Professional house flippers like Nicole Curtis of the DIY Networks’ ‘Rehab Addict’ live by the mantra that almost every board in an old home has a second, third, or even fourth life left in it. New salvaged wood projects are posted almost hourly on sites like Pinterest – from fences made out of old pallets to an end table constructed of beat up barn board to a reclaimed wood decorative moose hanging; if you’ve got an idea and some old wood – you’ve got a project. One of the most popular applications for using aged and worn wood in your home is installing a reclaimed floor to add luster and perhaps more importantly, value.
The Process of Reclaiming the Wood
As you might imagine, a supply of salvaged wood is the first thing needed when attempting to install a reclaimed floor. Contractors, realtors, house flippers, and the amateur handyman will scour their neighborhood for homes that are about to be demolished, remodeled, or burnt down as part of fire department training. Mark Miller of M&M Flooring in Galena, Illinois recommends that three conditions be met to determine if the wood is salvageable:
- The wood thickness needs to be wide enough to be sanded and finished.
- The condition of the wood must be free of cracks, knots, excessive screw and nail holes, and other imperfections that can’t be sanded out.
- The effort of reclaiming the wood must not be more excessive than the gains, which could mean removing multiple layers of carpet and tile or working in unfit or dangerous conditions.
Besides salvaging your own wood from an old house or even a nearby river bank, many manufacturers produce the flooring out of reclaimed wood in their inventory. The types of woods that work best with this method include Douglas Fir, Chestnut, Oak and Maple Strips, Teak Wood, and Barn Wood. Buying wood flooring that is manufactured will ease the installation process and usually carries a guarantee of five to ten years. The finishing process of a reclaimed wood floor can be tricky as to not compromise the integrity of the wood and Miller recommends water based finishes for ease of use, tung oil for heavy traffic areas, and wax finishes to enhance the authentic and traditional look.
The benefits of integrating a salvaged wood floor into your home go well beyond adding historic looks and having a built-in conversation starter. All wood floors enhance the value of your home but reclaimed lumber also preserves precious landfill space and keeps a cool part of our history alive for the next generation.