Better with Age

Better with Age

Authentic reclaimed hardwood can have advantages over wood that is made to look old

“Distressed or old?” A designer that I work with was going back and forth about reclaimed hardwood and hardwood flooring that is purposefully distressed to make it appear old.

“I like the idea of reducing wastefulness and landfill mass by making floors from old barns,” she said. “But could this floor be less durable because it is old and had a past life? Or what if it was salvaged after a forest fire or taken from a tree that was killed by beetles? Could it be infested?”

She was thinking it is safer to stick with flooring products that have been made to look old, but are not. This is an example of confusion that has resulted from having too much information.

“Zanzibar” flooring in the 2010 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year

“Reclaimed wood” usually means wood that is taken from old buildings. If this wood has not rotted, in which case it would not be made into flooring, it will actually be more stable than newer wood will be because the reclaimed wood has aged.

Other salvaged woods that do not come from deconstruction can confuse the picture. Trees harvested in the aftermath of a forest fire, for example, do not contribute to credits under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system. LEED’s Resource Reuse credit only applies to wood that is taken from old structures.  Salvaged wood can come from many sources, including trees killed by beetles. This wood has been found to be structurally sound, but is most typically used in framing homes.

So, I told my client, if you want a reclaimed hardwood floor, you are looking for the performance of old-growth wood – something that you really cannot get out of a forest any more. You also want a floor that is historic and authentically old. And, you will understand if it costs more than a regular hardwood floor.

If not, you are just going for a certain distressed look, and there are many of those to choose from.

Virtually all U.S.-made brands – reclaimed or distressed — have good warranties – no worries about fire damage or insect infestation. And many are from companies that pay attention to proper forest management and healthful indoor-air quality.

In reclaimed hardwood, we prefer Zanzibar from Mohawk. It is an engineered floor made in planks that are 5-inches wide. The floor is put together with adhesive that does not contain urea formaldehyde, and the product has FloorScore Indoor Air Quality certification.

“The homeowner on this job wants it to look and feel old,” my client said. “So, may I borrow your samples so I can show them the real thing?” ©

— Mike Smith is a former flooring account manager in Cincinnati.

1 Comment
  • Eliz Werremeyer
    Posted at 12:14h, 03 April Reply

    Very nice! You made that look so easy to do!!

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