11 Reasons to Use Reclaimed Barn Wood in Your Next Project

Thinking of using reclaimed barn wood in your next project? As a provider or heritage barn wood, we offer our experience working with homeowners, architects, and contractors to give you the top ten reasons that our customers choose authentic barn siding, flooring, or heavy timbers for their designs.


1. Aesthetic Character

Let’s be honest. While there are many top reasons that reclaimed barn wood can make the perfect fit for a variety of projects, from timber-framing an entire home with massive old growth timbers to adding unique finishing touches on interior features, the number one reason that most people choose barn wood is the fact that it looks amazing. The diverse range of the aged or weathered coloration and textural detail make each piece of heritage barn wood completely unique in a world of cookie-cutter lumber products that simply can’t compare in terms of flavor, style, and timeless design options. Also, since most heritage barn wood was sawn from old growth trees, the coloration and grain patterns have matured, adding unique character and aesthetic appeal.

2. Usability

One of the great characteristics of reclaimed barn wood is its practical usability in a variety of applications. Common uses include

  • Exterior siding
  • Interior paneling
  • Flooring
  • Heavy timber framing
  • Accent features
  • Cabinetry
  • Tabletops

Craftsman enjoy working with quality reclaimed materials because they are stable, strong, and straight due to their tight old growth rings and history of natural air drying. As we will discuss in #3, reclaimed barn wood can also be used in situations that modern lumber simply cannot stand up to when it comes to projects that require unusually large sizes. Usability is also enhanced by the ability to custom mill barn wood to achieve a wide variety of surface textures and profiles. For example, at our in-house milling facility, barn siding is made into flooring with the options of leaving 25%, 50%, or 100% of the original patina surface texture, along with different joinery profiles such as tongue and groove. Whether choosing to leave the original patina or reveal the handsome grain patterns with a fresh, smooth planed surface, reclaimed boards and timbers can be used to accommodate and enhance nearly any project.


3. The Story

Once realizing that quality reclaimed barn wood pieces are not only beautiful but strong, stable, and large, one of the biggest draws to using reclaimed barn wood is that each piece comes with a unique story as its own slice of history. Reading boards and timbers for historical character, including saw styles, nail holes, grain patterns, axe marks, joinery pockets, weathering, tobacco staining, and other acquired patina becomes an enjoyable part of the aesthetic and textural appreciation of the barn wood. For example, looking at a 20-foot, two hundred year old hand hewn timber that has been remarkably well preserved in an historic barn has a certain effect on the senses and imagination that makes customers want to know more about the story behind the beautiful piece of American history that will become part of their daily home life.

This photo shows The Old Hill Place hand hewn log home in its original location, circa 1901. After a remodel in the 1920s, the original logs were covered with clapboards, hiding the valuable hand hewn treasures.


The Old Hill Place log home in 2018 after it was carefully dismantled and reconstructed at the Distinguished Boards and Beams headquarters in Carbondale, Colorado:


4. Environmental Responsibility

To many, sustainable building practices are integral to their planning, designing, and building work. Although architects and contractors may choose environmentally responsible materials for a variety of reasons, the number one driver of green building practices in the United States is client demand. Homeowners and business owners alike are moving increasingly more towards longterm, sustainable mindsets and the utilization of sustainable building materials for new projects or remodels.

In fact, a 2016 report conducted in 70 countries Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 "demonstrates that global green building continues to double every three years." The report also describes significant reductions in operating costs and increases in asset value year-over-year. With the challenge of finding suitable green materials in their growing demand and necessity, especially in the lumber industry, reclaimed barn wood provides an excellent solution. For this reason, projects incorporating barn wood are commonly eligible for LEED points.


5. Size

Size could easily be the number one or two reason that many choose to go with reclaimed lumber for their projects. For jobs that require lengths and widths generally found only in old growth tree specimens, reclaimed wood provides a very suitable solution across species. Many tree species and virgin forests were harvested to the point of extinction or endangerment during the early to mid-1900s, resulting in new laws protecting the remaining old growth timber stands. Therefore, newly harvested lumber rarely comes available in sizes commonly available in reclaimed pieces that once served as massive timbers framing barns, factories, and other structures built before our first forests began to reach the point of exhaustion. At Distinguished Boards and Beams, we often see timbers upwards of 24” in width and 40+ feet in length. New lumber in these sizes are virtually unavailable, and if they are available there will likely be long wait times included in the purchase.

6. Supporting Local Business

Our customers love that we are a local business supporting local employees, creating quality local products. Reclaimed barn wood is used in designs across the world for businesses ranging from local restaurants to multinational corporations. However, the reclaimed barn wood industry is itself one of the few niches that has not been taken over by large non-localized corporations. While it may not seem obvious at first why buying reclaimed barn wood supports local business, a look at the most popular barn wood suppliers across North America reveals that they are nearly all locally owned and operated. To some of our clients, especially other business owners, this quality alone is enough to make them want to buy from us. Add to that some of the other top buying reasons from this like usability, old growth characteristics, and aesthetics, and there is a clear choice for many to buy from reputable reclaimed barn wood dealers.

7. Old Growth Characteristics

One undeniable and desirable characteristic of most of the authentic reclaimed barn wood pieces that we see is the fact that they were cut during times when mature, old growth trees were abundant and easy to find. When clearing the land for new homes and agrarian structures, landowners would use the tallest, straightest trees for their projects. Once railroad systems were in place, lumber companies operating in pristine forest began harvesting, milling, and shipping the finest examples of old growth species throughout North America. By the 1940s most of North America's available old growth forests were depleted due to the Industrial Revolution. Our barn wood is marked by the characteristic tight growth rings and deep, rich grain patterns found in trees that had to compete naturally for sun and nutrients. This natural competition led to slower growth rates, which resulted in wood that is denser, stronger, and more durable. When compared to new growth wood, reclaimed old growth wood is unmatched in the following areas:

  • Stability
  • Strength
  • Rot resistance
  • Size
  • Beauty

8. Stability

Proper vetting and care during the reclamation process ensures that historic reclaimed wood not only matches but exceeds the architectural integrity of newly harvested lumber in many ways. Reclaimed lumber has had decades or even centuries to slowly air dry. This slow curing process combined with extremely tight and slowly grown old growth rings results in boards and timbers that are remarkably stable and resistant to twisting and checking. This makes reclaimed wood a preferred favorite for timber framers, contractors, carpenters, architects, and homeowners alike.

9. Holds It's Value

Depending on the source, condition, and species, reclaimed barn wood pieces have the potential to hold substantial value on the current market as both lumber and one of a kind slices of history. Once installed in a home, quality examples of reclaimed barn wood will continue to appreciate and add to the overall value of both residential or commercial buildings. For example, say a home today is built with $25,000 of heritage old growth reclaimed chestnut barn wood flooring and hand hewn posts and beams. Not only is old growth chestnut extremely rare after it was nearly forced into extinction, in another 100 years, those reclaimed wood pieces will have centuries of history adding to their value. Contrarily, if $25,000 of all newly milled wood materials are used in the construction of a new home, those materials will age and likely appreciate or depreciate relative to the overall value of the home. Newly cut lumber simply does not hold the same kind of specialized character and value that authentic barn wood products do.

10. Relatively Finite

If you have plans to include reclaimed barn wood in any of your current or future projects, we believe that now is the time to do it. It could be said that we are in the glory days of reclaimed barn wood architecture. Not only is it popular, but there are still prime examples of the most desirable barns that include different shades and species of exterior boards, unweathered interior boards, threshing flooring, timbers with traditional joinery, and hand hewn timbers. This abundance diversity of barn wood allows for a customizable palette that can be used for any number of design ideas. As global construction practices grow more and more towards utilizing sustainable, green materials wood, the demand for materials such as reclaimed barn wood continues to increase. Eventually, the demand will overtake the supply and barns available for reclamation and recycling will grow younger. Older, rarer, and more desirable barns using old world construction techniques will become more and more scarce. For example, with the advent and wide adoption of sawmills, the practice of hand hewing became obscure. Therefore, hand hewn timbers are very time specific. Sawing style is another great example of how barn boards are time-specific and finite. The evolution from hand hewing led to pit-sawn, sash-sawn, circular-sawn, and band sawn lumber. While each of these styles may be used to some extent today, there is a clear evolution that has led to modern milling, and the old styles will never be used widely again. The waning of traditional milling styles combined with the conservation of old growth timber truly makes reclaimed barn wood from our agrarian past special.

11. Originality

No two pieces of reclaimed barn wood are alike. While this is technically true for any piece of lumber, historic reclaimed barn wood was never mass produced anywhere near the scale we see in the lumber industry today and each unique piece has accrued a lifetime of individual character. This originality is increased when buyers are able to take raw-stock individual boards and timbers and custom mill their surface textures and side-profiles that will make them ready to install as flooring, siding, paneling, posts and beams, shaped timber framing, mantles, tabletops, cabinets, and more. Adding the history of each piece to its physical nature creates another layer of originality, appreciation, and creativity to the installation of reclaimed barn wood in any project.


Of course, everyone has their own top reasons for appreciating and utilizing reclaimed barn wood in their projects. These are the ten most common advantages that we consider during our reclamation process, see in our stock, and hear in our customer feedback. Contact us today with any questions that you may have regarding your reclaimed barn wood project.

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