Barn Wood Flooring Buying Advice

Unless you are familiar with what to look for in high quality reclaimed barn wood flooring, the most important factors when buying any reclaimed wood flooring products are to purchase materials from reputable vendors that know how to properly select, kiln dry, and mill the flooring for your project. Due to the natural (and desirable) inconsistencies that barn wood flooring boards acquire during their life as heritage barns, a highly trained production staff using professional milling and kiln drying equipment is essential to achieving an end product that will not only meet and exceed your project vision for but last beautifully throughout future years of wear and use, without the need for costly replacements or repairs.

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The Need for Reputable Reclaimed Flooring Manufacturers

Reclaimed barn wood flooring's popularity has soared in recent years. This has led to an increase in experienced and specialized vendors and installers who are familiar with the nuances of working with reclaimed flooring and how to produce a beautiful looking end result. However, it has also led to the buzz-word "reclaimed" being used to quickly move or markup unauthentic products or the low quality manufacturing of materials. Situations like this inevitably lead to frustrating experiences for installers, poor end results, and floors that will not stand the test of time.

Properly sourced, kiln dried, and milled flooring should lead to an installation experience that is relatively similar to installing industry standard strip flooring once professional installers become familiar working with the characteristics of barn wood flooring that make it so popular today.

We recommend taking the following steps before making your purchase:

  • Make sure that you are buying flooring authentically sourced from barns that were originally built with quality lumber, preferably old growth timber milled by skilled craftsmen.
  • Ask to see pictures and physical samples of the different flooring options available through the vendor and speak with knowledgeable sales representatives who can answer any questions and provide feedback for your questions and vision.
  • Ensure that the flooring manufacturer properly grades, kiln dries, and mills the flooring in a professional facility.
  • Review the different mill profiles available for the flooring and make sure that the boards fit together properly on a flat surface.
  • Make sure that the manufacturer provides detailed documentation of your order, including the manufacturing and shipping (if applicable) details.
  • Ensure that your order will be properly shipped to maintain the integrity of the flooring.

A reputable dealer can guide you through every step of the reclaimed flooring buying process with expert advice and professional manufacturing and delivery. Our full service staff has worked step by step on projects on all scales in both the custom residential and commercial markets.

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Advantages of Old Growth Flooring

Our flooring comes from authentic antique structures that were built using old growth wood harvested from virgin forests that grew in a time when there was vastly less environmental pollutants and natural, healthy, dense forest competition for the sun. This natural, pure growth cycle led to much more robust trees that grew slowly over hundreds of years and produced very tight growth rings. Some of the desirable benefits of these tight growth rings include wood that is

  • Harder, Denser, Stronger, and More Stable: Less movement, cracking, and expansion and contraction from moisture, along with much greater measurable stability within both shorter longer boards, lead to an installation that will be more durable over time. The tight growth rings of our installed flooring options bring out the unmatched characteristics these century+ old original American forest trees. These traits make our reclaimed flooring great for high traffic areas.
  • More resistant to rot: Old growth wood is usually composed dominantly of Latewood (Autumn Growth) versus Earlywood (Spring Growth). Latewood is known for its rot-resistant properties because its Xylem vessels are more tightly packed and stronger.
  • More resistant to insect infestation: High density and low moisture content make make old growth wood naturally more resistant to those insects who love to make wood their home or dinner.

Modern lumber industry standard new growth wood flooring is often intentionally produced from fast growing tree species, such as pine, that are encouraged to grow even more quickly by creating unnatural conditions such as planting them in open areas to eliminate natural competition for sunlight. These accelerated growth cycles lead to loose growth rings and weaker wood that is harvested after mere decades instead of centuries. The result is less variety of species and less quality of products.

Although there are still areas around the world where it is possible to source true old growth lumber, North America’s supply was mostly depleted by the mid-twentieth century. Certain species like the once abundant American Chestnut nearly became extinct. For these reasons, reclaimed wood has become a truly excellent source for the sustainable, functional, and aesthetic character of old growth flooring and its tight growth rings.

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Is Reclaimed Flooring More Expensive?

One common question that our customers ask is whether or not reclaimed flooring is more expensive than new growth lumber found at more mainstream lumber mills. Reclaimed lumber prices are surprisingly competitive within the modern market, and this rings true for reclaimed flooring. Our flooring is reclaimed from historic structures that were built with old growth lumber that is superior in many ways to new growth wood varieties. Due to the rarity of old growth trees and laws restricting their harvesting, finding newly cut old growth flooring in the modern market can be very difficult or even impossible. If it can be found, chances are there will be long wait times and elevated prices. Most of our flooring inventory is by nature from old growth lumber that has been naturally air dried over time for enhanced durability and stability. The option to retain varying percentages of our flooring's naturally aged patina and character marks is also a quality that cannot be matched or manufactured, even by freshly milled old growth flooring.

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Hardwood Versus Softwood Flooring

The terms hardwood and softwood can be misleading, since these classifications are based on seed structure and not physical hardness. While hardwoods are indeed harder than softwoods in general, examples like Balsa wood being classified as a hardwood clearly show that the classification is based solely on seed structure.

  • Hardwood: Hardwood is another name for Angiosperm, meaning “enclosed seed.” Angiosperms like Maple, Walnut, Ash, Beech, and Oak produce seeds that are housed in some kind of fruit or nut. Hardwoods are generally deciduous except in the tropics and subtropics and are more complex in their physical makeup than softwoods. They usually have slower growth rates than softwoods which leads to tighter growth rings.
  • Softwood: Softwood is another name for Gymnosperm, which means “naked seed.” Trees that produce cones that slowly open before releasing their seeds, such as Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Pine, Redwood, and Cedar, are considered Gymnosperms. They are generally evergreen and usually grow faster and larger than hardwoods, although this can vary greatly depending on environmental factors. For example, inland Douglas Fir has slower growth rates than coastal Douglas Fir. Faster growth rates, especially in new growth softwoods, can mean wider growth rings. However, our old growth reclaimed flooring softwood varieties, namely Douglas Fir, exhibit very tight, slowly grown rings that enhance density and durability.
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Softwoods make up roughly 80% of the world’s lumber supply, and because they grow faster than hardwoods they tend to be less expensive when freshly milled. In the world of reclaimed wood, however, price is also based on availability. For example, Reclaimed Weathered Grey Pine Barn Wood Siding is more difficult to source because of its rarity. For this reason Reclaimed Weathered Gray Hardwood Siding tends to be slightly less expensive. This is another great reason why Reclaimed Douglas Fir makes a wonderful softwood flooring option. Besides its appealing aesthetics and durability, it is very competitively priced when compared to Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring examples.

While it is worth considering the differences between hardwoods and softwoods for your flooring purchase, all of our flooring options come with proven, long lasting durability to go with their reclaimed character and old growth aesthetics.

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