Reclaimed wood flooring offers a truly eye-catching decision when it comes to wood floors. Rather than installing a wood floor from recently harvested trees, why not install a floor with a history behind it? Additionally, it’s green since no existing trees are consumed.  Southern Wood Floors often explains that we “Harvest Buildings not Tress”.

But who knows? The trees that provide the wood for your reclaimed wood floor might have been around during the American Revolution or the Civil War. If reclaimed floors could only talk!

Even if you’re not wowed by a tree’s heritage, recycled wood floors have several nuances that “new wood” just does’t. Remember  thre are other considerations to evaluate as well. Read on to find out what’s special about these floors.

What Exactly Is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed Heart Pine Source Building

Reclaimed Heart Pine Source Building

Reclaimed wood is simply wood that has been salvaged from deconstructed structures or discarded wood products reclaimed for the purpose of another useful life. It includes wood from old structures, weathered barn siding and fences, old factory beams and even pristine sunken logs.

It can even include existing trees that were naturally felled because of storms or those removed from forests and orchards because of urban expansion or declining fruit production (also known as “forest salvaged”). These trees would otherwise be left to rot or be destroyed. Rather than being incinerated, stuffed in landfills or left to decay, this wood is reclaimed and recycled into a number of products, including reclaimed wood flooring.

In most cases you’ll find that the wood used in these floors had some other useful purpose in a previous life. Many of the old structures in the US that were built in the last two centuries used wood as the predominant structural material. These buildings are now being dismantled and their wood turned into recycled wood flooring.

The companies that produce reclaimed flooring source their wood from different places resulting in a variety of available wood species. Some obtain their wood from their local area, taking advantage of the availability of old abandoned barns and factories. Others literally travel the globe to find different sources of wood, indigenous to the local area.

Different locations yield different types of wood. For example, barns in the midwest United States might yield American Chestnut,Oak, or Elm while old Southeastern factories from the late 1800’s and early  might be the source for antique reclaimed southern heart pine.   Even structures in the industrial Northeast used long leaf pine from the South to build early structures starting in the 1700’s.

Reclaimed Heart Pine Beam Cross Section

Reclaimed Heart Pine Beam Cross Section

As countries in Asia and South American continue to modernize, old buildings and structures made from more exotic woods like Teak are being taken down and turned into reclaimed wood flooring. These areas provide the diversity of antique tropical woods that complement the more traditional North American hardwoods and softwoods.

Some companies, such as those that salvage sunken logs, distinguish between “reclaimed” wood and “recovered” wood. They state that reclaimed wood is wood that was previously used, for instance in a building or structure. They define recovered wood as virgin timber that never reached the processing stage.

Suffice to say, reclaimed wood and the flooring that it produces always yields a unique provenance whether deriving from a building, log or even a discarded pallet. In most cases it was used before and is now finding a useful purpose once again in things like flooring, furniture, and walls.

Reclaimed wood flooring has a number of benefits, some that you just can’t get with newly harvested wood.

The Benefits of Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Environmentally friendly

The fact that reclaimed wood floors reuse wood otherwise destined for the waste or abandonment is a plus for the environment. It saves resources by preserving existing forests and habitats. It avoids filling up landfills with material that’s removed from the demolition of old structures or abandoned wood elements.

A uniqueness all its own

Where else can you get a floor made from from trees growing at our nation’s founding or that saw the first model T? You can know your floor history with reclaimed wood flooring which is something today’s newly harvested wood just can’t provide. There’s a history behind most reclaimed wood that brings an added dimension to a home. It’s a physical link to the past. In addition, reclaimed wood is naturally unique with colors, grains and patinas not easily found in newer-growth wood.  The natural oxidation of such aged wood is unique.

Floors made of rare and uncommon wood – responsibly

Some of the wood used to construct older buildings were made with wood species that for all intents and purposes don’t exist for commercial purposes anymore. American Chestnut is one of them. Essentially killed off by a blight that occurred at the turn of the century, American Chestnut isn’t available anymore. But you can experience the uniquely American tree from reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed Heart Pine Cottage

Reclaimed Heart Pine Cottage

Teak, particularly old growth, is rare these days, coming under greater protection from harvesting. Reclaimed teak timbers from buildings disassembled for more modern buildings is a source for old growth teak floors. Reclaimed wood flooring is a way to obtain these rare and protected wood types that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

It’s available with modern amenities too

Reclaimed wood floors are also available from some sources in an engineered form. This allows you to install the floor in places that solid wood can’t go, such as basements for example. A top surface of reclaimed wood is laminated to a substrate in the same manner as modern-day engineered hardwood floors.

Other Considerations of Reclaimed Wood Flooring

It’s easy to get caught up in some of the romance associated with reclaimed wood floors. It’s fun being able to say your floors were once part of a specific building. But before you get too emotionally wound up, step back and take a look at these considerations to help make a clear decision.

It’s still a wood floor – choose wisely

Remember that these are still floors after all. Keep in mind the same considerations about choosing a wood floor when you’re contemplating a reclaimed wood floor. In other words, consider the room style, the type of environment, the traffic it will experience, etc.

Environmental, social and historic impact awareness

Making responsible buying decisions means knowing a little more about the origin of your reclaimed wood floor. The recycled aspect of reclaimed wood flooring is great as long as obtaining it doesn’t come at the expense of the local environment, economy or cultural heritage.

Some sources of recycled wood possess certification trails and others use widely accepted certification programs. These certification involves chain-of-custody verification and validation of environmentally and socially responsible practices for the recovery of wood products.

A finite supply and frequently changing inventory

The amount of rare, antique and reclaimed wood that’s available is finite. There are only so many old structures and other sources of these woods that exist. So, if you intend to buy it might make sense to procure some additional material for any repairs or expansion later on. You might not want to delay too long either if the wood you’re contemplating is from a limited source. There may not be any or enough left if you wait too long.

Not found in your local home center

One of the drawbacks with reclaimed wood flooring is that the products typically aren’t sold at traditional retail outlets. This is more of a specialty type of product and as such, you’ll need to deal directly with the companies that sell this type of flooring. Any products you purchase are usually shipped directly to you.