What is Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring?

by Eric Hurst

When choosing quality natural hardwood flooring, you have a great variety of styles, finishes and wood species to consider. If you are concerned about your impact on the environment, you should consider reclaimed hardwood flooring. Eco-friendly reclaimed hardwood flooring offers all the same benefits as other hardwood choices, plus a unique, genuine look and an opportunity to incorporate an authentic piece of history into your living space.

What Does Reclaimed Mean?

Sometimes called recycled or antique hardwood, reclaimed hardwood is simply wood that has been previously used in the making of another structure. It has been dismantled and reclaimed for another use. The wood does not necessarily have to come from old flooring. It can also be milled from old beams, trusses, barn siding, fencing, and other wood products that are ready to be reclaimed! These old woods can be nationally or locally sourced or even imported from other countries.
Reclaimed Pine floors are incredibly popular, although technically pine is not a hardwood, it is classified as a soft wood. Heart pine is the most desirable, especially when talking about antique reclaimed pine floors.

River Reclaimed Flooring

Another incredible kind of reclaimed flooring is River-Reclaimed hardwood. This lumber is literally sawn from logs that are reclaimed from the bottoms of rivers throughout the United States. Sometimes the reclaimed timbers are logs that have simply fallen naturally and become water-logged and sunk. Other logs are the result of freight ships that capsized while transporting logs for the mills that sawed lumber back in the early 1900s and late 1800s in the U.S.
River Reclaimed floors are predominately pine flooring, which is usually sawn for the desirable heart found in the center part of the pine logs.

Sources of Reclaimed Hardwood

The wood used for reclaimed flooring planks can originate from a great variety of structures. Old wood floors are a common source, but there are countless others.

  • Historic Homes
  • Churches
  • Commercial Buildings
  • Schools
  • Water Towers
  • Box Cars
  • Wine and Whiskey Barrels
  • Wharfs
  • Bridges
  • Mine Shafts
  • Shipping Containers
  • Pulled from Lakes and Rivers

How Reclaimed Flooring Is Made


Instead of being wastefully burned or sent to a landfill, old wood is delivered to a recycled flooring manufacturer. Upon arrival, it is inspected for quality and checked for embedded metal, water damage and other flaws. It is then re-sawn if needed. The new boards are kiln-dried to remove excess moisture. This reduces the risk of warping. Finally, a machine called a side matcher places tongue and groove fittings into the edges of the boards to prepare them for installation as wood flooring planks.

The Many Benefits of Reclaimed Flooring

  • Environmental Benefits
  • When you choose reclaimed flooring, you are helping the environment in a significant way. The flooring is 100 percent eco-friendly. It is the very definition of a completely sustainable product. No new trees have to be cut, so deforestation, landfill waste and the detrimental effects of logging are reduced. If you are serious about green building, you should note that reclaimed flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council may even help homeowners meet LEED qualifications for sustainable construction.
  • Stability and Wear
  • You might think of antiques as fragile, but the opposite is true for reclaimed hardwood. This wood has weathered many decades and sometimes even centuries. It is less likely to suffer from swelling, shrinkage or warping after installation. The kiln-drying process gives additional assurance of its quality. Lumber from old growth trees has a straighter grain and higher density than virgin lumber; this means that the wood is stronger and more durable. As with all hardwood flooring, minor surface damages can be sanded and refinished easily.
  • Perfect for Electric Floor Heating
  • Because the recycled wood has been exposed to constant changes in temperature over many years, it is inherently more stable and works well with sub-floor heating systems.
  • Unique Qualities
  • Old growth trees had many generations to adapt to climate changes, natural patterns and various forms of wear and tear. This gives their wood a unique look and character that is simply not seen in quickly grown modern lumber. Tight growth rings, interesting and unusual knots, swirls and color variations are all typical features. Vintage wood comes from trees that survived a long and great struggle, and the history is literally ingrained within it.
  • Stylish and Trendy Looks
  • Rustic, hand scraped and distressed looks and wider floor planks are very popular. While many products imitate these styles, the vintage look of reclaimed hardwood is authentic.
  • Historic Value

Reclaimed Flooring Types

Since reclaimed hardwood flooring is old, it is of course going to be made of materials that were used in times past. Common hardwoods used for flooring in the 1800s and early 1900s include:

  • Red Oak
  • White Oak
  • Hard Maple
  • Birch
  • Chestnut
  • and many more...

See the Difference

To discover the classic style and warmth of vintage hardwood, please see our great selection of quality reclaimed flooring. When you choose reclaimed wood, you are preserving history. Sometimes it is actually possible to learn the history of the actual hardwood used in making the flooring you own. There may even be a photo of the original structure that was once its home.

This article was published on Saturday 03 March, 2012.
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