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Salvaging Old Barn Wood

The old wooden barn needs new siding or maybe it’s just time for it to come down. Reclaim the wood if possible to make it into something special for yourself or to sell.

Kenny Goodwin is the owner of Wisconsin Barn Board and Beam, a company that specializes in salvaging wood from old barns. He says people want the wood for projects such as furniture and flooring. But before you start ripping out the boards, Goodwin says you have to carefully examine the situation.

"When I'm assessing a barn, I look at three things," he says. "First, I look at the safety of it. Is the thing ready to fall over, do I need some special equipment to hold it up while I reclaim the lumber? The species of the wood is very important, and then the clean-up. How much clean-up are you going to have at the end?"

In general, the value is determined by the species of the wood. For example, pine isn't as valuable as oak or chestnut. It also depends on what parts of the barn are salvageable.

"Oak beams sell really well, red oak and white oak. The siding boards sell real well to people who like to do crafts, interior decorating, things like that. They like the rough back side compared to a smooth back side of siding. The old rough-sawn siding it a lot better on the back side," he says. "The 4x4s, 4x6s in your walls, a lot of that is really good wood. It can be used for siding, and for furniture, and remodels."

Trim off the ends to get rid of any rot and unevenness. Check for metal and pull all the nails. Don't pressure-wash or clean the wood, because the original color and patina gives it charm.

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