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Reasons to Choose Reclaimed Barn Wood

by Jake Park 

Reclaimed barn wood has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, not just in rural homes but in high-end city apartments. No matter where they live, homeowners will love the unique character and charm of reclaimed wood. Read on to find out about just a few of the reasons modern consumers are using it for everything from bookcases and mantels to flooring, wall decor, and more.

Unique Character

Every piece of reclaimed barn wood is a little different, but all of them have a weathered beauty that gives them character and draws plenty of positive attention. Many pieces of reclaimed wood display unique and interesting character marks that further increase their visual appeal. As barn wood is exposed to the elements for years, decades, or longer, it develops a beautiful gray patina that forms a perfect complement to both rustic and contemporary home decorating schemes.

As it ages, reclaimed wood only becomes more beautiful. There’s no replicating that ageless distinction using modern production methods. The only way to incorporate a genuine, unique rustic character into a modern home, condo, or apartment is to source the reclaimed wood from a local farm or a seller who specializes in finding high-quality barn wood.

Environmental Stewardship

Wood may be considered a renewable resource, but the practices associated with modern forestry are not sustainable. Using reclaimed barn wood reduces the demand for new wood, which helps to protect the forests. Eco-friendly homeowners don’t have to feel bad about destroying natural habitats for birds, squirrels, and other critters to bring a touch of natural beauty into their own homes when they use reclaimed barn wood.

Habitat loss isn’t the only problem with using modern wood. Transporting and processing felled trees also consumes a vast amount of energy. Using reclaimed wood can reduce energy use by a factor of 11 to 13, helping to preserve natural resources and protect the environment that every living creature, including people, depends on for survival.

Inability to Source Newly Cut Old-Growth Wood

Old-growth forests require centuries to develop fully. When the timber industry in America was in its infancy, irresponsible logging practices led to the destruction of most old-growth trees, which produced denser wood and larger planks that fetched more money for landowners, lumberjacks, sawmills, and distributors. Today, old-growth forests are protected. Even if homeowners don’t care about protecting forest diversity and natural habitats, they can’t buy genuine old-growth wood, even if they want to.

Reclaimed barn wood is almost always made from old-growth trees. The boards are larger and the wood is denser, which is part of why it was able to withstand the test of time and decades, or even centuries, of exposure to the elements. Homeowners who want to use old-growth wood can still do so without running into legal problems as long as they source it responsibly by buying reclaimed wood.

Strong, Durable Timber

Older wood is stronger and more durable than timber cut and manufactured in the 20th and 21st centuries. Builders and homesteaders chose only the strongest, stablest, and most durable pieces of timber, so what’s left now is the best of the best.

Antique barns were originally constructed using virgin timber that grew and matured for hundreds of years, often sustaining most of their growth before the Industrial Revolution began generating air pollution. These optimal growing conditions also help to explain the strength, longevity, and unique timbre of reclaimed wood.

Indulging a Passion for History

Every piece of reclaimed barn wood has its own unique history. Some pieces are sourced from family farms looking to modernize their facilities, while others come from century-old homesteads. Buying reclaimed wood helps to preserve links to the past and allows homeowners to indulge their passion for history while simultaneously protecting natural forest ecosystems against future degradation.

Some homeowners like to purchase reclaimed barn wood directly from farmers so they can meet the people who used it and hear their stories. Others buy from companies or individuals who specialize in sourcing reclaimed wood. Either way, they’ll get the benefit of knowing that they have a genuine piece of American history adorning their walls, bringing the past to life, and preserving a link to those who made this country great.

Wider Planks of Wood

Some pieces, such as mantels and deep bookshelves, require wide planks of wood that can only be sourced from old-growth trees. Newly harvested lumber isn’t even available in the widths associated with reclaimed barn wood. Homeowners can find incredibly large pieces of reclaimed wood, with widths up to two feet and lengths of 40 feet or more.

Since wide planks are in high demand, it’s easiest to source large pieces from a reputable supplier who knows local farmers and can find high-quality wood. Those who aren’t able to find a reputable local supplier may face long wait times and high prices, especially if they live far from the rural areas where reclaimed barn wood is typically found.

Stability and Longevity

Old-growth wood offers greater dimensional stability and longevity than newly harvested planks. Trees cut and harvested after many centuries were exposed to weather extremes and changes in climate over prolonged periods, which allowed them to create denser, stabler wood. This is especially relevant to homeowners who want to install reclaimed wood floors.

Even after being cut, reclaimed barn wood has continued to experience contractions and expansions due to temperature and humidity changes and has likely been exposed to at least a few inclement weather events. This makes it better able to handle the wear and tear of modern life, whether the wood is used for flooring, furniture, mantels, or other architectural features.

Good Return on Investment

If it has been responsibly sourced and properly finished, reclaimed barn wood holds its value very well. Once it has been installed in a modern home, it will provide an excellent return on investment. Its ability to withstand the test of time means that several decades from now, rare old-growth wood will be worth even more.

In contrast, newly milled lumber depreciates over time. It doesn’t age well, nor does it have the same unique character as authentic reclaimed barn wood. Homeowners who plan on leaving their properties to their heirs can rest assured that future generations will continue to enjoy the unique aesthetic beauty of reclaimed wood furniture and architectural features and that their estates will only continue to benefit from appreciation.

Re-Purposing Rare Woods

No responsible consumer or contractor would purchase newly milled, rare, exotic wood for a home improvement project. It’s not just environmentally irresponsible. It’s also illegal. However, purchasing reclaimed rare wood is a perfectly acceptable and guilt-free way to add value to any property.

Today, rare wood is hard to come by. When most of America was still composed of virgin forests, even rare woods were easily available and more affordable. Since quality timber gets its value not just from its inaccessibility but also its effectiveness as a building material, many buildings constructed with rare woods are still standing today and more of them are being torn down and re-purposed every year. Modern consumers will pay more for the wood than its original owners, but many buyers find that it’s worth the investment.

No Two Pieces Are Alike

Reclaimed barn wood doesn’t just get its unique character from the aging process. Since many historic barns were built before, during, or shortly after the Industrial Revolution, the wood used in their construction was not mass-produced. In some cases, it may even have been hewn and processed by hand.

Many pieces of reclaimed barn wood feature visually interesting surface textures, knots, and irregularities in the grain of the wood that are largely absent from mass-produced lumber. The originality of reclaimed barn wood is only improved upon when consumers buy individual timbers and create custom-made bookshelves, mantels, paneling, countertops, cabinets, and other types of furniture or architectural features.

Give Old Wood New Life

Were it not for modern homeowners’ newfound passion for reclaimed barn wood, this valuable, beautiful, and unique lumber would be left to rot. Using reclaimed barn wood for architectural features, flooring, and furniture gives it a new life while simultaneously adding to the visual appeal of just about any modern home.

This is especially true of distressed wood, which is popular among homeowners who want to create rustic interior designs with an authentic, eye-catching motif. Furniture made from distressed wood can, if finished and maintained correctly, last for centuries, so don’t be put off by the name. Ask suppliers if they have a source for high-quality distressed barn wood for furniture, accent walls, and other non-structural elements.

The Bottom Line

Every homeowner has a different set of reasons for investigating reclaimed barn wood as a building material. Whether they’re looking for high-quality, structurally sound timbers for framing a rustic-looking cabin, wide planks for making deep bookshelves, or distressed wood for fabricating unique, vintage art or furnishings, buyers should look for a reputable supplier in their areas who sources the wood from local farms. It’s the best way to incorporate a unique piece of history into a modern home.

Jake Park
I am a timber expert and serial woodworker dedicated to helping you get educated about the finest woods and materials in the world. Join in my journey on the Modern Timber Craft blog.

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