Reclaimed wood is gaining traction in sustainable construction because its unique flair and texture help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Unlike virgin wood, the beauty of reclaimed wood is that it has been around for a while, giving it character and depth you can’t get without age. However, you may want to know the pros and cons of reclaimed wood before committing to using it.
Knowing the pros and cons of any building material is a crucial part of decision-making. It helps you know whether the material in question will help create a structure that meets your needs in terms of durability, ease of use, and cost.
In this article, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of reclaimed wood. I’ll also help you assess whether it’s the right choice for your next project. So, let’s dive in!
The following are the main pros of reclaimed wood:
Besides consuming more than 30 percent of global natural resources, the construction industry is responsible for 25 percent of solid waste generation.
The more we continue using virgin wood for construction, the more we increase our ecological footprint. That’s where reclaimed wood comes in.
Reclaimed wood is an excellent alternative that helps reduce the demand for virgin wood and the cutting of trees.
Moreover, using reclaimed wood reduces the amount of wood that gets into landfills from construction and demolition sites. Consequently, it promotes green building by reducing soil and air pollution.
The above points explain why the size of the reclaimed wood market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.6% from 2021 to 2028.
Reclaimed wood has a unique charm you can’t get from freshly cut lumber. Because it has been around for a while, reclaimed wood offers more character than virgin wood.
The natural patina that comes with aging of reclaimed wood adds visual interest to any space, giving more texture to its surface.
The above characteristics of reclaimed wood come in handy when you want to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces or accent walls.
Saying that reclaimed wood is durable and long-lasting may sound ironic to you, but it’s the reality.
Why do I say so?
First, reclaimed wood has already gone through the test of time – it has undergone wear and lost much moisture. Moreover, the expansion and contraction due to humidity make it more stable.
Wood from decades ago has had sufficient time to mature and become sturdy. Today, we have fast-paced commercial lumber production that doesn’t give the wood enough time to mature.
As a result, reclaimed wood is much less likely to warp or crack because it has reached the equilibrium moisture content of its environment
Due to its unique character, reclaimed wood is highly sought after. Many businesses and homeowners are ready to pay a premium for it.
This further increases the value of reclaimed wood and can also increase the value of your home. Therefore, consider investing in reclaimed wood if you’re looking for long-term economic benefits.
While some tree species are rare in the modern world, others have become endangered. This reality limits the availability of some wood species for building projects.
The great news is that reclaimed wood can help you find solutions to such problems. With it, you can access vintage pieces from long-gone tree species and increase the variety of your project.
The following are the main cons of reclaimed wood:
You can never be sure whether the reclaimed wood you’re getting contains some hidden toxins – even if it comes from a trusted source.
Since you have limited information about how the wood was preserved in the previous structure, there’s a chance that it contains some toxins like lead or creosote.
Due to the threat of these toxins, and other toxins like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), it’s recommended to test reclaimed wood for toxins before buying it.
Besides, reclaimed wood may contain metal, such as nails and screws, which can damage your tools if not removed before use. These metals can also present a hazard, especially if they stand proud of the wood’s surface.
Although reclaimed wood is usually more stable than newly cut lumber, it’s prone to damage by insects.
Insects like powderpost beetles, termites, carpenter ants, and old house borers love making their homes in antique wood. When this happens, it lowers the structural integrity of the wood.
Moreover, the aging process may have softened some areas of the wood while leaving other sections hard and brittle. Therefore, you should exercise caution when handling reclaimed wood.
A rule of thumb is to inspect the wood for signs of insect infestations before using it. Some signs to look for include the following:
- Asymmetrical holes in the wood.
- Wood crumbles when you touch it.
- Presence of bugs in the wood.
Reclaimed wood might not be the right choice if you’re looking for an easy-to-install material. It’s more labor-intensive and time-consuming than new-cut lumber.
You may have to spend extra time inspecting and preparing the wood before using it. Some of the preparations needed for reclaimed wood include:
- Checking for nails, screws, and other fasteners and removing them.
- Removing some surface layers to ensure a smooth, level finish.
- Repairing any damaged parts of the wood.
All these processes can take up considerable amounts of your time and effort. Thus, reclaimed wood may not be ideal for you if you’re short on patience or lack enough resources.
It might come as a surprise to you that reclaimed wood is more expensive than new wood. However, this is the reality because, while the supply of reclaimed wood is limited, its demand remains high due to its unique patina and eco-friendliness.
Additionally, reclaiming wood is time-consuming, which adds to its overall cost. Some of the things you may have to pay for include:
- Dismantling old structures.
- Removing nails and other fasteners.
- Preparing the wood for reuse.
- Kiln-drying to kill pests.
Factoring these costs into the equation makes reclaimed wood more expensive than newly cut lumber.
Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Reclaimed Wood
Reclaimed wood has its pros and cons. Therefore, deciding if it meets your needs is up to you and the requirements of the project.
If you’re willing to pay more and put in extra effort, reclaimed wood can add a unique character to your project.
Otherwise, you can go with new lumber for something easier and cheaper to work with.
It’s also worth noting that reclaimed wood is not suitable for all construction projects. For instance, such wood may not always be ideal for structural purposes but can generally be used in decorative projects.
Finally, choosing non-toxic finishes is crucial if you decide to refinish your reclaimed wood.
Besides being safer for the environment, check out these essential benefits of non-toxic wood finishes.