Using reclaimed wood for DIY projects is growing in popularity and creates a fun, shabby chic feel to any space.
However, before going into any project you should take into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the wood you have collected and the steps you need to take before moving forward with your project.
This post will focus on what to do once you have found your reclaimed wood and before starting your DIY adventure.
Clean the wood
This probably seems like a no-brainer, but the wood you have picked probably needs to be cleaned. Besides the obvious amount of dirt that may have caked on to it, there are other things to consider during the cleaning.
For example, depending on the age of the wood if there is any remaining paint it may be lead-based. Lead is extremely dangerous and must be dealt with carefully! Another consideration is that most wood is chemically treated before it is used, some more heavily than others.
Whatever the case may be, you should always thoroughly clean the reclaimed material to protect you and your family.
To properly clean reclaimed wood, I recommend starting by rinsing, or even pressure washing, it to remove the dirt and grime. To get rid of the risk of mold or mildew wash with a bleach solution while wearing gloves and a mask.
If there is the risk of lead-based paint send a sample to get it tested, before handling the wood and do not handle without gloves, a respirator, and goggles.
Inspect for Metal
Once the wood is clean and deemed usable, you should inspect it for metal. In many cases, the wood may have old nails or staples, among other things, that have rusted over time and may be hard to spot. You should carefully check every piece of wood before continuing because it could even present safety risks. Using power tools is dangerous enough already even when you know the safety precautions like discussed here, but the wood itself can expose you to a whole new world of risks.
While being a risk for tetanus if it causes cuts or scrapes, it can present a more serious hazard if a power saw hits it. Using a stud finder or metal detector will significantly help in reducing the risk of personal injury.
Look for Bugs
Pests are quite common in old wood! They are not typically harmful to humans but can cause damage to the wood or indicate that some part of it is rotted.
That being said, if there is an infestation it could lead to significant damage to your other materials or other wooden items in your home. It’s not worth the risk, so play it smart and check for bugs.
When inspecting for insects look for holes in the wood or even crumbled material if you can’t find the physical insect. If there is an infestation, the wood must be dried thoroughly. So much so, that if you do not have a kiln available you should just remove that wood from your project entirely.
Check the Shape
My last recommendation before proceeding with a DIY project using reclaimed wood is to check its shape. Unless you want wood that is rounded or warped, you will have a hard time making it fit properly. Sometimes the project won’t necessarily need a flat surface, but for a wall, table, or shelf, it will be difficult to work with.
On that note, if a bend is what you are looking for… great! If not, then it will be pretty difficult to flatten it back out. Millwork will fix it, but if that is not available save the wood for another project or dispose of it properly.
Despite some of the inherent risks of using a reclaimed material, it is a fun, stylish trend that can look great when done properly.
As long as you are taking active care to clean the wood and remove extraneous materials, it is a safe project to take on. Just always take time in your work and craft on my friends!