Pros & Cons of Reclaimed Wood

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Reclaimed wood is wood that has been used for other purposes in the past, and is now being recycled and reused. Wood had become the main building material in North America and Europe from the 18th century to the 20th century when wood was in abundance.

Like everything else, there are pros and cons to using reclaimed wood too. The advantages are that it is environmentally sustainable, has a unique appearance, and is sturdy and durable. The disadvantages are that the prices are not stable because of limited supply, legitimacy, and the possibility of toxins and pests.

History of Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed barn wood mixed hardwoods floor
Image Credit: John M. via Creative Commons

The sources of reclaimed wood are old factories, barns, decks, sheds, and other wooden structures. Reclaimed wood is very popular nowadays because of the ‘green buildings’ boom. It helps you to preserve natural resources and to improve the quality of your life!

Reclaiming wood first started in the early 20th century. Wood is the second oldest building material, even dating back to 8500 B.C. During the Industrial Revolution and the period following World War II, people used wood extensively both in North America and Europe. Sawmills mushroomed in towns employing thousands of workers. There was no dearth of wood.

Wood became increasingly rare during the early 20th century. The reasons were an infestation of pests, erratic supply issues that caused many sawmills to close down, the battle between environmentalists and woodcutters (lumberjacks), and wildfires- to name a few.

Reclaimed wood in Various Countries

To protect the world, as less wood is available for construction, people started thinking about the ecological equivalent of newly harvested wood.

This was when entrepreneurs got the idea of reclaimed wood. People considered reclaimed wood as ‘used’ and ‘dirty’ until the 1950s and 1960s compared to new wood. It was during those times that they started seeing a new value in reclaimed wood, using it to make furniture and walls.

Most of the recycled flooring and paneling you see in homes, offices, bars, and restaurants nowadays came from the railways, factories, mills, and warehouses of North America, France, and the north of England, where most of the industries were located.

Reclaimed wood is capable of making your house look elegant and also increases the commercial value of your house.

The older the wood, the tighter the grain will be which makes it hard-wearing and resistant to the vagaries of nature. You can reclaim any species of wood, the common ones being oak, redwood, and Douglas fir. Pine, spruce, and cedar also make suitable reclaimed wood.

Reclaimed Wood Today

Reclaimed wood species of the longleaf pine are rare and can take 500 years to mature, whereas the common yellow pine takes only 50 years to mature. In the past, the mainstay of the USA’s wood industry was the longleaf pine. The planks from these trees used to be long and sturdy.

Today, in the US these species occupy only 2% of the original planted area, as compared to 41% in the 1800s. These statistics will show you why using reclaimed wood is so important.

We choose the wood with the finished product in mind. We generally use oak for flooring because of its durable nature. Maple has a smooth grain and we use it to make furniture. Reclaimed wood is best for kitchen floors as it is exceptionally strong, scratch and scuff-resistant.

It should be able to withstand the continuous foot traffic, dropped dishes, and spills. It is also resistant to moisture and doesn’t swell or warp easily even when exposed to high humidity as it has already undergone weathering!

Pros and Cons of Reclaimed Wood

There are unique advantages and disadvantages to using reclaimed wood. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin:

Pros of Reclaimed Wood

The Ecological Benefit

Everyone is aware of the impact of mass deforestation on the environment. So, using reclaimed wood is ecologically friendly because wood (a renewable resource) after using it for a particular purpose, we recycle and use it again. For this, we dismantle old wooden structures carefully instead of demolishing them.

Using reclaimed wood (made of specific species) could earn your home special benefits as your projects will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design  (LEED) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

Unique Appearance

Shabby Chic Coffee Table Photo
Image Credit: Slothedit via Creative Commons

After being subjected to weathering for many decades, reclaimed wood takes on a unique appearance. Interesting markings and numerous knots give the wood its unique and charming character. This is the result of its previous life. The appearance of reclaimed wood is much better than that of new wood.

Strong and Durable

We consider reclaimed wood strong, stable, and durable. After exposure to the elements for decades, and all the contractions and expansions that occurred due to humidity the wood becomes stable. Many eco-friendly brands have chosen reclaimed wood to make their range of solid wood flooring.

Cons of Reclaimed wood

Scarce Commodity

Reclaimed wood is becoming scarce because of the great demand for use in homes. The supply is sure to run out because there are only so many old wooden structures that you can dismantle. It is definitely good for the environment because all that wood has been reused and saved from the landfill.

Expensive Option

Reclaimed wood has become costly because it involves a lot of work to process.

The wood has to be sorted according to its species and prepared for use inside homes. Dismantling takes time as you will need to preserve the wood. It is an additional cost and gets passed on to the customer. The scarcity of reclaimed wood also raises the prices of existing supplies.

 Legitimacy Issues

Customers have to make sure that the wood they are buying is reclaimed wood. Sometimes when unscrupulous retailers find reclaimed wood is scarce, they make a blend of old and new woods and pass them off as reclaimed wood to fill in the shortage in the market. They also charge customers exorbitant prices for such lumber.


Word toxic in test-tube holding a gloved hand

In the past, warehouses and barns may have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals that we consider toxic today. There is no way you can know which piece has been treated and with what chemical. These could contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), lead paint, or insecticides.


Wood is normally home to many pests. You can see sure signs of infestation-if you inspect the wood properly. The wood crumbles when touched and asymmetrical holes form indicating the presence of bugs.

Hidden Dangers

You should always buy reclaimed from a company that sorts and processes it. Otherwise, there is every likelihood of finding hidden dangers like nails and other organic matter. Wearing gloves while examining the pieces of wood is advisable


Reclaimed wood is an eco-friendly and renewable source. It is one of the most sustainable materials available in the market.  It gives new life to large quantities of wood that would otherwise end up as landfill waste.

We don’t have to cut down new trees for wood. It looks good and with the right kind of maintenance, you can make it last for a very long time. We know reclaimed wood for giving projects a rustic look together with an old-world charm. Each piece of reclaimed wood is unique with a character of its own.

Its uses are endless and the best part is its sustainable nature. You don’t need to worry if you buy wood from a dealer, but you need to be doubly cautious if you are buying wood from a salvage company or demolition site. Remember, when you buy reclaimed wood you are securing the future of humankind!