Reclaimed wood is a popular way to save money on a construction project without sacrificing quality and style. There is an art to choosing the best reclaimed wood, whether it's from an old barn, a house demolition, or unwanted pallets. Knowing the issues to look for will ensure you pick out the best and most stable wood for your project.
Pest-damaged reclaimed wood can be quite attractive. For example, beetle damage in pine trees results in beautiful blue striations that are much desired in reclaimed wood. The problem is when there are still active pests in the wood. It's vital that the wood you are considering doesn't contain any living wood-eating pests, as you don't want to introduce termites or similar pests to your home. Active fungal growth, like signs of mildew and mold, should also be avoided.
It's not uncommon for some types of wood to be coated in or even impregnated with pesticides. This isn't a problem when building a fence or similar structure that needs pest protection, but it can be a concern if the wood is to be used for creating a dining room table or flooring in the house. Reclaimed pallets are the usual toxin culprits, but they should have stamps on them indicating if they are treated. Furthermore, use caution with old painted wood, as the old paint may contain lead.
Dampness is a problem in all wood, whether newly milled or reclaimed. Avoid reclaimed wood that feels soft -- if you can make indentations in it with your thumbnail, then choose a different piece of wood. Any reclaimed wood you choose should be dry and firm, not soft, splintering, or otherwise showing the ravages of the damp.
Older wood can begin to degrade over time, sometimes from the inside out. If the wood feels too light for its size or if it sounds hollow when tapped, then the structure of the wood may be breaking down. Furthermore, ensure that existing holes, knotholes, and other wear and tear won't interfere with your intended use for the reclaimed wood.
Nails embedded in reclaimed wood can be a nasty surprise if you don't keep an eye out for them. Make sure any nails or other hardware are either removed before using the wood or that they are located in an area that won't interfere with the project that you have in mind.
Contact a reclaimed wood supplier for help when it comes to finding the perfect material for your next project.
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