Recycled Wood Accommodates Market’s Rising Demand for “green”
>Green building products continue to be a burgeoning flooring category across all flooring mediums. In the hardwood flooring sector this commitment to environmental responsibility has been expressed in a move towards third party certified lumber procurement, increased raw material yields through advancements in manufacturing techniques and through the use of lumber reclaimed from barns, wine barrels and old buildings to make flooring.
These reclaimed products have been offered as a unique alternative to run of the mill wood flooring products for some time although the environmental aspect of the use of these old timbers has in the last few years become the focal point of marketing these items.
Rick Merwin of Stanton, CA based Fontenay notes “although some consumers have previously taken interest in sustainability, reclaimed wood flooring products have primarily been catered to consumers seeking unique and exclusive results”. Fontenay has been producing wood flooring from reclaimed woods for more than 10 years using a variety of reclaimed lumbers. The most successful product in their collection has been the Vintage Barrel Collection, a wood flooring product made from reclaimed wine barrels. Up to 200,000 barrels are retired from use in California each year giving Fontenay ample raw material to reclaim to make their collection of flooring as well as wine racking systems and furniture. “Today we are witnessing a surge in construction projects”, says Merwin, “from the architects desk on, designed to reduce carbon footprints through efficiency and the integration of renewable and reclaimed materials in order to make a more conscious impact on world and local environments.”
Above: Cooperage Flooring from Fontenay’s Vintage Barrel Collection
Merwin is also working along with West Plains, MO based Real Wood Floors to bring to market a reclaimed product produced from heavy timbers once used as ballast or cribbage in the hulls of World War II era ships. With the invention of water ballast systems and the move towards using light metals as cribbage these timbers were removed and discarded. By re-sawing these timbers into veneer Fontenay and Real Wood Floors will produce engineered flooring that is both unique and makes excellent use of material that would otherwise be left to rot and decay.
Other manufacturers are also seeing a increased interest in flooring reclaimed from old wooden structures. Nicole Little from Charlotte, NC based Greyne Custom Wood Co. notes “we are using a smattering of antique and distressed woods reclaimed from barns, fenceboards and so called ‘tobacco’ wood reclaimed from the old wooden structures on dilapidated tobacco farms and processing facilities.” These product are generally re-sawn and the exposed side is used to capture the patina or worn appearance from years of use. Greyne also makes reclaimed material from wormy chestnut and reclaimed oak logs that are scavenged from forest floors.
Left: Reclaimed Heart Pine by Greyne Custom Wood Co.
Right: Reclaimed Chestnut by Greyne Custom Wood Co.
“The majority of our products are customized for each project in-house with additional hand-scraping, beveling or distressing. In keeping with the Green trend we utilize European environmentally friendly oil finishes and low VOC water-based urethanes which not only enhance the natural character of the wood but also sets these items at the pinnacle of the Green Building movement” Little added.
Tim Igo of West Plains, MO based flooring distributor The Master’s Craft is also seeing the reclaimed flooring trend continue to grow. “I’ve seen a real resurgence in requests for products made from reclaimed timbers. In addition to the traditional reclaimed heart pine we’re getting requests for reclaimed oak and hickory. Our customers are asking for both solid and engineered products as well as both finished and unfinished.”
From coast to coast this burgeoning product category seems poised for continued growth and development. Once considered a product reserved specifically for high end use, increased demand has brought these products more into the mainstream. As the product category continues to grow and enhanced manufacturing techniques drive down costs, expect these products to become more readily available.