Everything old is new again. Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent resurgence of reclaimed wood flooring, one of the hottest home remodeling trends in 2019.
Available in both hardwood and softwood options, this aesthetic throwback is finding favor among those who appreciate a worn, more lived-in look. Its eco-friendly sustainability and cost effectiveness are also highly regarded. Sourced from a wide range of buildings and structures that utilize old-growth timber—from barns to whiskey barrels—colors, textures and grains run the gamut, and many reclaimed wood varieties can be obtained for 50% less than brand new materials.
Here's an overview of the two main categories of reclaimed wood flooring available on the market, along with some insight into the salvage process creating these reincarnated works.
Hardwood is traditionally sourced from salvaged building materials, and can be comprised of oak, pine, elm, chestnut, or other species, some significantly rarer and more difficult to find. Depending upon its origins, this wood can be repurposed to convey a funky, weathered vibe, or with a degree of refinishing and refurbishing, to embody a far more elegant feel.
Most salvage yards carry a selection of reclaimed hardwood, offering photos and pricing on their respective websites. For specific requests, a bit more research may be required to obtain enough inventory for your project. Be sure to add 10% to account for any waste that might occur during the installation process, as the precise grade may be difficult to match after the fact.
Softwood, typically consisting of pine and spruce, is far more plentiful. Due to its lower demand, the cost per square foot runs less than hardwoods, where the salvage process is built into the expense. As a general rule, softwoods reclaimed from smaller structures, such as fences, are substantially cheaper. It pays to price out several different types while exploring your options.
Consumers should take care to note that softwood can be dented and scratched fairly easily, and so is not recommended for use in a high-traffic location, such as main hallway; however, it can serve as an ideal material for a less-conspicuous area, like a living or laundry room, where its inviting design adds a degree of authenticity and warmth to the space.
The salvage process is designed to give old wood new life, while simultaneously helping to preserve forests and cut down on environmental waste. Reclaimed wood sources include shipping and crating materials, portions of abandoned and/or deconstructed buildings, old gym bleachers, wine casks, and even ships, among others. Besides flooring, these historic materials are also a popular wood paneling style for walls, ceilings, doorways, and more.
The wood is sorted by hand, taking care to remove all nails and bolts; units are then banded together. Any leftover metal, plastic and nylon is taken to a recycling center, leaving only the portion to be utilized in the next phase of development.
The highest-quality wood is dried in a kiln to stabilize, milled to remove the rugged exterior, then packaged and shipped for purchase. Mid-grade wood is often repurposed into usable items such as pallets, while the lowest-grade wood becomes firewood or bio-fuel.
While reclaimed wood can be refinished, painted or otherwise refurbished to achieve a more customized, modern look, it is recommended that you seek out the services of a professional, as any mistakes made tend to be permanent.