Seeing the Forest through the Trees, Some tips on picking eco-friendly wood for that next home project.
Here are stacks of gorgeous reclaimed wood at Mason Brothers Architectural Salvage Shop.
Are you building a home, adding a floor or purchasing a table? Well you don’t have to give up being environmentally friendly just because you need wood, a slow-growing renewable resource, for the project. Instead follow a few of the tips below and you can leave your environmental guilt at the (salvaged) door. Have fun! My best, Joanne
The coffee table is built from reclaimed wood from an old weaving loom.
Think Antique, Second-hand Furniture, Custom Made:
Furniture is obviously big part of wood industry. Even upholstered furniture needs wood for framing. Going the route of antique pieces, furniture made from old wood, or second-hand furniture prevents the need of using new wood. Or consider having a piece made out of reclaimed wood, for example, my coffee table is made from an old weaving loom. Many local woodworkers will make custom pieces. You can ask one of your local salvage shops or reclaimed wood centers for a list of names of carpenters who work with reclaimed materials. For second-hand furniture you can easily find it at your local furniture consignment shop, antique shop, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill or even online on Craigslist or Front Porch Forum. ebay.com or craigslist.org or do a search for locally made furniture with reclaimed wood. You’ll be surprised what is available to you.
All the cabinets in this kitchen are from reclaimed Douglas Fir from the old Port Authority Building in Portland, Oregon built by Cabinet Maker George Ramos.
Consider Recycled and Salvaged Wood:
Reclaimed wood can be anything from 2 x 4’s just taken down from a recent house to vintage 1880s floorboards.. Old wood, doors, and other wood-salvaged materials not only keep you from using new wood but it also keeps these products out of our overflowing landfills. My island top is made from 1880’s Douglas fir that was from a railroad building. Wood is as different as your designs are, so choose wisely…thicker wood for island tops, thinner wood for wall paneling, tongue and groove for flooring…etc.
The floors are local cherry wood from a certified forest and the table is a vintage Stickley dining set. Both great examples of new and reclaimed wood.
When purchasing wood for a building or other projects consider local first. Purchasing your wood from a sustainable managed local forest, whether or not it is certified, is good for the forest, the watershed, the community. A forest that is managed correctly, following sound forestry practices, will have an environmental impact far greater than simply good management of the trees themselves. A well managed, and/or a certified forest, will positively impact area watersheds, for example. Added bonus of buying local wood? Transportation needs go down, which is also good for the environment.
Here I am, looking for salvaged wood for a mantel project at the rebuild center in my town.
When you shopping online, at a larger retail store, or you if are not sure about your local forests’ sustainability practices, always look for certification. There are many types of certification. One of the most credible forest certification programs is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). It is an independent, international nonprofit organization that sets a strict environmental and social standard for sustainable forest management. Their website, http://www.fsc.org, gives you information about their organization and places to find local FSC products and services. Look for their logo or ask for FSC certified wood.
Even the smallest pieces of wood don’t have to go to waste. This gorgeous cutting board made from a variety of reclaimed wood species took the artisan a couple of weeks to make.
Rethinking Design Can Mean Less Waste:
Most woods have a variety of grades. Knowing which grade creates the least waste can help save wood and lower your costs. Number one common (sometimes called third grade, or rustic wood) cherry, for instance, is a more basic grade of wood with more knots and color variation, then for example, clear or first grade, which is free from most visible defects and discolorations. Each wood has variations in their grading system, grain and cut, so take a few minutes to learn about the wood you want. But no matter which wood you choose, opting for a more “perfect” wood will result in more waste. Remember, that older salvaged wood is from a natural forest where the growth rings are tighter which makes the wood much harder than wood that is grown faster in a managed forest…so even when it is a softwood – if it is from an older tree – it can be very hard…get to know your options and your woods.
Reclaimed wood comes in all shapes and sizes. These old porch posts have a new lease on life as farm house table legs at the Mad River Barn.
Avoid the Endangered List:
Teak and mahogany from old growth forests in Brazil or Indonesia are places that suffer from over-forestation that not only devastate the forests but the communities around them as well. With the number of sustainable wood and non-wood options, there is no need to continue to support over-forested woods. If you must use Teak, make sure it is reclaimed or certified. These same types of wood, from certified managed forests, can be just fine to purchase. This is where certification is important — do not use a tropical or exotic wood that are not certified. And stay away from endangered forests.
Never Judge a Piece of Wood by It’s Cover
I always tell folks to never turn their backs on ugly reclaimed wood — because there is a swan underneath all that grim and years of oxidation. If you are looking for wood — bring a piece of sand paper with you and a water bottle. That way you can sand a bit of the top off and then moisten (to get the feel of what it will look like with polyurethane, shellac or a wax sealer on it.)
Here is what the wood looked like before we made sliding barn doors out of it.
Here is the design project “after” the wood was sanded and cleaned and sealed. Mad River Barn design project.
First and foremost, get involved. If you (or even your community) are building, remodeling or purchasing lots of wood, do it with a conscious decision to choose the right kind by following the above guidelines. Also, avoid pressure treated, or chemical treated wood, much of the inexpensive wood (including particleboard), contain toxic substances that can off gas and are not good for you or the planet. Encourage your retailers to carry wood from well-managed forests. Remember, it is all about supply and demand. If you demand protected, well managed forests, then you’ll get them.
Salvage Secrets and Salvage Secrets Design & Décor. Internationally acclaimed books by Joanne Palmisano, Photography by Susan Teare.
For more information about wood, designs and other great ways to decorate using reclaimed wood and other earth-friendly ideas, I hope you check out my books, Salvage Secrets and Salvage Secrets Design & Décor.