The 5 Dangers of Reclaimed Wood and How to Avoid Them
Browse Instagram or Pinterest for “DIY wood projects” or "reclaimed wood" and prepare to be amazed and impressed. There are tens of thousands of different projects showcased that are made with barnwood, pallet wood, repurposed wood, and reclaimed wood. But, there are some things you should know before starting out on a project of your own. The importance of knowing where your reclaimed wood comes from isn’t just about sustainability or being eco-conscious; it’s also about your health. Here are some things you might not have known about barnwood, pallet wood, or salvaged wood.
Recently there was an issue with mold in Nova Scotia where reclaimed wood from downed timber due to hurricane Juan was used in a shopping market. This wood eventually had to be replaced because of health concerns. When using recycled wood it is best to use wood that had minimal exposure to water and moisture. Ideally, the recycled wood should have never been in contact with the ground where it could get wet due to rain. Mold and mildew will look white and fuzzy when growing on wood. It is possible to treat wood with a bleach or vinegar solution and then let it dry for a couple of weeks, but it's best to avoid using wood with signs of mold or mildew altogether.
“Off-gassing” or “out-gassing" is when gases — called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — that were once trapped inside a material are slowly released into a new environment with the potential to affect the health of both people and pets. This isn’t an issue for exterior siding projects, but tainted repurposed wood inside your home or used to make a raised vegetable garden may leach VOCs into the air or soil and can become health hazards to you and your family. Make sure that any barn wood or pallet wood that you bring into your home has been properly sanitized.
In addition to off-gassing, older wood has other unique issues to consider such as insects and in particular, termites. Wood with termites can bring an infestation into your home, something that is decidedly unwise. Specialists can easily tell you if the wood you’re interested in shows signs of termite damage or habitation. Be sure to investigate this if there is barn wood that you’re interested in purchasing or reclaiming.
It also helps to know the history of the barn you’re reclaiming from. A barn that housed animals will require additional consideration and treatment. Animal feces can contain any number of bacteria that reside in the wood itself, leading to things like bacterial pneumonia if you aren’t properly protected when working with the wood. Always wear work gloves and a respirator mask when handling, cutting, and sanding barnwood.
Depending on the age of the home you’re reclaiming lumber from, a number of issues can be present. If the wood you are recycling is from 1978 or earlier beware of lead paint. Wood with lead paint can release dust when cut or sanded that will contain lead particles that will make it into the air and then your bloodstream. Additionally, when it comes to old houses, dust can be composed of any number of unpleasant substances like black mold, and animal dander or feces. These dust particles can be easily broken down and released into the environment if they haven’t been removed from whatever wood you’re working with.
Railroad Ties and Trestles are a gorgeous way to add character to a project, but their industrial origin presents a host of chemical hazards. In order to preserve the trestles, softwoods are often treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has noted some especially nasty side effects for working with wood treated with creosote and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has labeled pentachlorophenol as a “probable human carcinogen.” Railway trestles are not required to have any markings as to whether or not they’ve been treated, so it’s safest to stay away from them for project use.
Reclaimed wood sourced from recycled Wyoming snow fences is cleanest and safest reclaimed wood available. The aged wood from the 12 foot tall snow fences is naturally distressed by the intense Wyoming weather for 7 to 15 years. The fence slats are aged above the ground away from barnyard animals, chemicals, and moisture. These conditions create insect-free reclaimed wood that has no VOCs. Centennial Woods' provides guaranteed 100% recycled and carbon-negative reclaimed wood planks that are safe for homes, restaurants, and businesses.