Reclaimed Wood As A Building Material (And Where To Find It)

A photograph of a wall made from reclaimed wood with individual planks running vertically, the colors of which vary from a light sandy brown to very dark brown. The grain is visible in the wood and there are lots of characterful imperfections and knots in the wood. In the bottom right is a man wearing a shirt and tie with glasses on holding a magnifying glass up to his left eye. In the bottom left is a rundown wooden house in the countryside. Across the top of the image are the words, "Reclaimed Wood As A Building Material (And Where To Find It)" written in white letters.

Are you considering revamping your property or building a new home in a sustainable way?

Well, there is one way to do this with one of the most common sustainable building materials available and give your home a unique and elegant look in no time — by using reclaimed wood.

Popular for wooden floor panels, cabinets, tables, chairs, and patio decks, reclaimed wood can mitigate deforestation and the associated ecosystem damage that poorly managed forestry operations can have.

The long-term benefits for the planet and for your home are worth the effort. 

If you have heard of reclaimed wood and want to learn more about it, where to find it, and what aspects to keep in mind, continue reading.

Once you’re done, you will know exactly what to keep an eye out for and can kickstart your renovation project in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.

You might even inspire those around you to do the same. 

What is Reclaimed Wood?

A silver-gray wall of reclaimed wood with wavy edges with very prominent grains and knots. In the left of the image is a cartoon person with their hands up and question marks above their head.
Reclaimed wood is salvaged from old buildings and repurposed for new projects.

The concept of reclaimed wood can be explained in many ways. However, the simplest one is any wood material or item that has been salvaged and can be repurposed and reused.

Redwood, oak, and Douglas fir are the most common types of reclaimed wood because they are versatile, readily available, and known for their durability and reliability.

Reclaimed Wood as a Building Material

Reclaimed wood for building purposes has become a recent trend, given the shift in consumer preference toward sustainability. Many families opt to live in green homes with minimal carbon footprints. Using reclaimed wood for construction or renovation projects reduces your environmental impact.

Where to Find Reclaimed Lumber and Wood? 

As challenging as it may seem, finding reclaimed wood is relatively easy. 

You can investigate the following places to get your hands on unique and elegant pieces. Be sure to check them out.

Teardown Sites

Contractors doing a complete teardown or remodeling of old buildings have vast amounts of reclaimed wood.

In addition, they often have other items, such as granite countertops and cabinets, you might be able to get your hands on.

However, to do this, you must contact the local contractor in your area and inquire about any upcoming teardown sites. You can even ask them whether they are inclined towards setting aside reclaimed wood for repurposing.

Reclaimed barn wood is a particular favorite among many homeowners because of its rustic charm.

A yellow 360° excavator with caterpillar tracks tearing down a house with its bucket.
Teardown sites are a great place to pick up some bargain reclaimed wood.

Online Platforms

You can use numerous apps to find reclaimed pieces of wood. Here you can find the exact type of wood you’re searching for, including the price range and desired features.

In many cases, brand-new wood material may be available too. Many construction projects that buy too many materials have their surplus wood auctioned or sold off on online apps and platforms.

Rather than sell this old wood to reclaimed lumber dealers, many firms these days will sell reclaimed barn wood, lumber, and other building materials online, so others can reuse these valuable resources in their house building projects.

Neighbors and Family Members

Has a neighbor invested in a renovation project? Or is a family member looking to discard all old furniture and items and replace them with new ones?

Well, this could be your opportunity to find reclaimed wood. You can ask them if they want to give away any items or if they’re up for sale. You’ll be surprised at how much recycled stuff you will find with this technique. 

Keep An Eye Out For Flyers

Many families post flyers and brochures in cafés, restaurants, and local grocery stores. You can keep a lookout for these and find reclaimed wood items by being the first to respond. 

You can even trade your own items this way. For example, if you have items that you wish to discard from your own renovation project, you can use this method to suggest a bartering arrangement without spending a penny.  

Find Reclaimed Wood On Construction Sites

Construction sites have a lot of leftover materials and wood resources. To save them from being dumped into a landfill site, contact the contractor and get permission from them to go through some of the unwanted items.

You’d be amazed at what you can find in construction dumpsters because often people don’t realize they could sell those barn doors and other barn wood for a pretty penny.

Benefits Of Using Reclaimed Wood 

Reclaimed wood is often found in building projects these days. And rightfully so. Let’s look at some of its numerous advantages over newly harvested wood. 

A  closeup of a piece of distressed reclaimed wood lumber.
Reclaimed wood often has much more character thanks to its age.

Eco-Friendly Building Materials

If you are big on saving the planet, reclaimed wood is just the material you need for future projects. It reduces the harmful impacts of deforestation on the environment as it cuts the demand for new sources of lumber by reusing construction waste.

Similarly, it is also a renewable resource that reduces landfill waste in the long run, making this material great for the environment.

Vast Range Of Applications

Reclaimed wood can be used in a wide range of ways. Be it for wooden flooring, decks, tables, chairs, and countertops, there is a huge variety of options open to you.

Using this versatile material, you can make any wooden item, requiring fewer stains and paints for finishing. Keep this in mind — you don’t want to strip away the natural quality of the wood by covering it up with a satin finish. 

Reliability And Durability

Reclaimed wood is a lot more durable than you may think. It is more robust than first-generation wood and is less likely to deteriorate.

In addition, because the moisture content in reclaimed wood is very low, it is an excellent fit for commercial and home renovation projects. Plus, you can expect the reclaimed wood to last a lifetime if maintained properly.

Reclaimed Wood Can Bring Your Property To Life 

Since reclaimed wood has an aged look, it makes your property unique and classy. The look and finish reclaimed wood offers is unlike new wood — which can be noticed by anyone walking into your home.

It also makes your home look more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing.

How Reclaimed Wood Can Be Used For Sustainable Construction 

Reclaimed wood is as sustainable as it gets. Here are some of the popular ways in which reclaimed wood can be utilized.

Structural Framing

It can be used for structural framing if the wood is fir, white oak, white pine, Douglas fir, or cedar. This type of wood is likely to be solid and sturdy.

However, each piece requires an inspection before being declared viable for use.


A closeup of slats of reclaimed wood flooring.
Reclaimed wood flooring is often salvaged intact from teardown sites and can easily be reused with no or minimal milling.

Reclaimed wood works well for floorings as well. And they’re a lot less expensive, making the investment truly worth it.

In addition, you can expect a slip-free floor with reclaimed wood, as most surfaces don’t require polishing and coating with silicone-based products. 

Cabinets and Furniture

When it comes to furniture and cabinets, reclaimed wood is the perfect addition. Unlike many items on the market today, you can find rustic and traditional pieces.

A table, door, and set of chairs made from reclaimed wood are shown.
Reclaimed wood can be used to make interesting furniture, as well as for the structure of your home.

They are a lot more valuable and are often sold at giveaway prices. You’re likely to reduce your expenses during a home renovation project this way. 

Things To Be Mindful Of When Using Reclaimed Building Materials

With all the benefits and uses of reclaimed wood discussed, you should know that a few negative aspects cannot be overlooked.

Unfortunately, reclaimed wood has a few drawbacks as well. However, they can easily be mitigated with proper attention to detail and care.

May Contain Toxins

If you are purchasing reclaimed wood that has been treated, chances are it is laced with certain chemicals. These can include traces of lead, insecticides, and preservatives.

To ensure your wood is toxin-free, have it tested first to understand whether it has been treated during its past life before you reuse it. It may have undergone several treatments if it has been used multiple times. 

Look Out for Pests

Reclaimed wood may become infested with pests. Therefore, inspecting the wood before purchasing it is essential. Here are a few signs to look for.

  • Holes in the wood
  • Wood is weak and crumbles as you touch it
  • Presence of small bugs

If any of these signs are present, you can kiln-dry the reclaimed wood or treat it with chemicals to ensure it is fit for use. 

How Is Reclaimed Wood Maintained? 

Once you have reclaimed wood in your possession, it must be maintained. Maintenance is an added step to keep it in top shape and add depth to your home. 

Cleaning Reclaimed Wood Items

Waxing it every few months is the best way to clean items made from reclaimed wood, such as furniture. You want to use mild and high-quality wax for this and avoid anything silicone-based. 

Mixing water, olive oil, and white vinegar is the best way to clean your reclaimed wood furniture and flooring. Then, gently wipe down the surface to remove any accumulation of dust and debris.

This technique, however, works best for reclaimed wood that has yet to be treated. Simply wiping down with a cleaning rag soaked in water and mild soap will do for treated wood. 

Avoid Markings and Stains

A wooden floor has been damaged and scratched, leaving a very distressed appearance.
It’s often possible to clean up reclaimed wood without too much effort. However, sometimes you’ll need to strip off any varnish and sand the boards back to a clean finish before reuse.

Imperfections are a common problem with reclaimed materials. However, they can easily be avoided.

Here are some tips to avoid stains and markings on your reclaimed wood furniture.

  • Place coasters and mats under hot plates and cups to prevent ring marks from forming.
  • Place a pad under paper if you are writing on a table made from reclaimed wood, which will prevent impressions from forming on the surface.
  • Wipe any spills immediately to keep your reclaimed wood furniture free of watermarks and stains.

Avoid Dragging

If you have reclaimed wood furniture, try not to drag it while moving it, which can leave scratches and marks on the surface.

Instead, lift the item and have it placed wherever desired. You can even place felt pads under the legs of furniture to further protect reclaimed flooring from scratches and wear and tear. 

The Bottom Line

Using reclaimed wood is a great way to promote sustainability.

It reduces the environmental impacts that can sometimes be associated with forestry activities and is a great way to build and live in greener housing.

Raise awareness of the benefits of reclaimed wood by actively promoting it.

For example, you can forward this article to friends or family who may be thinking of a new building project. It will save them a lot of time and reduce the environmental impact of their next building project.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like, “Where Do You Buy Sustainable Building Materials (21 Shops)?

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