Sustainable Flooring 101: What Is Reclaimed Wood & How Is It Green

June 1, 2020

Sustainable reclaimed wood flooring.

According to Business News Daily, more than 80% of surveyed consumers said they felt it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally friendly conscious products. Sustainability, green and eco-friendly have become more than just buzzwords: They have become a staple in people’s lives.

Reclaimed wood, or wood that has been reclaimed for reuse, started off as an aesthetically pleasing design trend. But it has quickly gained momentum as a sustainable building material, sweeping the commercial building industry by storm. Reclaimed wood flooring is the perfect way to check off an item on your sustainability checklist.

Below is a basic guide to reclaimed wood. You will learn where it comes from, how it is transformed, what makes it green, and most importantly, how it can be a sustainable flooring solution for your next commercial project with examples to inspire.

What Is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood is recycled wood from old buildings. It is any wood that has previously been used in a project instead of using new wood. This ensures the wood lives on, saving it from entering a landfill to rot and waste away.

Reclaimed wood is warm, versatile and full to the brim with history. Since it does not rely on new cut trees or timber, it has much less of an environmental impact than using new wood or another building material. It also is not a manufactured product, with all the chemicals and issues that entails.

Reclaimed wood offers beauty and character that no other material can offer. It has a story that adds to the appeal of your finished project. It is unique, gorgeous, and can add curiosity and pizazz to any room.

When it comes to durability, reclaimed wood is up to 40 points harder on the Janka hardness scale than virgin wood because it comes from old-growth trees that have expanded from the elements instead of first-generation forest trees.

Durable reclaimed wood flooring.

Where Does Reclaimed Wood Come From?

Reclaimed wood is recycled wood from old buildings, barns and other rural structures that pre-date the 1930s. Out of respect for the heritage and architectural history of buildings, Elmwood only deconstructs buildings and barns that are condemned, abandoned or completely beyond repair.

Ready to use reclaimed wood.

How Is Reclaimed Wood Readied for Use?

Reclaimed wood is readied for use with a multi-step process that transforms it from its previous condition into the beautifully milled and ready-to-use wood that you can purchase from Elmwood. After the old-growth wood is salvaged from an old building, it is received at our warehouse to be denailed.

The wood is given a thorough, deep surface cleaning with a high-pressure washer to remove any dirt or debris. This process also ensures a uniform surface color and finish for the finished product.

The lumber needs to then be rough milled, which brings the wood to a rough uniformity in thickness and helps group differently-sourced boards together to combine them for easier usage. Since the wood has been open and exposed to the outside elements for years, the lumber needs to be kiln-dried.

Once the wood is completely dry, it is planed and ripped into various sizes of widths, thicknesses and lengths. From here, the wood is molded and the finishing process can begin. The reclaimed wood is now ready to be used in a wide variety of projects.

Close up of reclaimed wood flooring.

What Makes Reclaimed Wood Sustainable?

There is a staggering amount of environmental benefits associated with incorporating reclaimed wood into a project.

Reclaimed wood is found in old rural buildings that have served their purpose. The cost associated with repair or renovation far outweighs the benefits, so usually, the building is abandoned. The process of dismantling abandoned buildings to reclaim the wood is more complex than demolishing, but the total financial and environmental cost of disposing of demolition debris is significant.

Wood floors that use newly harvested trees are often cut from hardwood forests. Hardwood is a slow-growing process, so even when corporations plant trees to replace the ones they cut, it makes a huge impact on the forest and the surrounding environment. Reclaimed wood is different — these trees were harvested more than 100 years ago. Any impact their cutting had on the environment is now diminished.

Other building materials, like laminate and vinyl, are problematic because they use plastics and chemicals that release VOCs into the atmosphere when they are manufactured. Plus, they do not last as long as wood, so within decades, they are pulled up, discarded into landfills and replaced with other toxic materials.

How Is Reclaimed Wood a Solution for Commercial Flooring?

Reclaimed wood flooring is available in many of the same colors, species and styles that you can get in new cut wood flooring. Depending on your personal style preference and project needs, it’s possible to find a reclaimed wood floor that will be the perfect match for your project without harming the environment.

Plus, with an established company like Elmwood, you get access to a large, reliable supply chain network that allows you to create similar looks and styles year after year. You don’t have to worry about using a style once and never being able to use it again.

You can use Elmwood’s American Cherry Flooring for a rustic, warm look and pair it with Cherry Wood Wall Paneling for your ceiling, columns, walls or accents.

You can use Elmwood’s Reclaimed Oak Flooring for a stand-out floor that includes a plethora of colors and grains. We also recommend our Oak Wall Paneling for a stress lowering, inviting addition to your walls, ceilings and more.

Office with reclaimed oak flooring and paneling.

Pine adds character, depth and ambiance to a room with color ranging from the creamier pinkish-tan of the sapwood to rich, gold, oranges and reds found toward the “heart” of the wood. Elmwood’s Pine Flooring is a showstopper, and if you want to go pine crazy, check out our other pine products here.

Home with reclaimed pine flooring.

In a climate where sustainability is more important than ever, you can trust you are making the right choice in sustainable flooring when you choose Elmwood Reclaimed Timber. Check out Elmwood’s wide plank wood flooring for more information or request a quote to get started on your next project.

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