Who doesn’t like the look of reclaimed wood? For decorative walls, furniture, even just wood picture frames. Old wood has character. All those knots, old nail holes and leftover paint tells us a story of where it came from and what it was used for. Sustainable? Of course! Why use new wood when the 100-year-old barn wood does just as good of a job and has that story to tell?
Here’s the one big problem, though, when choosing reclaimed wood for your project….finish. Unless you know that the wood was never finished with old-fashioned lead based paints, preparing the surface can be a dangerous proposal. And what was that wood used for originally? I bought some wood that was used for the old train trestles across the Great Salt Lake in Utah to be used as interior wood siding! Absolutely stunning wood but because they were completely saturated with salt, I wasn’t able to use a water based finish on it because salt migration would’ve turned the wood completely white when cured, meaning only oil based finishes could be used. Ultimately, we were able to use AFM Naturals Clear Penetrating Oil to finish the trestles, but it derailed my project plans momentarily!
The point here is, using reclaimed wood can result in a number of problems that new, unfinished wood doesn’t present. Be mindful of this before buying the wood and starting your project. While you might be doing something eco-friendly by reusing old wood, you may also be asking for health issues due to the surface preparation and the need for less healthy finishes. Ultimately, that’s not sustainable at all.
Contact us at GDC/Building for Health before making that choice and we’ll help guide you through what to look or and how to test it. Our goal is to make your project as healthy and sustainable as possible.