Reclaimed Wood vs. Antique Wood

Reclaimed Wood vs. Antique Wood

Reclaimed wood vs antique wood - what's the difference? On the surface, you might expect both terms to mean the same thing. But that's not the case. Let's look at the fundamental difference and why you might want one versus the other.

What is Reclaimed Wood?

The term "reclaimed wood" generates some confusion. Any repurposed wood is considered reclaimed wood, but the history of the wood dictates whether it is considered "antique." Wood from a 20-year-old demolished building, for example, is technically reclaimed wood. But it won’t have the characteristics people would expect from an antique source.

Two hundred year-old lumber will look distinctly different from the wood used in contemporary buildings. Newer wood products are milled differently. The look and feel will likely not resemble that taken from older structures.

What is Antique Wood?

The term "antique wood" refers to lumber extracted from old-growth trees. It typically means wood harvested from trees originating at least 100 years ago. Some examples can be traced back 200 to 300 years. In the eastern US, antique wood has been used as far back as the early 1600s.

The processes used to harvest and prepare antique wood for use were simple and rough. The look of these original pieces differs dramatically from lumber currently available from traditional lumberyards.

Why is Antique Wood in Demand?

So, what makes the antique wood from the nation’s early days so valuable today? Rarity.

When the first European settlers arrived in this country, America's forests had never experienced any real cutting, which meant trees were several hundred years old. The old-growth wood inside had different traits than younger-growth trees.

Old-growth wood characteristics include greater density, tighter growth rings, and a wonderful grain that younger trees can’t offer. And since those trees were so large, they yielded much wider boards than today. It was common to see extremely wide boards and thick timbers in the nation’s earliest buildings.

Today, virtually none of that old-growth timber exists. And areas where older trees do survive are often protected. The plentiful resource that produced antique wood is no longer available, and recently harvested timber does not equal what our ancestors enjoyed.

Reclaiming Wood Today

Many older buildings have survived the years, though often updated. Old farm buildings still dot the countryside, especially in the eastern portions of the nation - built from original antique wood.

Wood suppliers like Modern Timber Craft now scour the countryside looking for antique wood to reclaim from these old buildings. They understand the value of antique wood in today’s burgeoning markets.

Newer reclaimed wood is salvaged from more recent buildings. But the appeal of newer wood for homeowners is not as great. Yes, newer reclaimed wood has character and beauty (and can be used for many applications) but the old-growth wood is far more desirable.

How is Antique Wood Reused?

Homeowners love the look and feel of older wood and many ask builders and designers to explore new, innovative ways to use antique wood. You will find it being used for fixtures, furniture, building elements, decor, and more.

Design experts often recommend antique wood for accent walls, flooring, and built-ins such as bookcases. Since several antique wood varieties are available through reputable dealers, it’s possible to find specific types of wood in great condition to meet your vision and specifications.

Can Reclaimed Wood Replace Antique Wood?

Some people are fixed on getting antique wood, no matter the cost. Of course, the availability of antique wood will impact your budget. But many times, newer reclaimed wood can provide similar charm, durability, and character as the antique version for a lower price.

In some instances, it may make sense to use newer reclaimed wood in less-obvious places while installing antique wood in highly visible locations. The final determination often comes down to budget, design, availability, and where the wood will exist in your home.

Antique wood is rare and becoming rarer by the day. That means you should explore multiple options before moving forward with your project. Contacting a designer or building contractor to help determine how antique wood or newer reclaimed wood will impact the success of your project.

To learn more about reclaimed wood, download our free guide From Barn to Bedroom:
Reclaimed Wood Brings History Home

Need ideas for your next project? Check out this post.

Click here for tips for working with reclaimed wood.

Good luck!

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