Better than certified wood? How about “experienced” wood

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Sep• 27•07

Oldgrowth_2If you want wood floors, and you want to be “green,” the trend is toward choosing wood that is FSC-certified. That means the wood comes from a forest that is judged by the very strict Forest Stewardship Council to be operated in a sustainable manner. What does sustainable mean, anyway? It’s a way of meeting the needs of today without negatively impacting the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

But there’s an even more sustainable method of “harvesting” wood, and that is from old buildings or structures built up to 100 or more years ago. Resource Conservation Group is a Los Angeles company that sells such wood. They take down buildings all over the country from old whiskey storage facilities to New York apartment buildings to dairy farms in Washington and bridges in Texas.

According to the company, they “carefully dismantle each structure by hand, saving nearly 100% of the material. Even the bricks and tin roofing sheets are salvaged. With many of the buildings having been put together with bolts rather than nails, there is very little damage to the material during the dismantling phase. The larger beams are usually sold as-is and the other material is milled into flooring or used to create furniture of the highest quality.”

See the difference in old growth vs. new growth pine in the images above. Each ring on a tree represents a year of growth. The top (old growth) is tight and strong. The bottom (new wood you’d buy today) is looser and weaker.

You can find more reclaimed wood through the amazing WoodWeb lumber exchange.

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One Comment

  1. As the article states, reclaimed wood from deconstruction is one of the most “green” sources of wood, with older buildings often yielding higher quality (tighter grain) wood than new growth.
    Another greener alternative to FSC wood is wood milled from discarded urban trees that would otherwise end up in landfills. I run such an operation in the San Francisco area, and there have been similar urban tree mills in the L.A. area (I’m not sure what is currently available). While not as tight grained as the old growth wood from older buildings, it usually has tighter grain than young commercial trees.
    In determining sustainability, one must also take into account the carbon footprint of transporting the wood. FSC wood is generally transported great distances with fossil fuels, often shipped from overseas. Locally sourced and manufactured wood will have a much lower carbon footprint, whether reclaimed from buildings or from urban trees.
    An additional “carbon credit” comes with using wood milled from urban trees. The most common destination of discarded urban trees is to be used as as “alternative daily cover” in landfills, where it decomposes mostly into methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
    For a greener alternative to imported FSC hardwood, California’s ubiquitous blue gum eucalyptus actually makes excellent hardwood flooring when dried and milled properly.

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