I'm doing some structural work on an old addition. A fair amount of the
wood I take off is in decent shape. (No water damage, in particular.)
It's T&G sheathing, 2x6's, and (especially) clapboards. It all seems to
It would be nice to just re-use this stuff, where I can. Is there an
informed opinion on doing this?
One concern would be to ensure it is nail-free (or at least you are
aware of the location of any nails) when you cut it.
Not knowing exactly where it came from and where it's going to be used/
re-used, I guess the question would be: Do *you* have any doubts about
whether or not it should be used for the purpose you have in mind?
Wood logs are recovered from rivers, lake beds after many years.
Barns/homes are dismantled and moved.
My tendency is too make smaller pieces out of bigger pieces. I'm a
If the nails are popping, maybe it's the wrong hammer!
Use the wood, you determine fit for the job.
I reuse stuff all the time--most older lumber is far better quality
material than new. If surface checking on tuba-x material is excessive,
I'll plane it down to one-by if it isn't going to be hidden.
Structurally, unless it is actually rotted or split up too badly it'll
be as good as or better than new.
Only problems are
- additional time/effort required to clean it up by pulling nails, etc.,
(the primary reason commercial and professionals don't is that added cost)
- related but if it needs finishing again it may take more extensive
prep work owing to filling nail holes and the surface oxidation/existing
- possibly appearance if not hidden but that's cosmetic defect only so
for framing, who cares?
- sometimes it's harder to work owing to being much harder than new
lumber (fir or SYP are particularly noticeable in that regard). Again
that really goes back to point (1) of taking more time/effort (but
probably having better material).
I've taken 16- to 20-ft 2x6, -8, -10, -12's out of places that were
essentially knot-free. Imagine the cost of one of even one of them
suckers today _if_ you could even find it!!!
I'll add an 'AMEN' from the peanut gallery to the above. When I was a
wee lad, we used clear redwood for gutter boards and outside window
trim. Not even a rich man could do that today. When I think back to the
big scraps we routinely threw on the burn pile back then (every
construction site had one), I could cry. Who knew? Poster above is
correct about old wood getting hard as a rock- whatever the heck this
place is framed with, I can't drive nails in it, or drill it with a dull
bit. I just drill pilot holes and use screws now, to avoid trashing the
drywall on the wall behind where I am working.
When salvaging old wood, your nose and a sharp icepick are helpful- nose
to smell any funny-looking spots, and ice pick to probe for mushiness.
If you can afford it, one of those airport metal detector wands like
Norm uses on his show is a good saw and planer blade saver. If that is
too pricey, a fistful of super-magnets in the end of an old sock will at
least find the big ones.
In Campbell County, VA in the late '60s they salvaged an old school
house and were selling off the various beams, joists, flooring, etc,
I was inspecting a pile of from 3x to 5x beams from 12 to 16" deep and
16 to 20 ft long. It looked suspiciously dark and a little
surreptitious slivers w/ the pocketknife revealed what I
suspected--black walnut. I took it all for $1500 (a king's ransom then
for a newly graduated fella' w/ new kid and house) and ended up w/
something on the order of 5000 bd-ft of what virtually all graded 1C or
lifetime of projects, or reselling it and making a few bucks? Either
way, better that than the landfill. If I tripped across anything like
that now, I couldn't take advantage of it, short of renting a storage
locker. No space, no tools, and I'm no Norm Abrams skill-wise, either.
Built quite a lot of furniture w/ a sizable fraction (was doing that as
moonlighting job back then) and then another sizable fraction went into
replacing and extending interior trim, doors, windows, etc., of
antebellum houses in Lynchburg during a period where many old, rundown
rental houses in the older part of town were being rehab'ed by other
young professionals needing affordable housing in a tight market and
(like me at the time) w/ more time than actual cash.
Unfortunately, what was left I had to sell owing to not having storage
for it when left Lynchburg... :(
I take it you are putting it back up where it came from, replacing a few
pieces as needed? It will work fine if not warped or damaged (as you seem
You may find a few pieces break or are otherwise damaged when you take them
down but likely as not, even those can be re-worked for trims or smaller
spots. A bit of a pain cleaning it up, but not too bad. I find it about
even to the pain of having to make a trip to the local dump to get rid of
I reuse wood in good shape all the time. Occasionally done some dumpster
diving in the past for brand new wood.
I lived in VT for many years. If you have an old building to demo,
especially barns, you put an ad someplace. It will be stripped to the
foundation for free by people who want wood, people who want wood that
can't be got any more (full 1" & better flooring planks, 8x8 & 12x12
long timbers, etc) and people who want anything they can haul. Last fall
a recycle org totally disassembled an old town building to the
foundation and even swept up and raked.
I recycle as much of a building as I can. I have no problem pulling
some nails and cutting off split ends to salvage as much as possible.
Nail pulling is a great chore to give visitors when you don't feel
like talking. ;)
Older wood is better than newer wood. It just is. The only
constraint is how much time you are willing to spend to salvage a
piece. It's not just the cost of the new wood you'll be saving,
you'll be saving space in the dumpster.
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