As conservation efforts gain momentum, more homeowners are looking to incorporate sustainable materials into their buildings.
That’s why reclaimed wood is quickly becoming a popular alternative to its traditional solid counterpart.
However, are the two comparable, or are there notable differences?
The main differences between reclaimed wood vs solid wood are sourcing, age, appearance, sustainability, durability, and price. Since reclaimed wood is the repurposed variation of virgin wood, it’s more sustainable and offers a weathered, rustic look. Solid wood is cheaper and easier to work with.
If you’re in the process of choosing a material for an upcoming building project, repurposed and solid wood are both excellent options.
So, read on as I dive into their differences, similarities, and overall suggestions so that you can make a well-informed decision on the better alternative.
Though, as you’ll see below, the two materials share many similarities, some glaring differences still need to be accounted for. So, let’s explore them a bit more in-depth.
Reclaimed and solid wood both originally come from trees. However, while the former is usually sourced from old bridges, barns, buildings, or other structures that are no longer used, the latter is directly harvested from forests before being processed into lumber.
This means that the two materials will boast different physical and chemical properties, which can affect your construction’s overall look and performance.
The main reason behind these chemical and physical differences is the aging process, which can significantly affect the properties of lumber.
Reclaimed wood is typically much older than its solid counterpart, often dating back to the 19th century. As a result, it’s normal to expect some imperfections or structural kinks while working with it.
On the other hand, virgin wood is typically much younger. This is because it has not undergone any previous use or exposure to the elements (which helps keep it young even though it might have been harvested decades ago).
This age difference will most notably manifest itself in the wood’s appearance. That’s why you’ll likely be able to tell reclaimed and standard solid wood apart just by looking at them.
Reclaimed wood has a signature rustic, weathered look and unique kinks and imperfections that give the material some personality. In contrast, regular solid looks far smoother, crisper, and generally more uniform (though some flaws are still present since you’re dealing with natural wood).
Since reclaimed wood is, as the name suggests, a repurposed material, it’s bound to be far more sustainable than its solid counterpart. So, by taking what many consider trash and giving it a new life, you’re reducing waste and, in turn, your carbon footprint.
With that said, new, solid wood is still one of the most sustainable building materials you can choose. That’s because it’s natural and renewable, unlike other options.
Still, going reclaimed is the best choice if you want to take your environmental conservation efforts up a notch.
Reclaimed wood tends to be stronger and more durable than its standard solid counterpart. In addition, since it’s already been used and exposed to the elements, reclaimed wood is well-seasoned and will naturally be less likely to crack or warp than standard solid wood.
Once repurposed wood has been approved for reuse, you can rest assured that it has undergone all the necessary treatment and testing to ensure it is safe and fit for purpose.
Finally, the two materials also differ in price. Generally speaking, reclaimed wood is more expensive than its solid counterpart.
Granted, if you’re comparing materials of different sources and qualities, this might not be the case; however, for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’re comparing two pieces of the same material – the only difference is that one’s repurposed and one’s brand new.
Due to its unique history and the fact that it must undergo extensive treatment before being repurposed, reclaimed wood is bound to cost more.
So, if you’re on a tighter budget, it’s essential to consider how much you’re willing to pay for increased sustainability and a more sought-after look and feel.
Though reclaimed and solid wood have their fair share of differences, they’re still similar materials used to achieve the same general look and feel. So, let’s explore some of their similarities.
- Natural materials.
- Highly versatile.
- Rustic look.
- Harvested from the same source.
As you can see, reclaimed and solid wood share more similarities than differences, so the choice between the two will ultimately come down to personal preference and the type of project at hand.
Reclaimed Wood vs Solid Wood – Which One To Choose?
If you’re unsure which option would serve you best, here’s some general advice.
Going reclaimed might be your best bet if you prioritize sustainability and are after a more personalized, rustic look.
On the other hand, if you’re on a tighter budget, standard solid wood might be the better option.
I also want to note that the best choice depends on the structure you’re trying to build. For example, reclaimed wood is unbeatable if you’re constructing an accent piece whose purpose is mainly aesthetic.
Though reclaimed and solid wood are harvested from the same source, they differ in sourcing methods, age, appearance, sustainability, durability, and price point.
However, since both boast many benefits, the choice will ultimately come down to personal preferences and priorities.
So, if you’re stuck trying to decide between the two, hopefully, the above comparison and suggestions can help you make an informed choice.
If you’re looking for some ideas on how reclaimed wood can be used to add character to your home, you might enjoy our article on reclaimed wood ceilings that offers some design inspiration for your next project.