This is a guest post by Viridian Reclaimed Wood, a reclaimed wood company that is locally owned and operated in Portland, Oregon. Viridian is committed to finding the best use for every stick of wood that is reclaimed to reduce demand for new lumber.
There are a number of great websites where you can start researching waste reduction strategies, environmental building materials (e.g. BEC Green in Canada) and recycling options. But an excellent overall resolution is to make use of reclaimed materials wherever possible.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 1 million cubic feet of building materials are removed from demolition sites each year. Much of this can be reclaimed instead of ending up as landfill, which is something that organizations such as the National Community Wood Recycling project in the UK and the Green Building Council in the US are trying to promote.
Reclaimed hardwood flooring and reclaimed wood paneling are growing in popularity because they’re just as attractive as their virgin counterparts. They are also good for the environment and economical.
Because reclaimed lumber often comes from old-growth trees, it can be up to 40 times harder than virgin wood (on the Janka hardness scale) which is great for durability. Age and weathering also give salvaged wood a unique look that you’ll never find in virgin woods without a laborious (and probably chemical-intensive) staining process.
Panels or veneers made of reclaimed wood are strong and resist warping better than those made of solid wood, making them an ideal choice for bathrooms and kitchens. Many types of salvaged lumber are also weather-resistant, and therefore great for decking and outdoor needs.
One of the advantages of reclaimed wood is that it can be locally-sourced, so reducing the energy expended in shipping this heavy material. It takes less energy to manufacture an item from reclaimed lumber than virgin wood and the manufacturing process doesn’t require petroleum-based synthetic materials to look beautiful.
Reclaimed wood can be salvaged from many places: old buildings, shipyards, wine casks, water tanks, shipping and crating materials, barns and school gyms. The lumber is kiln-dried and milled, ready for reuse. And the wood’s back-story as an old ship, barn, school or wine cask makes for interesting conversations.
There is a wide variety of woods available in reclaimed form and you can even use exotic woods without guilt, assuming these are genuinely salvaged.
Unless you source the wood yourself, it is best to purchase from dealers that are certified by reputable, eco-friendly organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance or Forest Stewardship Council. This gives you peace of mind that the lumber is truly reclaimed.
And if it is, it can give your project coveted LEED points that count for green building certification, something which is increasingly being encouraged, and even incentivized, by far-sighted municipalities in the US and elsewhere.
And don’t forget the other side of the equation: if you are demolishing a building think about selling your old wood to companies that deal in reclaimed wood.