Monday, September 17, 2012

'This Old Wood'

Once thought of as inferior just because it wasn't 'new', recycled wood has become highly sought after. A dilapidated barn, a train trestle, even a downtown warehouse can be a source of great building material.

Big Bessie putting her love on the 'old wood'
Old wood has a lot going for it. It's stable; years of seasonal humidity cycling have brought it to a point closer to equilibrium than new wood can replicate. It's very 'green'; no trees were cut down to make use of it and usually it isn't shipped from worlds away. It has a story; "This floor came from beams used in the old Yakima hardware building" is an example we can call up.

Note the stocking foot. Since we don't plan to sand this floor, keeping the material clean is critical.
With the logic that 'they just aren't making it anymore' recycled wood demands a premium in today's marketplace. One use of this material that is very cost effective is flooring. My crew and I have developed a formula for producing beautiful wide plank floors at a price competitive with the engineered flooring available 'off the shelf ' from any floor covering or design store.

Newer, old wood in the foreground, finished flooring in the background
We start with 1" rough sawn boards, cut from 8x timbers and purchased from Havillah Shake in Tonasket, Washington. The wood is then stacked with wood spacers (stickers) and dried until a moisture meter shows 8% or less. At this point we can either take it to a local millwright to turn into tongue and groove flooring or mill it ourselves with a portable planer and a couple of 1/2" routers. 7" wide boards are the most cost effective from both the price of raw materials and the efficiency of custom milling. We have laid random width floors with planks up to 17" that are to die for, but the cost for the finished product rises significantly from the 7" starting point. Probably the most important factor in achieving a quality installation (besides moisture content) is the quality of milling. If the boards are all the same thickness and width we can skip the sanding phase and still produce a smooth, professional result. Because the wood is recycled and it's character is to be celebrated, a small amount of inconsistency is accepted. To be 'smarter than the wood', any rough areas are scraped with a utilty blade (razor) instead of sanding, which helps to produce a more uniform penetration of the oil based sealer. Three coats of water based floor polyurethane are then applied, making this recycled flooring ready for years of enjoyment.

The glow of a recycled wood floor
A gorgeous, natural looking floor with a history. What more could you ask for?

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