Chances are you will have seen a piece of reclaimed wood furniture somewhere and marveled at it. The history it contains, the time aged beauty it possesses, the incredible ingenuity of its craftsmanship.
In this article we will cover all you need to know about reclaimed wood furniture, the pros (and the cons) of buying / making it. And some great examples to give you some inspiration for your own home.
Where Does Reclaimed Wood Come From?
Reclaimed wood can come from a variety of sources. Wood was the main construction material of the USA 100+ years ago. Now unfortunately many of these old buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair and require demolition.
Instead of letting the wood go to waste, savvy carpenters saw the awesome properties this old timber has – and began snapping it up. The majority of salvaged wood furniture is built from timber that has come from antique barns. Thousands of them are demolished each year – and a huge amount of raw material is available.
Other places that timber can come from are joists and support beams from building, railway sleepers, fence posts, and roof beams.
However not all reclaimed wood furniture has to come from old timber, many people enjoy the contemporary urban look of using things like the lumber that is used in shipping pallets to create their furniture. Still reused – just not old.
What Types Of Reclaimed Wood Are Generally Available?
The great thing about building furniture out of reclaimed wood is that there are so many different types of lumber available. Hardwood or softwood – if It was grown locally it was usually chopped down and used as a building material.
The most common hardwoods you will find in reclaimed wood furniture will be things like oak, elm and beech. Maple, poplar, and ash are all also found in reasonable amounts but as a rule of thumb are generally less available.
For softwoods you will mainly find Douglas Fir, and various types of pine, southern pine being the most predominant type due to its abundance.
Are There Any Dangers When Using Reclaimed Wood For Furniture?
Due to its nature, the history of a piece of recycled timber can be a little tricky to predict accurately. Which can have some pretty dire consequences.
When you are buying some ready made reclaimed wood furniture you can usually relax about most of the issues below – any (good) carpenter will have done all of these checks for you and you can probably skip this section.
The main issue that you can come across is toxins that can be present in the wood. Over the years we have developed better and better ways to treat wood – and in these modern times we are able to tell what is going to be harmful to us and what is not. However this was certainly not always the case and wood was treated with all kinds of stuff in the past without regard to human health. The main culprit being lead.
Lead based paints and stains were cheap and offered many beneficial properties, but it can be lethal to humans over a period of time. If you are sourcing your own lumber to make some reclaimed furniture you really need to inspect the wood carefully and research its history to see if it is likely to have any of these nasty toxins in it.
Termites and bugs are also a very real issue. Who knows what conditions the wood has been living in and how often it has been treated. Stay away from any wood that is even slightly crumbly – it could end up costing you thousands if a possible infestation spreads.
There are also very often a whole bunch of nails and screws in the raw salvaged wood. If not removed they can cause injury. They can destroy saw blades and make the process of making the furniture very infuriating indeed. It sounds a little extreme – but if you have access to a metal detector use it on the timber before starting your project.
How Much Does Reclaimed Wood Furniture Cost?
Well this obviously depends on what kind of furniture you are buying. A bed is going to cost you more than a shelf. So we will need to talk about the cost in relative terms here.
Common sense would tell you that reclaimed wood furniture is going to be cheaper than new store brought furniture as the materials are free right? Well that is not always the case.
Despite the abundance of reclaimed wood, the recycled furniture industry is growing rapidly and the demand for the raw lumber is at an all-time high. It is much more difficult for carpenters to source the material than it once was – many will have to pay a premium to secure their lumber.
Even if the carpenter does manage to get the wood for free. They then have to spend time inspecting the wood. Checking it is fit for purpose. Removing all the nails, sanding off any toxins, and checking / treating it for the termites and bugs that can be present. As you can imagine all of this adds up to sizable amount of time for the carpenter.
For this reason you will find that many entry level pieces of reclaimed wood furniture will cost about the same as new furniture. In this price bracket you will not be getting any exotic or extinct woods – but still a solid and beautiful piece of furniture.
As you get higher up the scale you will begin to find some rarer types of wood – which will obviously cost quite a bit more. These are usually snapped up by master carpenters (whose skills don’t come cheap). And as such you can expect to pay quite a lot for them.
At the other end of the scale it is possible to get furniture made out of stuff like shipping pallets for cheap. The wood is readily available and usually free. You will find these kind of products for the same price as stuff you would buy from IKEA.
How Long Will Reclaimed Wood Furniture Last?
Some people may be concerned about the durability of furniture made from old wood. After all it often has been exposed to the elements for a century of more.
While some pieces are simply too worn to be made into furniture they are usually discarded. Any wood that has passed inspection and is made into furniture will last you as long as (if not longer) than store brought furniture.
It has had time to acclimatise to the atmosphere, any warping would have already taken place. It has had all of the moisture drawn out of it (usually) and is very strong. Infact on the Jankaa hardness scale (the scale that engineers use to test how hard a material is) salvaged wood will often rank higher than fresh wood of the same species.
Is Reclaimed Wood Furniture Environmentally Friendly?
Yes. Most certainly.
he amount of deforestation that is occurring globally for the construction and furniture industries is shocking. By using reclaimed wood for furniture you are doing a small part to help stop this practice. This recycled timber is so eco-friendly that you will even get points on your homes LEED rating if you use for applications like flooring. While you won’t get any LEED points for your furniture – it does show how green this material is.
What Are The Other Benefits Of Using Reclaimed Wood For Furniture?
Well aside from its long aged beauty you can be sure that you will have a piece of furniture that is very unique. No one else will have something exactly the same.
You will also be able to get your hands on furniture made out of exotic and extinct species of wood that are no longer available for commercial usage. Things like the American chestnut tree are now all but extinct thanks to a blight that wiped them all out over a century ago. But by using recycled wood you can get your hands on this beautiful material – without feeling even slightly guilty. And obviously it will have its own awesome history…
When people visit your home and comment on your furniture (and they always will) it will become a great talking point (this is much more fun than you would think!)
What Types Of Reclaimed Wood Furniture Are Available?
The sky is really the limit here – if it can be made out of wood, you will find a reclaimed wood version. Below are some of the more common ideas. Be sure to click on the links to see loads of examples!
Reclaimed wood beds are one of the largest pieces of furniture you can buy made from reclaimed wood. It is a sizable investment as it can be hard to source matching lumber.
Do you not need a whole new bed? Then why not just get a reclaimed headboard instead? They are a great addition to any rooms décor.
The antiquated look that a reclaimed wood dresser can have can never be overestimated. They are dominating and inspiring pieces of furniture that many instantly fall in love with.
Dining tables are also a huge project – but they are certainly one of the most popular types of recycled furniture. And provide excellent talking points.
Living Room Furniture
If you don’t have space for a dining table but still want a good talking point – perhaps something a little smaller like a coffee table would be the right option?
Why not make your console table a thing of beauty by using some recycled timber. The long thin planks that most of this reclaimed wood has been sawn into are perfect for this.
If you want to create an excellent working environment in your study or home office then you cannot go wrong with a reclaimed wood desk.
A reclaimed wood bookshelf filled with books is one of the quintessential stereotypical pieces of reclaimed wood furniture – and for a good reason, they are absolutely stunning!
One of the most popular uses of reclaimed wood. They are easy to make and are usually very cheap as they can be made from the carpenter’s offcuts.
Something as simple as the frame of a mirror can really transform a room – click on the link to see exactly what we mean!
Don’t have a big mirror anywhere? How about a picture frame? It has the same stunning effect and they are usually very cheap as they are often made from offcuts.
So there you have it! Everything you could possibly want to know about reclaimed wood furniture. Got any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.