Buyers Guide to Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed lumber comes in many different shapes, sizes, and conditions. This material has been carefully deconstructed from structures but remember, buying reclaimed lumber involves inheriting blemishes. Bolt holes, nail holes, checking, splitting, and warping can always be expected.

Here are 7 common things to consider when using reclaimed wood: 

Nail holes.
Nail holes are extremely common in reclaimed beams and often add the desired character and aesthetic that the customer is seeking without impacting the structural integrity. The main thing to look out for is excessive nail holes that are going to be unsightly. If excessive nail holes exist, often times they are only on one face and can be hidden if that face is not required to be visual. 

The type of nails used can often help to age the wood. Square end nails (also referred to as “cut nails”) were predominant in construction prior to 1910.

Metal content
Have the beams been de-nailed? If so, has all the metal been removed or has just the visual metal? Reclaimed beams are very old, and often times, nail and bolt fragments are buried beneath the skin of the beam or within a nail or bolt hole. Removing this buried metal involves gauging the wood and leaving some unsightly gauge marks. If the beams are aesthetic, and you are not going to be re-sawing them, simply having the beams visually de-nailed is a better option.

Bolt holes
Bolt holes are also common in reclaimed beams and generally go all the way through two faces. In most cases, they do not affect the structural integrity of the beam. As a customer, it is up to you to decide if bolt holes are OK in your beams, and if so, at what point do they become excessive? Bolt holes can be plugged or left unplugged, and depending on their position in the beam (if they are at the ends), they can also be cut out. 

Checking in reclaimed beams is extremely common and does not necessarily affect the structural integrity and can be part of the aesthetic.

Checks are cracks that appear in the wood but do not go all the way through. It is important to get an idea of how heavy the checking is and if it is limited to just the ends (end-checking). The position of the heart will greatly influence the checking of a beam. Purchasing your beams longer than you need them allows you to cut off any end-checking that may occur as the beams go through climate change.

Splitting is checking that goes all the way through two faces of the beams. If the beams will have any structural component, splitting must be avoided. Beams with heavy checking that will undergo a climate change to get to you will have a tendency to split.

Rot and warping
It is important to always ask if the beams have any rot, warping, twisting, etc. Some rot and warpage is contained in the ends of the beams and can be cut out. If the beams do exhibit rot, make sure to find out how pervasive it is and where in the beam it is located.

Moisture content
In lumber material, anything under 18% is considered dry, but it is not uncommon for beams in wet climates to measure around 22%. Beams with high moisture content have a greater tendency to warp, twist, check and crack. The majority of materials reclaimed by Savage Solutions will be relatively dry and stable given the local arid climate they have been ‘warehoused’ in.