Many people turn to the internet when searching for sources for reclaimed wood. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can find and buy it at major hardware stores, Craigslist, Etsy, and other online retailers.
However, you often don’t get what you think you’re paying for—and in many cases, you get useless wood that won’t stand up to the test of time. Rot, discoloration, and poor quality control are a few of the many issues you can run into.
Read on to learn more about the potential pitfalls of buying reclaimed wood online and how to ensure you’re getting the real deal.
It’s no secret that reclaimed wood that’s harvested, processed, and sold by reputable dealers can be pricier than other sources. As with all things expensive in life—scammers will find a way to profit off unsuspecting people. Scams range from gluing reclaimed wood veneer over cheap lumber to high-quality polyurethane replicas from overseas.
There are several reasons why reclaimed lumber tends to cost more. For starters, it gets harder every year to find new sources of reclaimed lumber to meet consumers' insatiable demand. It also takes considerable time and the skills of a master craftsman to harvest and process old barn wood into usable reclaimed lumber.
If you find an online reclaimed wood deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Quality Control Problems
You might think you’re getting a bargain when you search the internet for “free barn wood Craigslist” or “free reclaimed wood near me.” However free is never truly free.
You’ll need to hire someone to process the “free” wood or do it yourself. Reclaimed wood is often chock full of nails that you’ll need to remove before you can cut or mill it smooth—and that will require using an industrial milling machine for the best chances of success.
It’s not unusual for old, dilapidated barns and buildings to have holes in the roof that leak water. The wood soaks it up, leading to bug infestations and higher-than-expected moisture levels. Reclaimed wood with high moisture content will shrink when installed in your home, leaving very noticeable gaps in your flooring and woodwork.
The lower-cost material you order will often show up on the job site at a far lower quality than the original design specified. As such, you’ll wind up having to order more to replace what was rejected. Most people don’t realize that when purchasing raw materials, there is a 50% loss in converting them into a finished product.
Buying reclaimed wood from Etsy or another internet source can lead to inventory issues. For example, many smaller dealers will take a deposit and physically go out into the field to find the raw material.
The grade depends on the luck of the draw and what they happen to find—not what you expect and paid for. Often, the product description will not match the delivered material, and the lack of inventory also does not allow for consistent grades.
Ultimately, you may have to change the design you want to fit the limited supply of materials they have on hand.
Most Craigslist and Etsy reclaimed wood sellers have an actual day job and consider their “reclaimed wood business” as a side venture that they only work at on nights and weekends. This means they often don’t have the storage space to hold on to your material—you may be forced to take an early delivery and rent storage space until you’re ready to install.
Like all lumber, reclaimed wood is heavy. Shipping costs to a job site can be expensive, and smaller dealers often can’t deliver or arrange delivery. At E.T. Moore, we get up to a 65% shipping discount and pass those savings on to our customers.
Tips for Getting High-Quality Reclaimed Wood
Reclaimed wood is very popular due to its beauty and rugged durability. The premium price you pay covers raw material sourcing, transport, and proprietary processing into something of value and beauty.
Here are a few tips on how to ensure you’re getting genuine and high-quality reclaimed wood that will last for generations to come:
- Ask for pictures of the facility and raw materials. A red flag should go up in your mind if they can’t provide photos of where they process and store the materials.
- Ask to see current orders in production—Google “EXIF Viewer” to find a free online tool that will allow you to upload the photos they send to view the timestamp to ensure it wasn’t taken several years ago.
- Look at their Google/etc. reviews. Consider the number of people who have reviewed their business and look for pictures that customers have posted of the facility. These unedited photos will give you an excellent idea of the supplier.
- Look for modern equipment at their location. Milling machines, sanders, saws, forklifts, buildings—this will indicate if you’re working with a serious operation or a part-timer.
- Forklifts are expensive, and many smaller companies use cheaper skid steers or pallet jacks to move the lumber around. This is a very inefficient way of moving, grading, and sorting lumber; these inefficiencies will often carry over into other production areas.
- Don’t trust pretty finished job site photos. Everyone in this business has worked on high-end projects fitting for major magazines.
Reclaimed Wood From E.T. Moore
A lot of time, money, and effort goes into sourcing, processing, and storing reclaimed wood. To eliminate nasty surprises and potentially spending more than you originally bargained for, avoid buying reclaimed wood from online suppliers. It’s just not worth the risk.
At E.T. Moore, we’re one of the largest reclaimed wood manufacturers on the East Coast. We can get you the size, quality, quantities, and grades of lumber that you need to complete your project. Click below to learn more about our reclaimed wood flooring and lumber products.