Understanding the value of your antique wood is the first step towards earning a square deal at the market. The following information is intended to help sellers collect the greatest returns and keep buyers happy. In the reclaimed wood business, happiness is a two-way street.
This is the most important determinate of your wood’s value. Certain species are inherently more valuable than others, and a few carry arbitrarily inflated prices due to trending aesthetics or values. Generally speaking, if your wood is old-growth timber unavailable on the new wood market, you possess something of value. If your wood is only a decade or two old and is commonly available, it has very little value. American chestnut and longleaf pine are more valuable than spruces, hemlocks and loblolly pine, for example.
Be positive about your wood identification before marketing your wood as a certain species. If you’re unsure, take high quality photos and e-mail them to an expert for identification.
Larger timbers are often worth more. Material from which wider boards can be sawn is highly desirable, as are longer timbers. Certain species, such as American chestnut, white oak, and longleaf pine, are more valuable as larger timbers, while douglas fir, spruces, and other softwoods usually carry a lower valuation. Beams are usually more valuable than boards.
Wood must be in top-notch condition to fetch a high price on the reclaimed lumber market. Barn board and hand-hewn beams, for example, have little to no retail value if they are damaged. Larger beams and timbers have poor resaw value if they sport large checks, rotten pockets, or extensive insect damage. The more nails, screws, and metal objects found in your wood, the lower the price you can expect to fetch.
Dry wood that has been protected from the elements is more valuable than wood that has been waterlogged or rotted over the years. If you own antique timbers or boards, stack them indoors or under some sort of cover, and separate them with sticks to allow air to circulate.
Painted wood generally carries a lower value. Lead paint vastly reduces the value of barn woods, as the costs associated with disposing of hazardous materials in an environmentally responsible manner are very high.
Shipping and handling costs for large, heavy products are considerable, so reclaimed lumber buyers look to purchase in bulk whenever they can. If you have a larger lot of consistently high-quality material, then it may be worth more.
If you have a large quantity of timbers or boards, their value is improved if the shipping and handling costs can be reduced. Unruly, haphazard piles of wood or timbers stacked in hard-to-reach places lose value because of the time and cost required to organize and ship the material.
5. Ring Density
For certain species (Heart Pine especially), the slow growth of the tree makes for a higher-quality sawn wood product. Look for very close growth rings. In the most extreme (and best!) cases, growth rings will be so close as to be nearly indistinguishable from one another. Wider growth rings indicate a faster rate of growth in the tree’s lifetime, sometimes making the wood less valuable.
Land owners looking to take down older barns and place the wood on the market for resale can find themselves in possession of unique materials, including barn boards and hand-hewn barn beams.
Barn components: Most wood used in the construction of older American barns has value, assuming a particular species and condition. The parts of the barn that are most commonly reclaimed are carrier and sleeper beams (these carry a higher value), upper frame beams (which carry a lower value when mortises are frequent), weathered barn siding, interior boards, and decking.
Dismantling: This must be handled very carefully. Breaking, chipping, cracking, or otherwise damaging material during the demolition process is the easiest way to lose the value of your antique wood. Even scratching the surface of barn board reduces the value of the product. Barn board, in particular, must always be salvaged by hand. Think ‘dismantling’, not ‘demolition’.
Selling barn board: Barn board can be difficult to sell. For barn siding to have a strong resale value, it must be available in large, consistent quantities (meaning from the same building). Damaged or rotten boards will significantly reduce the resale value of barn board. Longer boards are more desirable, their shorter counterparts are not. Painted barn board is usually valued lower than unpainted barn board. Depending on the market, the widths of the boards may play a role.
Selling hand-hewn beams: Hand-hewn beams have resale value as architectural pieces only if they are in prime condition, undamaged, and unpainted. If the original hand-hewing marks and character of the beam have been marred or altered, their value lies only in the resaw. Solid hand-hewn beams (no checking, rot, mortise pockets, etc.) will fetch more than hand-hewns with imperfections.
– Making the Call:
When you call a reclaimed wood buyer to market your wood, have the following information at the ready:
- Pictures of the wood: surface photos, end-grain photos, close-ups, site photographs, and current storage shots.
- Species identifications.
- Dimensions of all material.
- Condition (checking, nail content, rot, other damage).
- Age and history of the building from which the material has been salvaged.
– Selling to Longleaf Lumber:
Yes, we buy reclaimed wood! Here’s our purchaser’s page. Send us an e-mail with the above information and high quality, informational photographs. We’ll be sure to get back to you if we’re interested!
info ~ at ~ longleaflumber.com