The Art, Economy, and Perils of Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Previously published by Tomorrow’s Contract Floors

reclaimed wood flooring

Reclaimed hardwood timber floor in a kitchen

Reclaimed wood flooring continues to enchant homeowners. No wonder as each plank has its own unique character. Mass-produced, new boards and planks present a uniform size and appearance. New timber lacks the stories that reclaimed wood shares through its aged patinas, grains, and markings.

Antique wood also carries the intangible beauty of its history. Barns and retired ships are only two examples of reclaimed wood sources. When you install reclaimed wood in a new structure, it brings with it the spirit of its prior life.

The environmentally-friendly reclaimed wood also contributes to its charisma. Reclaimed wood products reduce the need to harvest new wood, preserving forests. Harvesting aged wood also consumes less energy than virgin wood. The cost of reclaimed wood averages between $8,000 – $10,000 per 1000/sq. ft., the same range as mid-range new wood floors or engineered wood. Yet the durability of reclaimed wood compounds both its environmental and economic benefits.

Considerations when Selecting and Installing a Reclaimed Wood Floor

One of the joys of reclaimed wood is the possibility of working with an extinct or rare species. For example, reclaimed heart pine is hundreds of years old and has a strength befitting a quality hardwood floor. Oak is another hardwood suitable for flooring. Its wide availability makes it a cost-effective option. Maple and walnut are also good options for reclaimed wood flooring.

One of the challenges of reclaimed wood floor installation is ensuring supply. Distinctiveness is one of its prizes. Yet you do want consistency within a project. That means buying wood reclaimed from one original source if possible. Work with a reputable reclaimed wood dealer. They can estimate what you’ll need for a project. Then they can find sources that can cover that quantity. If you do need reclaimed wood from multiple sources, they should be of similar age, location, and use (internal or external). Sources with these similarities will have aged in similar ways.

Another consideration is assessing the moisture content (MC) of reclaimed wood, which has to reach its equilibrium moisture content (EMC) to avoid moisture-related defects after installation. A wood product’s EMC varies based on its environment. Wood reclaimed from a factory has acclimated to the factory’s environment, not your project’s. You need to wait until the reclaimed wood has stabilized to its EMC in its new home before starting any installation.

The only way to know if it’s reached its EMC state is to measure and track the wood’s MC. A sophisticated meter like Wagner Meters’ Orion® 950 measures the MC that exists inside the wood. The Orion 950 also has a built-in temperature and RH sensor. The pinless meter uses all this data to calculate the EMC for you. Results are easy to read as the sensors send the data via Bluetooth® to the free FloorSmart app.

Having an accurate reading of the reclaimed wood’s EMC is vital to knowing when it’s safe to install.

The Splendor and Business Opportunity of Reclaimed Wood

reclaimed parquet flooring

Reclaimed parquet flooring

The trend of reclaimed wood flooring in home building and renovation is only going to grow. People want to personalize their home and feel good about the building materials they use to do it. Using reclaimed wood fulfills both these objectives.

That means there’s an opportunity for you to take on reclaimed wood flooring projects. Like homeowners, flooring installers often find personal and professional satisfaction working with aged wood.

With the right preparation, care, and tools, you’ll be able to install sustainable, rewarding, and enduring wood floors people will enjoy for generations to come.

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