A Des Moines Custom Home Builder Blog

Des Moines Custom Home Trends: Using Reclaimed Wood

Posted by Don Brill on August 09, 2016

reclaimed wood used as inlay in tray ceiling

Everything Old Is New Again

One of the hippest looks right now is using reclaimed wood in new, custom homes. Reclaimed wood refers to hardwood that has been salvaged from older buildings, structures, or industrial applications. It comes in a wide variety of colors, styles, and conditions, depending on its original use.This article belongs to the Construction Process Series 

Reclaimed wood has age and character. It can give your space a warmer, more organic look when used with modern industrial-looking materials like steel and concrete. On the other end of the spectrum, it can help give your home a thoroughly rustic, farmhouse feel. How much you use, the nature of the material, and the way in which you use it contribute to the overall effect reclaimed wood will have in your home.


Reclaimed Wood Is Environmentally Responsible

Converting existing wood structures and products that are destined for landfills or are otherwise at the end of their useful lives is known as “upcycling.” This process is actually different from “recycling,” although they both help keep discarded products from becoming part of the global waste problem. Recycling takes post-consumer materials, breaks them down to their components, and makes new products, e.g., melting down plastic bottles and molding them into shoe soles. None of the character of the original material exists in the new product, and the process of converting the material takes additional energy. Upcycling, on the other hand, incorporates the character of the original product into its new use, refashioning it into something more desirable and useful. It relies on creativity and craftsmanship, allowing the spirit of the original pieces to pervade the new uses.


Help Keep the Past Alive

Reclaimed wood is frequently sourced from deconstructed warehouses, barns, factories, and buildings as well as fences, pallets, and containers. But any source of quality wood can be upcycled and incorporated into your new home. It can be a sentimental way to bring in parts of your own past by incorporating wood from a family home, barn, or property into your new custom build. This is a great way to reduce your environmental impact while fondly honoring your heritage. Craft a countertop, vanity, table, or built-in out of reclaimed wood from a Montana ranch near where you were raised; add a sliding farmhouse door to separate your bedroom from the bathing area in your master suite, incorporating a door from your grandparents’ house; or use wood from the fence you used to climb over to your best friend’s house as an accent wall in your exterior living space or garden.  


Assert Your Individuality

Using reclaimed wood can also be a way to put elements of your personality into your custom home design. If you’re an avid bowler, source out reclaimed wood from bowling alley lanes for a unique accent wall in your home office. If you’re a whiskey connoisseur, a bar made from barrel staves lends a distinctive atmosphere to your entertainment space. A lifelong basketball fan might love a ceiling inlay made of floorboards from a retired arena. These personal accents help your new home become a comfortable, personal space for you and your family.


They Don’t Make It Like They Used To

A lot of salvaged lumber, especially that from old buildings, is considered “old growth,” meaning it comes from lumber that may be as much as 300 years old, harvested more than a century ago. Modern lumber typically comes from large tree farms; these trees are harvested and milled as soon as they reach a usable size, typically after 25-40 years. Old growth wood, like longleaf pine and hard maple, is known for being much more durable than new growth lumber, as well as having a more beautiful look and depth.

Reclaiming old wood is also a way to use woods that are now very rare and difficult to obtain. For example, new American chestnut is incredibly expensive because a nationwide outbreak of chestnut blight in the early 1900s killed billions of American chestnut trees. Reclaiming wood from homes built before the blight allows you to use this beautiful wood at a lower price point (with the added virtue of incorporating the old wood’s history in your home).


How to Use Reclaimed Wood

Sourcing and using reclaimed materials requires significant time and craftsmanship. A skilled builder or woodworker will remove nails, mill the wood to usable dimensions, and often kiln dry the boards before finishing them into your final products. Using reclaimed wood for your home flooring makes a bold, trendy style statement. But you don’t have to use reclaimed wood extensively in your home to make a big impact. Create a wood accent wall in your master suite or living room; inlay a reclaimed wood headboard; install a distinctive pantry door; create a unique, patterned wood inlay in a tray ceiling or within a larger area of flooring; or use reclaimed beams to create a soaring cathedral ceiling. You can also use reclaimed materials for furniture pieces or fixtures, such as countertops, kitchen islands, staircases, dining tables or built-in nooks, mantle pieces, or benches.


Whatever your budget or style, using reclaimed wood in your home design can infuse your new custom home with history and character. If you’re ready to build your own custom home incorporating this beautiful trend, Homes by Brill can help. We’ll help you develop your own custom home design, giving you the stylish kitchen, bathrooms, and master suite of your dreams. We’ve built almost 500 custom homes in the Des Moines, Iowa, area during our 37 years of business and can help you through the entire home design and build process. Contact Homes by Brill today to get started on your own custom home!


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Topics: Design, Home Construction Process