden cracks, concealed rot, twisted boards, mistaken cuts, miscalculations in quantity, or just a number of things that will change or go wrong.  It is always better to have material left over than to come up short in the middle of a project (heads up- we have a no returns policy).

RLP has over one million board feet of lumber in stock in our storage yards.  This is one of the biggest advantages RLP offers when buying lumber over some alternative sources because of our amazing volume of inventory gives the customers the ability to better match the product to project .  There is an amazing selection of all different colors, textures, sizes and species of reclaimed lumber.  Even though we have a huge amount of inventory the customer is generally limited to selecting from what we have.  Reclaimed wood is not always made in an infinite number of size or grades.  Sometimes the project needs adapt to what is available.  Sometimes with virgin lumber one could order from a lumber mill a specific size and grade, but that just may not be possible with reclaimed wood.  The more flexibility the customer has the easier it will be to find material and get a sensible value.

Just as a side suggestion if you are looking for cheaper sources than RLP, you may be able to do the legwork and find closer to free options from friends, farmers, and other salvage.  That will depend on being in the right place at the right time, traveling and asking.  Craigslist can also work.

Upfront material costs are not always obvious as to what the true cost of the project will be.  For example one can buy our accent wall paneling here in our online store for about 40% more than buying similar looking as-is lumber.  The customer will more than make up the difference in cost in the waste factor savings alone.  The as-is barn lumber is likely to have a 25-75% waste factor.  Comparatively our paneling product is real lumber except it has been processed to the point to eliminate the unknown waste and difficulty of install.  If one considers the extra cost of labor working with as-is lumber vs. the easy to use paneling we stock, then paneling is a much bigger savings.  On top of this the as-is lumber has not been metal detected, pressure washed or kiln dried like our paneling.

Pinterest and Houzz are wonderful sites for inspiration.  It gives the DIYer motivation to copy a photo or look.  The concern is do you have a saw or the machines that can handle big, heavy planks of twisted, cupped barnwood?  RLP has dedicated industrial machinery specifically designed for working with reclaimed lumber.  For example our operation has several kilns, two resaws, 42” double and 53” triple head sanders, plus multiple rip saws and so on; these 40-120 horsepower machines don’t show up in most garages.  Smaller machinery could get the job done, but maybe not with the same results or as easy.

Our ultimate aim is to create happy customers regardless of whether they are buying just a board or an entire house full of doors, so hopefully this article prepared and educated the customer a little more in advance to ask the right questions. 

Now go create something Pinterest-worthy!