Salvaging Wood from Old Buildings and Barns

Salvaging Wood from Old Buildings and Barns

The Heartbreak of Letting Go

I’ll admit it – I have a soft spot for old barns. There’s just something about their weathered siding, the character in those hand-hewn beams, and the sense of history they carry that makes my heart skip a beat. So when the day came that we had to say goodbye to the beautiful 100-year-old barn on our homestead, it felt like a piece of my soul was being crushed right along with it.

We’d been back and forth on the decision for a long time. That barn was the centerpiece of our property, a testament to the hard work of those who came before us. You could practically feel the stories it held, the bustling activity it once housed. But as the years went by, it had fallen into disrepair – the back side caving in during a storm. We knew we couldn’t keep letting Mother Nature take it down slowly and painfully. Something had to be done.

The prospect of watching that magnificent structure rot into a heap was just too much. We had to find a way to give new life to the gorgeous old barn wood before it was too late. But how on earth were we going to make that happen?

The Search for the Right Barn Reclamation Company

Our first step was to start searching for companies that specialize in salvaging materials from old buildings and barns. I quickly learned that “reclaimed barn wood Wisconsin” was a pretty useful search term, as many of these businesses were willing to travel up to an hour or more to get their hands on the right kind of wood.

Reaching out to these companies, however, proved to be a real challenge. Getting someone on the phone or even a callback was like trying to catch a greased pig. I swear, construction and contracting companies must have some kind of aversion to answering their phones!

We did manage to connect with one guy who was willing to come take a look and make an offer. But he didn’t have the equipment or expertise to actually take the whole barn down. That wasn’t going to work for us.

Just when I was about to throw in the towel, we got a stroke of luck. While attending our local beekeeping club’s summer picnic, we noticed the hosts had a partially torn-down barn on their property. We struck up a conversation and they gave us the name of the company responsible – the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Negotiations and the Unique Offer

A few days later, the owner of the barn reclamation company – let’s call him “The Barn Guy” – came out to assess our dilapidated structure. I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect in terms of an offer or even if they would charge us for the service. We just knew we wanted four things:

  1. To have the barn safely collapsed by someone who knew what they were doing.
  2. To have the debris left in a way that we could easily clean it up over time.
  3. To give the beautiful old wood a new life, rather than letting it rot.
  4. To not have to pay anything out of pocket for the demolition.

The Barn Guy was friendly and engaged, talking about his passion for turning reclaimed barn wood into gorgeous furniture and architectural accents. After inspecting the barn inside and out, he made us an offer on the spot.

He proposed paying us $1,000 cash, plus he would build us a custom dining table from the salvaged wood. Now, I hadn’t even considered having a piece of furniture made from the barn’s remains, but the idea of having a beautiful, one-of-a-kind table as a lasting reminder of our former homestead centerpiece was incredibly appealing.

Doing a little research, we learned that the Barn Guy’s custom barn wood tables typically sell for $1,000 to $1,500. So his total offer added up to around $2,500 – not bad considering we had no idea what to expect going in.

The Barn Guy walked us through the process of taking down the barn, explaining how they would carefully dismantle the structure to minimize damage to the wood. He even showed us a video of a previous barn they had deconstructed. Knowing we were dealing with professionals who would handle it all with care was a huge relief.

A Bittersweet Farewell

As the day of the demolition approached, I’ll admit I felt a mix of emotions. On one hand, I was excited to see the beautiful old barn wood get a second life, rather than just rotting away. But on the other, it was heartbreaking to watch that stalwart structure come tumbling down, the end of an era for our homestead.

The Barn Guy’s crew did an impressive job, methodically dismantling the barn with impressive precision. They carefully cut relief notches in the upright timbers, allowing the structure to tip exactly as they planned. Then they used a large truck to pull the skeleton completely down, salvaging as much of the wood as possible.

In the end, the Barn Guy estimated that over half of the barn’s material was still in good enough condition to be repurposed. The rest, sadly, was too far gone and would have to be discarded. But even knowing that, seeing those beautiful, weathered boards being loaded up to begin their next chapter was both exciting and heartbreaking.

As I watched the last of the wood being hauled away, I felt a sense of relief that we had found a way to preserve the essence of our beloved barn. And when the Barn Guy delivered our custom-built dining table a few months later, I have to admit – it brought me to tears. That table has become the centerpiece of our home, a daily reminder of the history and character that once stood tall on our land.

The Joys and Challenges of Reclaimed Wood

I know our experience with the Barn Guy wasn’t universal. The Whole-Fed Homestead blog shares a story of their own barn demolition that was a bit more…challenging. But for us, working with the Barn Guy turned out to be a real silver lining in an otherwise bittersweet situation.

The process of salvaging wood from old buildings and barns can be a tricky one, filled with both joys and challenges. On the one hand, you get to breathe new life into materials that are imbued with history and character. As this video demonstrates, there’s something truly special about incorporating reclaimed wood into your home or workshop.

But on the other hand, it takes a lot of time, effort, and specialized knowledge to do it right. Finding the right company to handle the demolition and extraction can be a major headache. And even then, you have to be prepared for the possibility that a significant portion of the wood may be too damaged or rotted to be of use.

Still, for those with the patience and dedication, the rewards of working with reclaimed lumber are immense. Not only do you get to preserve a piece of history, but you end up with materials that are often far superior to what you’d find at your local big-box store. The natural imperfections, the rich patina, the unique grain patterns – it all adds up to something truly special.

And let’s not forget the environmental benefits of reusing and repurposing old wood, rather than letting it go to waste or end up in a landfill. It’s a sustainable, eco-friendly solution that aligns perfectly with the mission of Timber Building Company.

The Endless Possibilities of Reclaimed Wood

As I sit at our new dining table, running my hands along the weathered boards, I can’t help but marvel at the endless possibilities of reclaimed wood. From rustic farmhouse-inspired furniture to sleek, modern architectural accents, the versatility of these materials is truly astounding.

I’ve seen everything from custom-built kitchen islands and floating shelves to gorgeous accent walls and one-of-a-kind headboards, all crafted from the salvaged remains of old buildings and barns. The character and charm these materials lend to a space is simply unmatched.

And the beauty of it is, you don’t have to be a master woodworker to incorporate reclaimed wood into your home or workshop. With a little creativity and the right tools, even a novice DIYer can transform these timeless materials into stunning, functional pieces.

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of rustic elegance to your living room or create a unique, industrial-chic vibe in your workspace, reclaimed wood is the perfect medium. The possibilities are truly endless – limited only by your imagination.

Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future

As I reflect on our journey of saying goodbye to our beloved barn, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude. While it was undoubtedly one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make, the end result has been truly rewarding.

Not only did we manage to find a way to preserve the essence of that historic structure, but we’ve been able to incorporate it into our everyday lives in a meaningful way. That custom dining table has become the heart of our home, a constant reminder of the hard-working individuals who came before us and the rich history of our land.

And knowing that the rest of the barn’s wood has been given new life, whether in furniture, architectural elements, or other creative projects, brings me a sense of peace. Rather than letting it rot away, we’ve been able to honor the past while embracing the future.

So while the loss of our beloved barn will always be bittersweet, I take comfort in the knowledge that its legacy lives on. And who knows – maybe someday, someone will be sitting at a table made from its wood, marveling at the stories it could tell.


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