The Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling Barn Wood

Antique barn wood siding
Antique barn wood siding

“1. Don’t take on a barn reclamation project yourself. The cost of labor and time makes a barn wood recycling project a costly venture. Most barns have 10,000 board feet or more of good used building materials, much more than you can use in one home project.

I have received many calls from people who have good intentions. They want to recycle lumber from an old barn but.. In the end they destroy a great deal of lumber. They will use the weathered siding for some projects. Maybe they will use a few of the loft boards for other things. Then they stack the used lumber outside fully intending to use it, but…

They don’t know how to store the timbers properly. They have no way to re manufacture the timbers into other useful products such as recycled wood flooring and recycled wood molding. A couple years go by. They see that big stack of recycled building materials rotting away. They call me to see if I can help. By then, it is too late. The beams and lumber have been improperly stored and have rotted too much.

2. Do buy reclaimed barn wood locally. There are many reasons for this. Less fossil fuels are used to ship your lumber. Your money stays in the local economy. It helps your personal economy, local lumber almost always costs less.”

Read the rest of the article at Barn
Image source: Elmwood Reclaimed Timber

7 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling Barn Wood”

  1. We restore barns and end up recycling wood all the time, it is quite a process and not to be taken lightly. when you take down an old barn you get different types of wood from different areas of the barn, We call them cuts, {like the different cuts you get when butchering a cow] most of this wood is very dirty and often has animal feces on it. The first thing we do is pull the nails and cut off any wood that is visibly rotten .
    Next the wood needs to be cleaned very well to remove the contaminants, but not so well that you destroy the patina, Generally we wet the wood down and let it sit so that the dirt softens, then we apply a natural cleaning solution to kill bacteria mold etc. We then very gently pressure wash the dirt off.
    After this we stand the boards on end and dry them in sunlight and air until they are thoroughly dry. [THOROUGHLY DRY] The sunlight will help kill off any remaining mold or bacteria.

    The next part is critical to having good wood, You need to stack the wood flat with sticks between each row, this keeps the wood straight[ so it does not cup] and allows air to circulate, this will keep the wood free of mold etc. [ remember mold will grow on certain surfaces if the moisture conditions are right]
    You now must cover the wood so that it is free from moisture and has good air circulation. If the wood is treated this way it will last indefinitely.
    You now have some very valuable wood. it is a lot of work to reclaim this material but the results are well worth it .

  2. Back at my parents home in CT there were a TON of old barns ready to be torn down. Some of the wood is really beautiful, i can even imagine some of the bolt locks and fasteners being reused for a great rustic look. If you can buy the land, i’d say repairing the barn and retrofitting it with straw-bale insulation would be a good way to go.

    But the article has a good point i haven’t thought about before, how to store the lumber tell its needed…

  3. Wow, 10,000 board feet of wood in one barn. A board foot is 12″x12″. A 12″ wide by 10′ long board is 10 board feet. So a typical barn has 1,000 boards this size. That’s a lot of wood. (In all different sizes of wood, of course — posts, siding, beams, girts, etc.)

    Photo of old barn:,r:7,s:0,i:147&tx=143&ty=80

    This could be turned into a blog post for sure. Old barns like this are really common and just waiting for the right people to come along and repurpose the wood.


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