Reusing Wood from an Old House to Remodel or Rebuild A New One
written by: jciotta•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 9/19/2011
Many people throw away perfectly good pieces of wood when demoing an old house. You can, however, reuse this old wood to remodel the same home or a different one. Learn why reclaimed wood is cost-effective and great for the environment!
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Why Old Wood Is Built to Last
When ripping apart a house, your natural instinct may be to start from scratch. You anxiously run to the lumber yard or the nearest Lowes or Home Depot to choose a new door, fancy floorboards or sparkling new wood framing. But take a second and think about what you’re about to do.
Before making any rash shopping decisions, learn how to reuse wood from an old house. Examine the wood in your house to see if it’s recyclable. Many times, it is very reusable; it just needs some sprucing up. In fact, lumber professionals agree that the older the wood, the better the quality. In other terms, think about that iron your mom bought in the 1950s and still uses to this day – it’s the same with wood. Back in the day, things were built to last.
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The Reclaimed Wood Process, Cost and Green Value
To restore wood for the process of reuse is called reclaimed. In the reclaiming process, you should either inspect the wood from the old house yourself, or find a contractor who specializes in this area. Here are some questions you should ask:
Is the wood in good shape? In other words, is it salvageable or beyond repair? Often times to an amateur eye that old door may look hideous, but to a professional, that same door is a piece of lumber in excellent condition which just needs to be stripped and refinished.
How much character can the wood have? Once it is refinished, it may not be perfect. For example, reclaimed floorboards may have some dark spots or nicks. Will this drive you batty or are you okay with a bit of old world charm?
Have you thought about the amount of work that you will have to endure? To rip out floorboards, for instance, is not a quick, sledgehammer job. It is a tedious process of each floorboard being removed by hand so the wood is preserved in the best way possible.
Recycling wood can be quite cost-effective, especially if a spouse, friend or family member is doing the work for free or at a minimal charge. Home repair costs are driven upwards when hiring a professional contractor, so you should shop around for the best rates. Find a contractor who specializes in green construction and if possible, use word of mouth recommendations. A great untapped resource to find contractors are local fire or police departments – these men and women often do construction on the side.
Additionally, salvaged building materials are cheap in comparison to buying the new stuff. For example, an unfinished (not primed or painted), no frills pine door at Home Depot will set you back $80 (per door!). Compare that to the gallon of zero to low VOC paint stripper, steel wool and gallon of paint thinner you will need to strip all your doors, and the price could come to under $30!
Feel good about reusing wood from an old house because you are going green. If you decide to reclaim wood, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You are keeping material out of the landfill and setting a great example for your children and your community with environmentally friendly house plans.
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The Various Ways to Reuse Wood
There are a variety of ways to reuse wood from an old home. The first option is home remodel plans, restoring this old house into a newer version. Here are some ways to reclaim wood:
Solid wood doors in excellent shape are a true find. Just talk to a contractor or experienced laborer and they will agree. If you have doors that are structurally sound, you can strip off paint and finish the original wood. Refinished doors from older houses are a beautiful accessory that you simply cannot find or buy in this day and age. (Or if you can, be prepared to spend an arm and a leg!)
Floors are a huge asset to any house. Real estate experts agree that beautiful, hardwood floors literally sell a house. The wonderful thing for a remodel is no ripping is involved. Instead, you would strip, stain and polyurethane the wood. However, just remember that this process may leave you without a home for a few days up to a week because the chemicals are harsh.
Beams and rafters, especially on older colonial houses, are unique accessories. If you are keeping with the home’s historic feel but adding a modern twist, all you need to do is refinish the wood.
The second option is demoing an old house completely and reusing the wood in a new house. Here are some ways to incorporate green construction building:
For wood doors, it would be the same process as above; however, you would remove the doors from the hinges and relocate. Remember to wrap the doors in green packing material. Also, if the doorknobs and hinges are antique, take them along with you to refinish and reuse as well.
Recycled hardwood flooring must be pulled up with as much care as possible. This is not a job for the faint of heart or for a novice. Look to a professional, otherwise you may end up with damaged wood. Ripping up and laying wood flooring is time-consuming and a difficult skill in general. Yet if done correctly, your new house will have an incredibly valuable attribute.
Rustic wood beams and rafters can be pulled down. Assuming they are in excellent structural shape. If you are reusing them as support beams inside the walls, there is no need to refinish. If they will be decorative, you may want to restore wood by refinishing or repainting.
Another option is to reuse wood for a completely different function. Dust off your carpentry tools and build pieces such as tables, chairs, benches, shelves, small cabinets or even picture frames. Remember wood can be broken down and reclaimed as well.
Wood originally inside an old house can be reused outside the new one. For instance, people use reclaimed wood to make sheds, mailboxes, bird feeders, dog houses, garden fences and much more.
Use your imagination. If you can reuse wood, then do it! Set a goal for yourself this year. Try to build one piece from the reclaimed wood of an old house, even if it’s as small as a child’s toy or candle holder.
Now that you have learned why it is important to reuse wood from an old house and you have learned more about the process, you can add that rustic beauty to your home. Remember to reuse, recycle and reduce whenever possible.