Recycled lumber: Is it safe?

I'm planning to build a porch awning (roof) over an existing patio, and have been looking at salvaged lumber for the structure. It's way oversized stuff by modern standards -- 6x6s and 6x8s. I live near Philadelphia where, unfortunately, someone is always taking down a 200- or 300-year old building.
I mentioned this to the builder I might use and he has really been talking the whole idea of using old wood. He said wood gets compressed over time so, if a piece has been used horizontally, it might not hold if it's used vertically -- as a post, for instance. Then, he mentioned "all the work" of pulling out old nails, etc. He seemed unreasonably down on the idea.
I thought anything that wasn't rotted or split would be useable. Am I hopelessly naive?
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

No, he's blowing smoke in an attempt to avoid using new, consistently dimensioned framing lumber. It <is> more effort to use old timber/lumber, but unless it is damaged in some way, it will almost certainly be stronger than currently milled "plantation-grown" structural lumber.
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More work for him. Old growth lumber is generally denser, tighter spacing on the annual rings. Yes, it will take a little more work but I think you get better results. Chances are it must be re-sawn, sanded or planed. A metal detector is good to find those nails.
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But builder may still be trying to help you since more work for him means more $$$ for you, especially since labor costs usually far outweigh material costs.
Personally, I would use old lumber if the beams were used as part of the visual design or if one were doing an accurate restoration and wanted to be "true" through-and-through.
Otherwise, probably cheaper to get the same structural results by overdesigning the lumber dimensions but use new stock.
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Duane,
Personally, I see little wrong with using recycled lumber, with some caveats. My uncle built his home decades ago and I know that much of the lumber in the house was scrounged. In some mission-critical situations he over-engineered to be on the safe side. For example, he sistered together double beams where single beams would normally be used to hold up the house. Some of those beams that he used were actually retrieved as they floated down the local river. Obviously, the beams were dried and examined before being used. Even so, he sistered them to be on the safe side - why not, they were free.
It seems to me that lumber that has been properly sized on a well- engineered home is going to show little deformation. I believe that your potential contractor's concerns are similar to mine: Messing with the salvaged lumber is more time consuming and riskier. It is much easier for a contractor to hand a bill of materials to a lumber yard and work with the exact quantity of virgin lumber. Even if you remove nails and examine the lumber, he still has several concerns. He is taking the risk that a structural problem could occur and he could face liability issues. Also, he runs the risk of ruining his tools on any nails which fail to get removed. There is also the liability of somebody getting injured from nails which didn't get removed.
Also, the builder has to be concerned with uniform lumber dimensions. The actual size of standard nominal lumber has changed over the years (eg: 2x4 lumber) and some very old lumber may be very non- standard. Also, as another poster has mentioned, very old lumber is much more dense and hence more difficult to work with.
If you are considering doing the work yourself, then work with the salvaged lumber if you consider the price savings to be worth you extra time and effort.
Good luck, Gideon
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote in message
I'm planning to build a porch awning (roof) over an existing patio, and have been looking at salvaged lumber for the structure. It's way oversized stuff by modern standards -- 6x6s and 6x8s. I live near Philadelphia where, unfortunately, someone is always taking down a 200- or 300-year old building.
I mentioned this to the builder I might use and he has really been talking the whole idea of using old wood. He said wood gets compressed over time so, if a piece has been used horizontally, it might not hold if it's used vertically -- as a post, for instance. Then, he mentioned "all the work" of pulling out old nails, etc. He seemed unreasonably down on the idea.
I thought anything that wasn't rotted or split would be useable. Am I hopelessly naive?
Mark
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Well sure, that is why all the 200 year old buildings simply fall down.
Besides, if you are oversizing the lumber, what do you care if it gets a bit weaker?
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I think the point is in saying that while the lumber if its old and in good condition may be fine to use, the other problems such as nails and unusual sizing may make the project for a contractor unrealistic. Unless of course the owner insists and covers the extra expense of using the old materials.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com writes:

So were the next words out of his mouth: "so where is this crappy wood?" ;)
--
be safe.
flip (also somewhat naive)
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

I still remember the toughest job I ever did. In 1970 I tore down a one-car garage built in the '30s. The goddamn wood just would not let go of a nail! I had to knock 2x4s apart with a 12-pound sledge!
I could have built a bank vault out of the wood used in that garage.
The wood will be fine. More than fine.
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wrote:

This is Turtle.
You sure you was not getting Oak boards off the garage for they will be hell to take down. It will take a 3 foot crawl bar to pull a 10 penny nail out.
TURTLE
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TURTLE wrote:

...
Not necessarily...SYP after it fully cures is about as difficult. Many others have similar characteristics. Really only the soft pines aren't prone to it. Even Doug Fir gets pretty doggone hard w/ time...
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Thanks, folks. You've pretty much confirmed what I suspected, i.e., that there was extra work involved that my guy didn't want to do. I'll probably just find a different contractor who is less whiny.
I only regret that, after talking to this guy, I cancelled my order with a salvager who had -- among other things -- a 32-foot straight-as-an-arrow 6x6. When cut, it would have provided the four posts I need for this project.
But there will be another old building coming down next week.
Thanks
Mark
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Most of us have never seen anything that long in one piece of wood. Be sure you have a good roof rack to bring it home.
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Mark,
I haven't posted in the thread until you made the reply above.
I am a contractor. One who doesn't mark up materials on those times I pick them up for a customer. I do charge a fee for my time.
Recycling the old lumber is a wonderful DIY project. One that I have done in the past for myself. I might do it again for myself in the right situation. It is a wonderful reuse of a precious resource.
I would never do it for a client if I did that type of work for others. Because there is no way to project my cost or time unless I do it by the hour. AND no one wants to pay for it that way.
I work of off a set menu of pricing while installing window treatments. I can assure you that the labor charges and material cost to install a new drapery rod will be less that the price I charge to recycle old parts. Why? Because when you recycle I charge labor by the hour, parts as needed, travel time to pick up the parts and mileage if it is more than a few miles.
When I work for others I am doing it to make money. I have a certain number of hours per week that I am willing to expend for that goal. I am going to make the a certain amount during that time or I am going to take that time and do some of the many things on my personal to do list.
I used to do it differently. Every time I did that they saved money any it was my time they wasted.
You can call me a whiney contractor,
I call it experienced.
Colbyt
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Get the old lumber and a new builder.
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wrote:

Your "builder" is thinking about his 15% markup on materials... Jon
---------------------------------------------------- Anything being cooked a second time needs a hot oven.
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