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Highlighting Sustainable Material: Recycled Timber

Highlighting Sustainable Material: Recycled Timber

Utilizing salvaged barn doors and even tree bark, recycled timber adds a distinct touch to construction and design endeavors.

Next time you’re browsing through the home decor aisles of your favorite big-box store, keep an eye out for those charming pieces that seem to be crafted from weathered wood. You know the ones – they exude that timeless rustic vibe that’s been all the rage for years. But here’s the thing: many of these items aren’t actually made from authentic reclaimed wood. Instead, they’re often fashioned from freshly sourced timber that’s been artificially aged through sanding or chemical treatments.

If you’re someone who values sustainability and authenticity, there’s a better option out there: reclaimed wood. Whether you’re planning a new build, a renovation, or simply sprucing up your interior design, salvaged wood can add a unique touch with a smaller environmental footprint. Sure, it might not have the infinite recyclability of materials like glass, but reclaimed wood is undeniably one of the greenest choices you can make for your projects.

And let’s not forget the charm factor. Homeowners adore the warmth and character that weathered wood brings to their spaces, whether it’s in the form of furniture or decor pieces. Even if it’s not sturdy enough for exterior construction, reclaimed wood finds its place in creating cozy atmospheres inside the home.

According to market research from Grand View Research, the demand for reclaimed lumber is steadily growing, with projections indicating a 4.6% annual increase through 2028. So, if you’re looking to make a statement with your design choices while also making a positive impact on the planet, reclaimed wood might just be your perfect match.

Reclaimed Wood 101

“Reclaimed wood is wood that was previously used for another purpose—for example, barns, gymnasiums or bleachers, or industrial buildings,” says Chicago-based interior designer Claudia Martin.

Salvaged wood is low-cost and low-energy. According to research published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the energy used to produce new framing lumber and wood flooring is 11 to 13 times greater than the energy used to make the same products from reclaimed wood.

Another type of reclaimed wood is bark harvested from forest industry waste. These days, a handful of innovative manufacturers are perfecting the process of reclaiming bark from sustainable forestry initiatives so that the entire process is eco-friendly.

Reclaimed Wood Trends in Home Design

Reclaimed wood, like cork or concrete, is a versatile material for builders and designers. As a natural material, it adds authentic warmth and texture to a space while staying friendly to the earth it came from.

Here are five ways reclaimed wood is used in new homes, renovations and interior design projects.

Reclaimed Wood and Tree Bark Siding

Bark has been used as a protective covering on homes since the 1600s, according to Reliance Timber in North Carolina. Back then, bark siding naturally had a rustic look and feel. These days, bark siding producers carefully peel the bark from forest waste, then kiln-dry, flatten and cut it into symmetrical shingles or sheets. The result? One-of-a-kind siding that is sustainable and naturally resistant to the elements.

Reclaimed Wood Paneling

No, this isn’t your ’70s-era basement wood paneling. Reclaimed barn wood planks elevate old designs when used to create a shiplap accent wall or paneled ceiling.

Even better: Martin suggests using reclaimed wood paneling vertically on a wall and the ceiling to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. This combination works particularly well in cabin- or lodge-style homes, though the natural texture of wood can also soften an industrial-style space.

Reclaimed Wood Custom Shelving and Furniture

Today’s homeowners often appreciate the opportunity to stand out with one-of-a-kind pieces like reclaimed wood consoles and headboards. From salvaged live-edge wood to historic wooden floor planks, reclaimed wood offers designers the chance to create a custom piece based on the shape and grain of the available material.

“A great way designers can incorporate reclaimed wood is by using it as shelves,” says Martin. “A floating fireplace mantel using reclaimed wood [also] becomes a focal point.”

Reclaimed Wood Doors and Window Frames

“Architecture can come to life by using reclaimed wood to build door and window frames and trim. Custom barn doors using wood from actual barns are authentic and environmentally friendly,” Martin says.

Homeowners might also appreciate salvaged barn doors because the product is already made. Unlike traditional swinging doors, barn doors can be installed on a visible track to move along the wall. Since the door doesn’t have to fit flush inside the door frame, sliding barn doors give designers and contractors a bit of leeway in size.

Reclaimed Wood Built-Ins

Kitchens and bathrooms are still the most popular rooms to renovate, according to Fixr. And while spaces exposed to moisture might not be the first choice for reclaimed wood built-ins, Martin suggests reclaimed wood kitchen islands or bathroom vanities can absolutely work. That could be because old-growth reclaimed wood is solid, precured and rot-resistant compared with the wood veneer over particleboard you might find at some big-box retailers.

Wood countertops not your clients’ style? Reclaimed wood can also be incorporated into built-in cabinets, shelves, and cozy alcoves.

Finding Reclaimed Wood Resources and Retailers

“The best way to source reclaimed wood is to start in your own community,” Martin says. “There are online dealers as well, but beware of big-box–type stores where you might be getting something that is new material, just made to look old.”

For DIY reclaimed wood projects, custom furniture, or shelving, Martin suggests checking Craigslist, Nextdoor, or Facebook Marketplace for someone in your area who sells locally sourced reclaimed wood or items made from local reclaimed wood. If you have a specific item in mind, you can widen your geographic reach by looking for reclaimed wood products on eBay or Etsy.

Clients interested in using bark siding for new builds or exterior renovations should check out BarkClad, Hardin Creek or Bark House. Bark House, a Cradle to Cradle–certified(link is external) supplier, also offers interior bark wall finishes.

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