How to Work With Old Wood

How to Work With Old Wood

When you own a home, having something unique is a great way to raise your sense of satisfaction. Unlike other materials, reclaimed wood has a beauty and history you can’t find anywhere else.

It should be no surprise many new homeowners and remodelers are looking for ways to incorporate reclaimed wood into their projects. It’s an easy way to make a statement no one else can replicate. Plus, in many cases, buying or sourcing older material is easier and less expensive compared to new hardwood.

If you’re interested in working with old wood, you may already know it requires more than a visit to your local lumber supplier. Follow the tips below to get started.

Source Your Materials

What’s great about old wood is most of it can be found for free. Check local resale websites, such as Craigslist and LetGo. You may be able to find old barn wood, demolition scraps and even castaways from local stores. You can also ask around about anyone looking to give away wood from cut or fallen trees.

You can also try using old materials lying around at home, like the wood from window panes you plan to recycle. In some cases, you may have to pay for it, but it’s typically much cheaper than buying fresh-cut lumber from the store.

Do Some Research

Using old wood means not knowing everything it has come in contact with, including treatment chemicals, lead paint, adhesive and other volatile compounds. If possible, do some research about the wood’s past to learn about potential toxins.

Wood pallets, for example, can be used for dozens of fun DIY projects — but some are also chemically treated. To avoid these chemicals, look for pallets with a stamp or mark. These are national pallets, meaning they are used for domestic transport and are not treated with chemicals.

Check for Pests

Wood, especially old wood, is one of invasive pests’ favorite spots to live.

Some of the most common bugs found in wood include:

  • Termites
  • Beetles
  • Carpenter ants
  • Wood borers

Termites are especially worrisome, as they will eat the wood in foundation joists, causing structural damage to your home. Termites can also eat dry wood found in fence posts and dead trees. Before taking apart an old wooden structure to reuse the wood, check for signs of a possible infestation. This includes the presence of bugs, holes and crumbling pieces.

Use a Magnet

Old wood, especially that which is reclaimed from barns, can contain hidden pieces of metal from when it was originally built. This can include sharp objects like nails and staples, which can wreak havoc on tools if missed. Take a moment to inspect your wood on all sides for leftover metal. Use pliers or a hammer to remove anything you find. You should also run a magnet along the length of the board, which will attract metals like iron, nickel, and steel.

Scrub It Clean

Old wood has most likely spent time outside in the elements. That means years of dirt, dust, rain, dead bugs and much more stuck to your reclaimed materials. To clean your wood pieces, grab a bristle brush and give each side a good scrub. This will knock off any loose dirt or debris. Then, use a high-pressure water sprayer to remove finer particles. If you don’t want to wait for the wood to dry before using it, use an air hose as an alternative to water.

Working With Old Wood

You can gain a lot of satisfaction when building something new from something old. If you want to use reclaimed wood on your next project, be sure to take the proper steps to source the right materials and prep them for use. Remember to stay flexible. The fun of working with old wood means unique challenges like bends, knots, and textures. Incorporate these traits into your projects for a style that’s all your own.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.