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Buyers turn to reclaimed for price and character

Cabinet made with reclaimed chestnut 

Cabinet made with reclaimed chestnut 

With ‘new’ wood costing a lot more than it used to, ‘old’ wood is looking like a bargain. Sellers of reclaimed or salvaged timber are reporting strong sales and steady prices.

“We’re busy, that’s for sure,” says Ryan McNary of Elmwood Reclaimed Timber in Peculiar, Mo. “We typically sell a lot of reclaimed woods for commercial work, but we’ve seen a large spike in our residential sales so we’re doing a lot more residential homes, floors, paneling, beams, island countertops, fireplace mantles, things of that nature,” says McNary.

“We have had a number of people who had been looking at imported hardwoods as well as softwoods for different parts of their homes but switched to reclaimed woods for a little bit better lead time. It’s a material that’s a little bit more readily available for how things are going with the hardwood market especially.”

Emile Smith of Sebastian’s Specialty Hardwoods in Seneca, Wis. has been selling reclaimed woods since the 90’s. He hasn’t seen much fluctuation in popularity during the pandemic or its aftermath but notes that greater awareness about reclaimed woods has strengthened the market over time.

“Reclaimed woods are selling as well as they always have. There’s been a consistent realization in viability of reclaimed wood as a product as manufacturers get to know how to handle the stock. I think it’s a viable product as it’s ever been. It’s a very vibrant industry.” says Smith.

A pile of salvaged redwood.

A pile of salvaged redwood.

Digital photography and email have made purchasing reclaimed stock much easier for someone in Smith’s position.

“It can be difficult for dismantlers to properly represent what’s coming down. A No. 1 heart pine joist may have been a No. 1 heart pine joist 100 years ago but really, how do you represent that timber? You can’t really represent it structurally. You can represent it as it once was.”

He also has some good news for prospective buyers.

“People were getting the impression for a little bit there, or maybe even still, that all lumber has shot to the moon, and I don’t think that’s true. I think that the market value of a semi-load of reclaimed timbers is about the same as it was two years ago. I don’t think my raw prices have spiked or anything and if they did, I’d bow out immediately.”

Jeffrey Schucker of Bailey Wood Products in Kempton, Pa. says customers seeking reclaimed woods are going straight for unique character.

“What I have is just what I come across, and we move it for people who are just looking for a rustic mantle or something like,” says Schucker.

“We’ve done a library in the past where we used reclaimed chestnut for millwork several years ago. Other times it’s oak, sometimes pine and hemlock. It’s anything local from the barns and buildings that’s indigenous to what they had when they built them.” 

This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.

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