Our Quest for Reclaimed Wood
Reclaiming wood by definition is giving old wood a spit shine and a new purpose. It adds instant charm and character to a space and it
is definitely having its moment (seen a new Starbucks lately?) Our home is a 1957 ranch with a lot of great ranch house characteristics, including a wood ceiling in the original den. Wood ceilings are a great way to make a modern space cozy, and our design team agreed we should extend the wood ceilings to the entire new-and-improved great room. I really wanted that wood to be reclaimed.
My family has an inside joke about things that are “mythical unicorns,” like German outdoor trampoline parks and Uncle Dan’s backordered IKEA couch. These are things that are rumored to exist, but no conclusive evidence has ever been presented despite some pretty serious field research. I almost had to put affordable reclaimed wood in that category. I mean why is it so pricey? We were determined to find some for our Net Zero Nest without breaking the budget. I was just considering a dumpster dive at a construction site down the street when I wandered into The Vintage Wood Floor Company.
With a beautiful showroom, the owner Joe Pfeiffer and his staff offer a large range of woods salvaged from various sources. We were drawn to the “time worn” oak. This wood is reclaimed from barns in Wisconsin and Virginia. So it travels some road miles to get here, but the West Coast isn’t a great source of old growth barns. Joe is from Wisconsin and in the early days he actually took the barns apart himself and worked out of his garage (just like Wozniak and Gates.) Eight years in to his woodworking journey, he now uses demolition companies as sources of new barn wood. It comes in a large array of sizes and shapes, from large imposing ceiling joists, to 2”x4” and 2”x5” rafters, to thinner siding and wallboards. Once it arrives in Anaheim, Joe and his team transform it into flooring, beams, siding, and an array of other specialized lumber on site.
I visited our wood and the milling operation to watch our ceiling take shape. I was surprised by how many steps are involved, but fumigating, drying, and metal detecting are all key to making the wood safe and functional. My wood also got a tongue-and-groove cut so that the pieces will lock together Lego style. But because my wood is for a ceiling instead of a floor, I was able to skip the hole filling and hand finishing steps that can drive up the costs. I saw some wood being hand scraped and it is beautiful, but a rustic finish will suit our ranch house nicely.
Joe taught me that there are options for every budget, especially if you are flexible. Right now narrow planks are in high supply and lower demand, so he was able to offer me a good price. We are getting a variety of 3” and 4” widths (the width created when you straight cut a 2”x4” or 2”5” rafter), which should work great for our great room.
Affordable reclaimed wood is still hard to find in Southern California, but small businesses like The Vintage Wood Floor Company can be great partners. The ReSTORE, operated by Habitat for Humanity, and The Reuse People also accept donations of salvaged wood, and are good sources of raw materials. I think it is worth the effort, especially when you want to make sure your updated home maintains its original charm.