As an architect or designer why would we use a reclaimed product? It sounds like an easy answer but if one digs a bit its not that simple… There are many different types of reclaimed products. Lets just stick with wood for now, as its what I know best. When we look at reclaimed wood we can see 3 different types that will jump out at you, industrial reclaimed, barn wood and river reclaimed.
Industrial reclaimed is by far the most used reclaimed wood product, only because it is the most prevalent. By and large this product comes from salvage operations when dismantling old industrial facilities. Some of the timbers taken from these centuries old manufacturing facilities are beautiful. Aged from time the patinas can be breathtaking. One scary thing that people don’t always think about is the majority of this wood is covered with toxins, which was a by-product from the applications that took place within the facility. For example, a tannery would have a very high level of mercury within these timbers. So ask your provider for the chain of custody. It might be safe and great looking BUT it might be very unsafe!
Barn wood is the second most popular. The aged look is really striking and the story is a powerful one. The human condition is such that we love to tell stories within our homes. Folks love to say that this floor or wall was taken from an old barn that had seen better days since it was built around the turn of the century. But again the chain of custody is not something that can be as reliable as one would like. And sourcing can be difficult to gain the same look. Plus the milling process can be a difficult one, nails and metal hidden just below the surface can wreak havoc on a band saw.
River reclaimed timber is the least known about product. With the exception of some ridiculous “reality” shows on television there are not many who do this to a large scale. (full disclosure I am one of the few that do it to a large scale) These logs were cut over a century ago and floated down a river system to their final destination, a sawmill. This was done on an extremely large scale; thousands of logs a season. Fortunately some sank along the way and were not only preserved but also aged in such a way that the patinas are unmistakable. The nice thing about this timber is that it has not been sawn yet. And the waters that they are submerged in are not polluted. This means that the products can be just about anything one can think of.