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The Many Faces of Reclaimed Wood

The term “reclaimed wood” is used all the time, but it means different things in different settings. Some types of reclaimed wood count as “salvaged materials” that contribute to points in LEED and help comply with green building codes while others do not.

For most builders and designers, “reclaimed wood” is lumber extracted from old structures—anything from timbers in buildings to old railroad ties. These timbers are often of a size and quality that is difficult to get from forests today, now that most available old-growth trees are gone. The fact that they have aged, if they haven’t suffered from rot, makes them more stable than new wood, which can shrink and check as it dries. Some timber-frame builders specialize in using these reclaimed timbers, and several flooring companies offer “character wood” floors with nail holes and other signs of a past life.

Published November 29, 2011