Tips for using reclaimed wood

| |

You want to add reclaimed wood to your house but you’re not sure where to start. Before you tear down your neighbor’s barn, check these tips.

Tips for using reclaimed wood

This post contains affiliate links.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

What is considered reclaimed wood?

When you hear the term reclaimed wood, does the image of a tumbled-down old barn pop in your head?  Me too.  Reclaimed wood can also be the old door from a tumbled-down house.   But it’s also any wood saved from landfills including the wood from broken furniture.  If it’s wood and repurposed into something it’s reclaimed.  Even spindles!  I create droves of DIY projects using spindles.  🙂

Is reclaimed wood eco-friendly?

Yes, it’s eco-friendly anytime we can save tossing wood into a landfill!

Tips for painted reclaimed wood

How much is reclaimed wood?

You can find wood reclaimed at selling points double or more the price of new wood.  Wood from salvage companies that prepare the wood by cutting, planning, and sanding the boards will cost more.  You may find someone willing to let you have old boards if you haul them away.  You will need to prepare the wood.

To find reclaimed wood, start online.  Local salvage companies, home remodelers, and excavators.  Check on local Facebook groups.  If you do know a neighbor with a barn falling in, ask.

How to tell if the wood has bugs?

There are several signs to check if the wood has bugs, or had bugs.

  1. Look closely to see if there are tunnels. Bugs eat and travel through the wood fibers.
  2. Check if there are dried mud areas on the wood.
  3. If the wood is painted, check for deformed paint areas.
  4. Are there tiny holes in the wood?
  5. Check for small mounds of pellets on the wood or in crevices.

If any signs of bugs, I suggest leaving that wood and keep looking.

How to prepare reclaimed wood?

Start by cleaning the boards with warm soapy water.  Use a wire brush over the surfaces.  Let dry in the sun.  If you need the wood to be the same thickness, this is the planner I use.    There are handheld planners too. 

Cleaning the wood raises the grain, so next, you need to sand.

Painted reclaimed wood

If your boards have paint, test the paint for lead. 

Do wear a mask when working with reclaimed wood.  

Different types of reclaimed wood

Can you mix types of wood?

Yes, but realize if your plans include staining or painting the wood, different wood takes stain and paint differently.  Say you’ve nailed a collection of old wood on a wall.  Then you paint the wood white.  Then you notice the white paint on the redwood boards turning brown!

Also according to the look, you’re going for mixing woods tends to look busy.

Preserve the character of the wood.

Embrace the knot holes and nail holes in the wood.  If you are nailing boards to a wall, make sure markings and nicks show.  That’s what you paid extra or working harder for the wood.

Use your old wood with new wood.

A good example of this is using new wood to make the base for a tray, then adding reclaimed wood as the surface of the tray.  Reclaimed boards may split or crack easier.

Ideas to use reclaimed wood

Ideas to use reclaimed wood.

  • Use wood shutters as doors over a tv.
  • Use reclaimed vintage doors instead of new doors throughout your house.
  • Create a mantel from one large chunk of wood.
  • Cover an old patio table with a reclaimed wood top.
  • Get rid of the carpet.  Replace old boards.
  • Make a tray for breakfast in bed.

Now that we’ve saved your neighbor’s barn, here are more ideas on how to distress wood.  Click this for a rundown on all my wood posts.

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get our DIY HelpLetter each Thursday. Plus grab your Interior Decorating Ideas e-book.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Similar Posts


  1. It’s good to keep old wood “alive” by extending its usefulness. How do you hunt for nails or screws that might still be embedded? Those can do wicked things to blades should the two meet… can I order a dining table from you which is made of reclaimed wood?

  2. judy clinard says:

    Please be on the look out for any lil old insects that may be hiding in the old wood. We once used 100 year old pine on our bathroom walls only to find out over 15 years later that the bark beetles( small as a pin head) can stay dormant for up to 60 years then start chewing through the wood again. We ended up having to rip the walls down to the studs to rid ourselves of them!

    1. Oh no, Judy! Yikes! Thank for the warning to check for the tiniest of bugs. It’s best to heat old wood with bugs to 250-degrees for 2 hours to kill bugs. Of course, finding an oven to hold long lengths of wood is a whole other issue.

  3. Do not work with non kiln-dried lumber. It doesn’t matter how dry it appears or feels, unless it is kiln dried, it is not ready for use.

Leave a Reply