This wasn’t the first weekend Ms. Olsen spent wading through construction waste hunting for old wood. A nurse, mother of two and hobby woodworker from Bowie, Md., she once took a break from work to salvage wood from a historic house, returning with her sweater covered in sawdust. Another time, she tore her jacket with rusty nails sticking out from rough beams at a demolition site.
“I’m sure it’s a surprising sight for some people; I’m a petite woman and I’ll be in a dumpster or wielding a circular saw,” says Ms. Olsen, 34. “I’m kind of obsessed with wood.”
Fans of reclaimed lumber like it as old as possible, with saw marks and nail holes as welcome additions. Some celebrate knots or cracks. Others have a weakness for wormholes. Old wood, they say, has a history and character mass-produced lumber can’t match.
So early the next morning, she embarked on two-hour drive and a ferry ride to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula to secure the richly grained planks that are now an accent wall in a bedroom.
Ms. Isaacs fell in love with the wide, reddish pine planks on the ground floor when she first set foot in the cottage. One afternoon in the fall of 2017, just before the planned demolition, she started to cry.
Mr. Isaacs went to the basement with a big hammer and a piece of lumber. He knocked on the floor boards from below and managed to push one up.
“When I picked it up, it wasn’t the greatest-looking stuff, but it had a lot of character,” says owner Marty Bueneman. He re-delivered the floors in February, but the Isaacs wanted more old wood.
Craig Jacobs, of Salvagewrights in Orange, Va., often gets calls from farmers or homeowners hoping to sell or give him old buildings in exchange for taking them down. Sometimes, he spots attractive wood from the road.
Then he found a winner: a once-graceful plantation home, with a carved wood balustrade customers would love, and an intact roof that had protected the frame and floorboards from rain and rot. Salvaging the timber would take five workers over two weeks and cost around $8,000, he estimated.
“Hunting it down is a big part of the appeal,” says Mr. Jacobs, who once drove all the way to Indiana for promising lumber. ”The hunt is getting it before it ends up in a pile and someone puts a match to it.”
Zach Robbins, a 28-year-old technology executive from Chattanooga, Tenn., built his wife, Kathleen, a bed from that wood. As a break from his screen-heavy day job, Mr. Robbins started making furniture. Building the bed took a year. “It was a wedding gift that turned into a one-year-anniversary gift,” says Mr. Robbins.
Holding up the hay loft were six square posts that he guessed were pecan wood. A rich espresso tone with a grayish hue, they had mineral stains and insect damage, and he was determined to extract them—without the roof collapsing on his head.
“Instead of clean, traditional wood, people want mismatched, rough-cut lumber,” Mr. Brosius says. “We have turned down barns that were in too good of a condition.”
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