8 Reasons Why Reclaimed Wood Is So Desirable

A collage of photographs of reclaimed wood walls and floors. Across the top of the image are the words "8 Reasons Why Reclaimed Wood Is So Desirable." In the lower left and lower right corners are a cartoon man and woman respectively, each daydreaming about which type of reclaimed wood to use.

You’ve probably heard the buzz about reclaimed wood. This durable and beautiful material has made a splash with enthusiasts of eco-friendly construction and rustic aesthetics. But what makes reclaimed wood so desirable?

Reclaimed wood is desirable because it is beautiful, durable, and environmentally friendly. While the material is expensive and somewhat difficult to source, it remains popular as the wood of choice for many projects for its unique charm.

In this article, I’ll provide a full explanation of what reclaimed wood is.

I’ll also offer some insight into why reclaimed wood is so desirable by describing its unique qualities. Here’s everything you need to know about why reclaimed wood is so desirable.

What Is Reclaimed Wood?

A photograph of multiple scraps of reclaimed wood arranged on a wooden floor. In the bottom left of the image is a cartoon person raising their hands in question with orange question marks above their head. In the bottom right is a white recycling symbol on a dark gray background.
Reclaimed wood is a versatile and visually appealing material, but what exactly is it?

Reclaimed wood is any type of lumber retrieved from an old project and reused for a new one. This wood is often carefully recovered when things like wine casks, old barns, or factories are deconstructed.

There are a lot of great qualities to reclaimed wood. For example, it has a unique, rustic appearance, and reclaimed wood is known to be extremely durable due to its prolonged aging and drying.

Reclaimed wood is generally around 40 points harder than new wood on the Janka Hardness scale.

The material does have some drawbacks because of how it is retrieved, for example, it is typically much more expensive than new wood. It takes a lot of labor to reclaim the old wood, and it’s quite rare to find a good source of wood to reclaim to begin with.

The effort is worth it for many people who love the durability and beauty of reclaimed wood, and others are drawn to the eco-friendliness of the material. Reclaimed wood is a charming material that is worth considering for your next project.

8 Reasons Why Reclaimed Wood Is So Desirable

Reclaimed wood is ideal for certain projects owing to the following reasons.

1. Reclaimed Wood Is Denser

Reclaimed wood beams stacked in a lumber yard. A blue cartoon image is overlain showing a water droplet being deflected thanks to its moisture resistance.
Reclaimed wood is more moisture resistant than virgin wood thanks to its higher density.

One unique quality of reclaimed wood is that it is much denser than any wood grown today. Reclaimed wood was typically sourced from old-growth forests, while the lumber found in stores today mainly comes from industrial tree farms with fast-growing cultivars.

The higher density of reclaimed wood makes it preferable for use in construction for a few reasons.

For example, reclaimed wood is moisture-resistant, which reduces expansion due to exposure to moisture and makes it much less prone to rot. The density of the wood also gives it a nicer grain pattern.

2. Reclaimed Wood Is Beautiful

A reclaimed wood cabinet with steel handles. Along the bottom are pretty flowers and hand-drawn suns are emblazoned on the doors.
Reclaimed wood is a beautiful option for furniture and finishings in your home.

Reclaimed wood is an artisanal material. It stands out from any other material on the market and imbues craftsmanship and vintage appeal into any project where it is used.

While materials like weathered wood can provide some of the same appeal, reclaimed wood is the only material that can be described as rustic at heart.

Another beautiful aspect of reclaimed wood is its tight grain. Reclaimed wood is typically sourced from things like old factories, wooden boxcars, and old barns, which were often made with old-growth trees like poplars, oaks, walnut trees, and redwoods.

The naturally aged old-growth wood has a very dense grain that stands out from any modern wood of the same species.

3. Reclaimed Wood Is Eco-Friendly

A photograph of an old wooden house on the left of the image with a green textured recycling symbol. On the right of the image is a photograph of a lumberjack wearing a red and black plaid shirt and black trilby hat cutting down a tree with an orange chainsaw.
Using reclaimed wood from old buildings is much more environmentally friendly than cutting down living trees to use in construction.

One of the most celebrated qualities of reclaimed wood is how environmentally friendly it is.

Constructing a new building from virgin materials leaves a significant environmental footprint because all new materials need to be sourced.

Reclaiming material from old buildings that are being demolished and reusing them avoids them simply going to waste.

Reclaimed wood addresses both these issues because it allows historic materials to be given a new purpose.

The old-growth trees that would have otherwise been cut down are left alone, and both the environment and the builder benefit as a result.

Using reclaimed wood isn’t a compromise, either — aside from the costs involved in sourcing it, it is known to be a better material than fresh wood in almost every way.

The environmental benefits of reclaimed wood take many forms. Reclaimed wood reduces the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with construction, and it also reduces the deforestation that takes place when old-growth wood is harvested.

The reduced processing associated with reclaimed wood also leads to less use of water, gasoline, and harsh chemicals.

4. Reclaimed Wood Is Typically Kiln-Dried

An industrial kiln ready to be loaded with wood for treatment.
Heat treatment is effective at drying out reclaimed wood and preventing bad odors.

While kiln drying isn’t unique to reclaimed wood, it does make the material an appealing choice over alternatives. Kiln drying has a few benefits: it prevents the wood from warping and shrinking, strengthens the wood, and eliminates contaminants like pests and mold.

Shrink resistance is one of the best qualities of kiln-dried reclaimed wood. If wood shrinks after it is used in a project, it can result in complications during or after construction.

The improved strength and decontamination of kiln-dried reclaimed wood are also important, as you’re less likely to deal with any structural issues or infestations later on.

You should always verify that your reclaimed wood is kiln-dried before purchasing it for the best results.

5. Reclaimed Wood Is Durable

A reclaimed wood floor with a "durable" symbol in the bottom left corner, which comprises a black circle with a white hammer and white writing that says, "durable."
The benefits of reclaimed wood’s durability are particularly advantageous for flooring in high-traffic areas.

According to the Janka Hardness scale, reclaimed wood is 40 points harder than new wood — a significant difference. This is a result of the natural aging process, as reclaimed wood has lost most of its internal moisture with time.

While reclaimed wood is an expensive material, its incredible durability can end up saving you money over time. When poor-quality wood is used to build a home, it can result in costly issues like cracks and warping developing over time.

Reclaimed wood is less likely to develop these issues. Its low moisture content makes it significantly less prone to warping or cracking. Reclaimed wood is also less likely to develop infestations as long as it is properly aged, kiln-dried, and appropriately treated.

6. Reclaimed Wood Is Unique and Historical

A photograph of an old historical building from which wood could be reclaimed. The front door is darker than the surrounding wooden walls. Above the door is an old clock face, and historical artifacts are at the bottom of the image.
Reclaimed wood taken from old historical buildings adds character and some historical context to any project.

If you’ve ever felt bored browsing the uniform selection of boards found in lumber stores, you’re not alone, and reclaimed wood can offer a more aesthetically pleasing alternative.

While the lumber of today might focus on consistent quality, reclaimed wood has aged for decades and developed a unique appearance that has more character and visual interest.

This unique aging process can’t be faked with new wood, and every source of reclaimed wood has its unique qualities and appeal. Any project you create with reclaimed wood will have a unique appearance that can’t be emulated.

7. Reclaimed Wood Is Low Maintenance

A photograph of reclaimed wood planks with a cartoon workman wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and a yellow hard hat. He is kneeling to open his toolbox, but the toolbox has a red "no entry" symbol across it, indicating no maintenance is required.
The durability and well-seasoned characteristics of reclaimed wood typically mean less maintenance is required compared with virgin wood.

Reclaimed wood is low-maintenance compared to new-growth wood. It still requires some maintenance, such as proper cleaning and finishing. Compared to new wood, however, the dryness of reclaimed wood means that less maintenance will be required overall.

Tasks like removing an infestation or repairing a warped section of wood can take a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money. The dryness of reclaimed wood reduces the probability that any of these issues will happen, and the material can have lower maintenance needs as a result.

8. Reclaimed Wood Is Versatile

A collage of photographs showing the different uses of reclaimed wood. The bottom left shows a reclaimed wood floor, top left shows reclaimed wood shelving with kitchen items and reclaimed wood paneling behind. On the right of the image is a photograph of a reclaimed wood coffee table with a pair of glasses and a cup of coffee. In the middle bottom of the image is a cartoon person juggling balls with ticks in them to indicate the wide range of uses reclaimed wood can be put to.
Reclaimed wood can be put to almost any use and is incredibly versatile. It is perfect for flooring, fixtures, and furniture alike.

Finally, one of the best qualities of reclaimed wood is how versatile it is.

You don’t have to restrict yourself to a particular aesthetic while working with reclaimed wood because every piece is unique.

If you want your project to have a rustic farmhouse vibe, you can make your dream come true with the right source of reclaimed wood.

Likewise, many contemporary spaces use reclaimed wood to add a natural aesthetic. When paired with bright natural light, metal furnishing, and plenty of plants, reclaimed wood can help form a cohesive modern aesthetic. The only limit to how reclaimed wood can be used is your creativity — and even then, it’s easy to find plenty of incredible inspiration online.

Are There Any Drawbacks To Using Reclaimed Wood?

Before using reclaimed wood, one should be aware of the possible downsides.

Some Reclaimed Wood May Have Pests

A wooden beam peppered with tiny holes made by the woodworm larva. In the bottom left of the photograph is an inset showing a closeup of a larva burrowing into a hole.
Woodworm larvae are one of many pests you want to avoid inviting into your home. Ensuring your reclaimed wood has been kiln dried can help to guard against such pests.

As reclaimed wood ages, it generally dries out and becomes more resistant to pests. In some cases, though, reclaimed wood can become the home to various types of pests. Insects like termites, beetles, and carpenter ants have been known to inhabit reclaimed wood and can destroy it over time.

You must ensure any reclaimed wood you use for your project is free from pest infestations because of the problems this can cause.

The insects inhabiting the wood can quickly spread to other areas and create a much larger infestation. You should always carefully inspect your reclaimed wood before you use it in your projects.

Kiln-dried reclaimed wood is always preferable because the drying process kills insects and fungi.

Reclaimed Wood Might Have Toxins

A reclaimed wood wall with flaking lead paint. At the bottom is a person with their back to the camera wearing a yellow waterproof jacket with a black skull and crossbones and the word "Toxic." In the upper right of the image is a yellow triangle warning symbol with a black skull and crossbones. In the upper left of the photograph is the chemical symbol for lead "Pb" along with its entry in the periodic table, including its atomic number (82) and molecular weight (207.2).
Some reclaimed wood might contain toxins such as lead, which used to be used in many types of paint. Testing for lead and other toxins is important for the protection of your family’s health when selecting reclaimed wood for use in your home.

If you decide to use reclaimed wood, it’s important to note that there is always a risk that the wood might contain toxins.

This is inherent to reclaimed wood because it has often been used in a previous structure for several decades at minimum, and little to no history is kept about what kind of chemicals the wood might have been exposed to.

If you want to minimize the risk of toxins while using reclaimed wood, you should get a piece of the lumber tested. The test will inform you whether the wood contains traces of any toxic substances like lead or insecticides.

Knowing what the lumber contains will give you the chance to address the issue before it becomes a problem.

Reclaimed Wood Is Expensive

Stacks of planks of reclaimed wood in a lumber yard. In the lower left of the photograph is a yellow dollar symbol with a green arrow pointing upwards.
The high demand for reclaimed wood, and the labor-intensive nature of its processing means it is usually more expensive than virgin wood.

Reclaimed wood is one of the most expensive materials you can use for a project for several reasons.

Reclaimed wood is in high demand and low supply, so you’re likely to pay much more for a piece of reclaimed wood than you would for a comparable section of new-growth wood.

The sourcing of reclaimed wood is also much more labor-intensive and inefficient than sourcing new-growth wood.

New-growth wood is cheap because every step of producing it is essentially industrialized and automated. Reclaimed wood, however, must be sourced, salvaged, cleaned, and prepped by skilled woodworkers before it can be used in a new project.

Reclaimed Wood Is Inconsistent

A collage of photographs showing highly consistent new wood on the left of the image and inconsistent reclaimed wood of different colors and grain patterns on the right . in the center are the letters "VS" and the words "consistent" and "inconsistent" are overlain across the examples of the two types of wood.
Reclaimed wood is inconsistent when compared to new wood. This can be a downside in certain applications but also adds character and rustic charm if used well.

Reclaimed wood can be very inconsistent. This is generally considered a positive quality of reclaimed wood because the inconsistency of each piece results in a finished project with an incredible rustic aesthetic.

In certain projects, however, the inconsistency of reclaimed wood can detract from its aesthetic appeal.

Before you decide to use reclaimed wood for your project, you should carefully consider whether it matches the kind of result you want to achieve.

If the project you have in mind demands a uniform finish, you’re better off using new-growth wood for your project. You can also consider using weathered lumber if you want a rustic appearance but need uniform pieces of wood.

Reclaimed Wood Is Difficult To Source

A collage of photographs of reclaimed wood with various cartoon characters searching, including Sherlock Holmes with his iconic magnifying glass. The image in the top left includes a pin with the word "where?" above.
Reclaimed wood can be difficult to find, but the search is worth it if you’re after a characterful look for your project.

One of the biggest issues with using reclaimed wood is that it can be difficult to source — especially if you have a particular aesthetic in mind.

Reclaimed wood is inherently in limited supply because it is sourced from old projects. In some cases, you may have trouble finding old buildings nearby to source your reclaimed wood from. In other cases, there might just not be enough reclaimed wood to work with.

Many historic buildings that use old-growth wood are quite small, so only a small project can be supplied from wood salvaged from them.

While you can source reclaimed wood from multiple sources, this can sometimes harm the aesthetic of a project because every source of reclaimed wood ages in a unique way.

Should I Use Reclaimed Wood?

A thoughtful woman in front of a reclaimed wood wall. She is wearing a pink shirt and has long brown hair. Her finger rests pensively on her mouth as she deliberates.
If you’re interested in minimizing the impact of your construction project on the environment, while adding a touch of class to the finished product, reclaimed wood could be the way forward for you.

You should use reclaimed wood if you want to invest in a project that will have a reduced impact on the environment, a unique aesthetic, and incredible durability.

While reclaimed wood can be expensive and hard to find, its positive qualities can’t be understated.

The quality and versatility of reclaimed wood make it an excellent option when you’re willing to invest time and money into sourcing it.

Final Thoughts

Reclaimed wood is one of the best eco-friendly materials you can use for construction.

However, you must know how to use reclaimed wood to benefit your project because it is quite expensive and difficult to source compared to similar materials.

You can use the pros and cons we’ve shared in this article to figure out whether reclaimed wood is the best option for your project.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *