We all know about the unbeaten warmth and elegance of wooden floors, and the legacy that they are carrying forward. But have you spared a thought for the depleting supply of natural wood? With the current flooring trends that include re-engineered wood, synthetic variants like vinyl and laminates, the flooring options may be unlimited, but whether they are satisfying the lovers of natural wood is the question. Reclaimed or antique wood flooring is a unique option to fill this gap and it does so in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
Why Reclaimed Wood?
What’s most exciting about the reclaimed wood is that the plank that will adorn your living room floor will doubtlessly have had a rich past - it could be a plank from the deck of a historic ship, of a weather-beaten barn on the land through which armies marched or a humble piece from the kitchen of a great man! That this plank which was harvested from a tree centuries ago will be an integral part of your home for years to come should not only tickle the historian in you but also the environmentalist. The character, the age worn beauty and the marks of maturity that the reclaimed wood bears are each points in favor of choosing them for our floors.
Advantages of Reclaimed Wood
Reclaimed wood is salvaged wood from old structures like buildings, warehouses, barns and from logs that were lost in rivers and seas. Besides being extremely sustainable, since it is natural and has seen so many decades, this wood is also special because it belongs to the varieties that are considered rare now. Varieties like chestnut, heart pine, hard maple, among others are either not available anymore or if available, can be only bought at very high prices. Most of the reclaimed wood dates to the 1700s and 1800s and the varieties available then are almost extinct now. Recycling old wood floors and roofs allow connoisseurs to install these varieties in their homes at affordable prices.
As the reclaimed wood has already been exposed to the elements in its previous avatar, this wood is also denser and can be used in any part of the house. It is authentic and has that naturally aged look that no amount of chemical treatment can produce. Wherever this wood is placed in your home, it has a story to tell and can be an instant talking point.
Reclaimed wood showcases excellent craftsmanship which was evident in older styles. Not only can you choose from various types of wood, but you can also choose the stain and grain of wood that appeals to you. The weathered appearance and the smooth texture, which come from the well-worn nature of such wood, can be the highlight of your home.
Cost of the recycled wood and installation is almost half of the newer varieties, if worn and old look is what you are interested in. The new wood will have to be artificially stained and aged to get the effect that is absolutely natural in reclaimed wood. Not only will you not need to spend money on texturising or treating the wood, you will also avoid using excessive chemicals in the process thereby making your floors more eco-friendly and green.
Selection of Recycled Wood
Since reclaimed wood is old wood that has been in use for many years and may be lying around exposed to rain and snow for a long time, due diligence is important before buying such wood. Most old buildings, homes, schools, hospitals, etc. have had such wood on their floor for ages. There may be damage due to bugs, mold, mildew, water and chemicals. There may also be discolored or damaged sections due to regular wear and tear which need to be accounted for. Even if the reclaimed wood is to be used as is, it is important to look for issues like these to ensure that the wooden flooring will last at least another few decades.
Most dealers who handle reclaimed wood will treat the wood after reclamation before putting it back on the market. Even if you are reboarding or re-installing the older floors in your own home, check for the latest treatments that enhance the age of the wood. Almost all reclaimed wood is kiln dried to ensure that there is no moisture in the planks and that they are ready for installation. If damage due to bugs or termites is seen, the wood is either treated chemically to tackle the issue or discarded.
It may be economical to discard severely damaged pieces rather than allowing them to infect the others. Similarly planks which are warped due to ageing should also be discarded because a few warped planks will warp the whole floor. Even if the planks are defect free, it is advisable to coat the reclaimed wood flooring with professional grade polyurethane layer to avoid further damage due to dust, moisture and grime.
Care During Installation
Reclaimed or recycled wood floors are made from wood taken from the older buildings, and generally has wider planks, though shorter planks can be cut if your floor pattern requires that. In the bygone days the wooden floorings were hand cut and installed. The dyes were all natural which have stood the test of time and have helped preserve the natural beauty of the wood. Wider planks help expose the knots and patterns of natural wood, which brings out the individuality of the floorboard and can be a great addition to your environmentally friendly house.
While installing the floor, you as the homeowner need to ensure that the contractor is qualified in laying down recycled floor. Since it is solid wood, the flooring should be installed on a subfloor that is laid keeping the flooring in mind. Also the nail holes and wear and tear in the wood should be addressed before installation. Once the floor is installed, sanding and staining of the floor needs to be done carefully such that the character of the wood is preserved without compromising on the design requirements. Since reclaimed wood would not be prone to shrinkages, the home owners can truly take pride in their green floorings.
Post Installation Care
Once the reclaimed flooring is installed, its care should be just like that for the other types of solid wood. Moisture, grime and dirt are the enemies of wooden flooring so the flooring needs to be cleaned often to keep it looking good. To ensure that your floor remains free from such enemies, clean the flooring with either the recommended cleaners or simply vacuum it regularly.
Reclaimed hardwood has found its way into various recycled wood projects like furniture, cladding of cabinets, home decor and crafts, yet flooring remains one of the most popular and enduring options. The beauty of reclaimed wood is that it gives an instant personality to the room it has been installed in. With rich textures and so many varieties to choose from, reclaimed wood is probably the most environmentally sound flooring option, provided it has not been excessively treated.
By opting for recycled wood you are not just creating a unique space for yourself but also underlining your commitment to a clean and green tomorrow. If cared for properly, such floors will certainly last another few lifetimes!