Wear and tear, and weathering, which leave their mark on all materials, seem to have a particularly elegant effect on wood: different shades due to the sun and rain, traces of a previous construction, relief of the wood vein accentuated by wear, etc. It is also possible to appreciate the mechanical stability of wooden elements that have already been used.
The reclaimed timber sector offers a wide range of solutions for exterior cladding and interior panelling, which come from different sources: the dismantling of former agricultural, industrial or residential buildings, the salvage of maritime installations (pontoons, mooring piles, ships’ decks) or the diversion of timber products from industrial applications (beds of trucks or train carriages, old scaffolding and panels used to dry concrete blocks, sleepers). The same diversity can be found in the species of wood encountered with dealers, which range from the most local (such as oak) to the most exotic (such as azobe).
It is also possible, albeit on a less regular basis, to find reconstituted wood panels on the salvage market, which are also suitable for use as cladding or panelling. For example: high pressure laminate panels (like Trespa), or plywood panels with a coat of veneer.
Among common products, one can find:
- European barn wood: from dismantled barns in eastern European countries (Austria, Poland, Hungary, etc.). Planks recovered in this way are often over 50 years old, and sometimes as much as 70. Having become particularly stable and resistant due to its long exposure, barnwood is well suited to exterior cladding applications. The planks can be placed vertically or horizontally. Categories in the inventory are sometimes composed of planks of different widths. The implementation then has to be adapted by grouping identical widths together in a single line.
- American barn wood: from dismantled barns in the USA and Canada, these planks are usually older than their European counterparts (sometimes more than 150 years old). Some suppliers have an FSC reclaimed label awarded to this product. Otherwise, it has similar characteristics to European barnwood.
- Antique wall panels of different styles and periods, carved or not.
- Cut oak beams: some dealers cut up old oak beams to make planks of more manageable dimensions and more varied applications. Oak duramen is excellent for use as exterior cladding.
- Old truck beds, and sometimes the boards from marine containers and train carriages: these exotic wood elements (like keruing, for example) can be found in one-off batches on the market. They have a rougher appearance and can be treated or left in their original condition for a stronger effect. In all cases, however, their strong resistance makes them well suited to a variety of applications.
- Ship timber: from disassembled pilings, pontoons or boat decks, these are often components made from azobé, in the form of planks 3 to 4 cm thick. This wood is very heavy (>1000 kg/m³). Azobé is suitable for outdoor use, e.g. on a terrace, although it has a risk of deformation, which limits its potential for use as façade cladding.
- Planks from the cutting of mooring piles: usually exotic species (e.g. Basralocus), which are ideal for exterior uses. The planks have small holes and cracks in places, which indicate their reclaimed origins. These elements are present in one-off lots on the market.
- Scaffold timber: another example of a decommissioned material (wooden scaffolding has been replaced by aluminium modular systems) that has found new uses as a building material. Often made of low-quality pine, the long-term use of this material, untreated and outdoors, is not recommended. The very low price of this product is its main quality and makes it good for interior or temporary developments.
The recorded prices are based on findings in Belgium and the Netherlands:
- Barn wood (price varies in line with the size of the order)
- European: ~55 €/m² excl. VAT
- American: ~100 €/m² excl. VAT
- Cut oak beams. ~1.8 × 10 cm planks of variable length: ~45 €/m² excl. VAT.
- Old truck beds: variable prices, sometimes very low.
- Ship timber:
- Planks 3 cm thick: 29 to 35 €/m²
- Planks 4 cm thick: up to ~50 €/m²
- Planks from sawn mooring piles: ~50 €/m².
- Steenschotten panels:
- Douglas pine panels 140 × 95 × 5 cm: ~12.5 €/m²
- Azobé panels 140 × 110 × 3.5 cm: ~11 €/m²
- Old scaffolding planks (Steigerhout):
- High quality, sanded planks 3.2 × 20 × 500 cm: ~25 €/m²
- 3.2 × 20 × 500 cm untreated planks of secondary quality: ~15 €/m²
Specialist reclaimed wood dealers usually offer a wide range of services. Depending on the specifications for each project, batches can be delivered untreated or treated in advance. These operations have an impact on the sale price, but make it possible to obtain a product that is perfectly suited to the requirements and specific characteristics of a given project.
Some examples of possible operations:
- Resizing: some dealers offer to resize the planks to a standard thickness.
- Sawing: panels and planks can be sawn to obtain regular dimensions (in one, two or three dimensions).
- Finishes: panels and planks can be treated (sanding, brushing, etc.) or they can be left untreated.
- Drying: Some operators offer to have the elements dried, up to a humidity level of 12%.
If you suspect that the elements have been in contact with harmful products during their previous use (hydrocarbons, formwork oil, paints containing lead, creosote, etc.), research their origin. For borderline cases, there are tests that allow you to check whether the product is suitable for the intended use.