Buying reclaimed wood is a great upcycled alternative to buying new wood! Using reclaimed wood is a cheap and practical solution for DIY projects. Are you about to embark on a flooring or woodwork project? Consider upcycling wood instead of buying new. This article offers a guideline on what reclaimed wood is, how to source it, and important safety considerations.

reclaimed wood buying guideWhat Is Reclaimed Wood?

Reclaimed wood refers to wood or lumber that has had a previous life. It might have already been used for structures and buildings and now can be reused for another purpose. Generally, it is old wood that you can salvage and repurpose.

Important Tips and Considerations for Reclaimed Wood

While you want to help protect the environment by saving trees, you also need to ensure that you’re buying worthwhile and durable pieces for your construction or DIY wood craft projects, such as building an upcycled woodshed.

upcycled coffee tableSource: Photo by Lui Peng on Unsplash

Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Check for Rot  

Wood rot that extends deeply into timber is not a good thing. Before working with a piece, inspect it for rot. If you find a dark area, poke it with a screwdriver. Soft spots mean wood rot. If this is the case, find another piece of wood to use for your project instead.

  1. Inspect for Insect Damage 

Pests can destroy wood. Most reclaimed wood dealers eliminate insects through kiln-drying or insecticides to avoid damage. However, if you’re trying to source reclaimed wood on your own, check for signs of insect damage, such as the presence of actual insects, holes, and tunnels.

  1. Beware of Lead Paint 

Lead was used in paint formulas in years gone by. Lead-based paints were used in homes built before 1978. Therefore, old houses are likely to have remains of lead-based paints that can be harmful to health. Given this, removing paint from old reclaimed wood pieces is crucial.

  1. Check for Embedded Hardware  

Many old wood pieces have screws, nails, and metallic hardware embedded inside with visible or broken-off heads. This hardware can really mess up your tools! A magnet or metal detector can help you find these hardware pieces before you use the reclaimed wood.

  1. Inspect for Preservatives 

Wood preservatives are pesticides that help eliminate insects and pests from lumber and pallets. The usual wood preservatives include fumigants and chemicals, like isothiazolinones. However, these preservatives can be harmful to health. Therefore, it’s best to use old railroad ties, barn wood, and fence posts treated with preservatives for outdoor use only.

pallet wood boardsPhoto by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Types Of Reclaimed Wood 

Reclaimed timber can be used for hardwood decks, flooring, wall paneling, countertops, shelves, tables, and cabinets. Any piece of wood can be reclaimed, and the most popular types include the following:


Oak is a popular option for reclaimed wood, particularly for flooring. It’s versatile in terms of coloring and finishes. For instance, white oak can provide a natural blue or neutral grey look with a pronounced wood grain, perfect for building water-resistant deck wood flooring.

Douglas Fir 

Reclaimed Douglas fir is a versatile, sustainable wood. Many use it for flooring, ceiling treatments, wainscoting, shelving, cabinets, and more. You can find reclaimed Douglas fir from salvaged joists, fir flooring, vinegar tanks, pillars, posts, and school bleacher boards in 1x, 2x, and 3x board sizes.


Reclaimed redwood, as it ages, continues to cure and produces a unique and appealing color. This wood is usually obtained from old bridges (beams) and other big construction projects. Today, giant heartland redwood timbers aren’t available except as reclaimed and salvaged lumber because it’s hardly seen in young-growth forests.

pallet woodWhere To Buy 

You can buy secondhand wood from the following places:

  1. Home Improvement Companies  

Home improvement stores have a broad range of reclaimed lumber for sale. You can visit the physical store to see and buy reclaimed timber for your next project. Another option is to check out their websites to see their selection, such as disassembled pallets, crates, panels, and lumber from various brands and dealers. Many companies offer delivery, which makes it really convenient!

  1. Online Marketplaces  

These reclaimed wood listings are usually from private sellers with family-owned businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and delivery services.


It doesn’t have to be complicated and daunting to buy reclaimed wood. Keep these essential considerations in mind to ensure your safety and the durability of your project.

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