Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reclaimed Lumber: From Trash to Treasure

I recently made improvements to a rental property where we removed an old collapsed porch roof and made the space an open deck.  While disassembling the roof, I was impressed with the weight and heft of the beams used.  While some were rotted due to water damage, the remaining ones were worth saving.
We reused most of the old 2X4s when reconstructing a lean-to style roof over the laundry room.  Yet, in the end, I had a lot of leftovers.

I couldn't bring myself to throw the rest of this away, so I put an ad on KSL advertising "FREE Victorian Era Lumber".  But why would somebody want this old lumber?  As it turns out, it is much better than the new stuff that is being made.

Below is a cross section of two 2x4s.  The one on the left is over 100 years old.  The other on the right is about 5 years old.  Both of these are pine.  The old lumber has very tight and dense rings.  The new lumber on the right has broad rings.  The difference comes from how lumber is grown and harvested.  Old lumber was from virgin slow growth trees.  Today's lumber is grown on tree farms where the trees are given growth hormones.  Old growth trees took 100 years to reach maturity.  Today's trees are ready to harvest in 20.  Thus, today's lumber has more of the characteristic of balsa wood than it does it's rugged predecessors.   

Fortunately, this value is recognized by a few people in the market and I received several calls from folks wanting the wood.  "Junk Man Dave" showed up and hauled it away.

I asked folks what they would use the lumber for.  Answers ranged from wall paneling to antique looking wheel barrows to planter boxes.  I am just glad it found a new home and was able to be reused.

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