Sourcing and Using Reclaimed Building Materials

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Using salvaged or reclaimed building materials has long been an effective way to match existing conditions or just get a certain dated look.  One can even save some money if it’s ‘found’ and you have the resources to transport and prep it for reuse.    It can get very expensive sourcing the rare and popular items.   There is a whole industry based on gathering and re-selling everything from granite markers and hand-hewn beams to porcelain doorknobs and light fixtures. 

On a recent commission, I was asked build and install a storage unit under a set of stairs.  I was looking for a close match in color and grain pattern to the 1980 hemlock timber frame home my client owns.  We went to Jarmak Reclaimed Wood in Oxford, MA.  There we found an amazing selection of old wood from barn siding to factory timbers.   Jarmak had hemlock “Mushroomwood”, used in a mushroom growing facility.  These boards looked quite old, had very uniform color and texture, and as a bonus were 1x8x16’ long.   Normally I have to buy at least two times as many boards to get enough useable material.  These boards were not inexpensive but the length and quality saved a fair amount of labor.   The finished product looks like it has always been there. 

My experience with woodworking and building has been primarily with new materials, but have used reclaimed materials many times.  When asked to source and use reclaimed materials, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons.  It requires a different mindset regarding fit and finish.   For example, when sourcing plumbing or electrical fixtures, it may cost more than new ones to install in a way that meets safety and building codes.  Getting doorknobs, hinges and other hardware to work properly can be challenging.   Where does it have to fit perfectly?   How much can you sand or machine the wood without damaging or losing the age old patina?   We can help you answer these questions to ensure a beautiful installation that will stand another test of time.


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