What You Should Know About Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring

Reclaimed hardwood flooring wins points for sustainability, but it isn’t perfect. Here’s what you need to know.

By: John Riha
Kitchen With Green Island and Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring

Kitchen With Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring

"What I'm seeing more and more of in flooring is classic looks using new technology," says Gabriel Shaw, owner of That Finishing Touch Design in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A perfect example of that, he notes, is reclaimed hardwood. New factory-finished hardwood flooring offers all the charm of reclaimed timber — right down to that timeless hand-hewn look — but without the high costs associated with true salvaged lumber. "Factory-finished wood will stand up to moisture fluctuations better than any wood flooring that is finished onsite."

Photo by: HomerWood


Savvy remodeling homeowners know that they can add plenty of personality to their homes and save some cash with salvaged building materials. From funky fun to one-of-a-kind elegance, salvaged building materials can be imaginative additions to your digs. Not only that, but using salvaged building materials is a sustainable, eco-friendly practice that keeps stuff out of landfills.

One of the most sought-after salvaged building materials is reclaimed hardwood flooring. With its everyday practicality, reclaimed hardwood flooring is a prized find, especially for renovations of older homes where flooring with an aged patina fits right in. It’s also a budget friendly choice, with prices for common species such as oak up to 50 percent cheaper than brand new hardwood flooring.

Lucky shoppers may find reclaimed hardwood flooring that’s made from rare or even non-existent species, such as quarter-sawn oak, heart pine, American elm and chestnut. That makes hunting for salvaged flooring even more exciting, but rare woods can up the price to $10 per square foot and more.

Thankfully, looking for reclaimed hardwood flooring (and other salvaged building materials) is relatively easy. Most salvage yards have well-maintained websites that list available materials, their prices, and have good photographic representations of the items for sale. Nevertheless, reclaimed hardwood flooring is one of the most-requested items at salvage yards, and interested homeowners may have to be dedicated to the search. That means calling salvage yards in your area and putting in a request if you don't find what you’re looking for online. Be persistent with follow-up calls.

Other ways to find reclaimed hardwood flooring include searching at sites such as Craigslist and eBay. Be sure to use distance filters to search for material in your area.

Even if you find reclaimed hardwood flooring, you’ll need to determine if it’s right for you. A hands-on, visual inspection is definitely recommended so you can make sure that the flooring is in good condition. Reputable dealers will discard damaged and unusable pieces, but not all sellers do. You’ll need to make sure there’s enough usable flooring to cover your square footage needs—adding 10 percent for waste during installation. If you fall short, it may be difficult to come up with more flooring that matches the species, color and patina of what you already bought.

You won’t have to worry much about color if you decide to refinish your reclaimed hardwood flooring. A pro will charge $2 to $4 per square foot to sand and refinish your floors. Or, you can rent a floor sander and do the whole process yourself for about one-third that price. However, be aware—sanding a floor is tricky, even for an experienced DIYer, and mistakes are usually permanent.

Reclaimed hardwood flooring that’s been painted merits special consideration—you need to make sure that the old paint doesn’t contain lead. If your dealer isn’t sure, insist on a lead-paint test before you buy. Test kits range from $10 to $20, and there are several kinds approved by the EPA.

If you score a good stash for flooring, great. But don’t forget you’ll have to find a way to deliver it to your house. Some salvage yards offer delivery services that range from $75 to $200, depending on the amount of flooring and the distance to your house.

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