Old wood commands premium prices

Posted by Rumin Mann
October 1st, 2012

Demand for reclaimed materials up as buyers seek out beams with character

There’s a lot of spilled beer and good memories on the back of a flat-deck truck at Western Reclaimed Timber’s property beside the Fraser River in Maple Ridge.

Stacked on the truck is about 2,000 board feet of laminated structural beams — known as “glulams,” layers of woods bonded together — removed during construction work at the Fraser Arms Hotel on South West Marine Drive in Vancouver.

“They’re excellent,” allows Western owner Bruce MacDonald, who’s been in the wood-recycling business for 25 years. “Nothing wrong with them at all.”

Crews remove nails from the beams and use metal detectors to probe for potentially dangerous metal bits not visible to the naked eye. The beams will be visually graded according to knots and cracks, then milled into a variety of wood products that could include tongue-and-groove flooring, timber frames, table and counter tops, decking for boats, and wraps for steel beams.

The wood may be old — made from ancient Douglas felled around the 1950s — but in today’s wood-construction market, old has never seemed newer. “The old look is in,” MacDonald confirms. “It’s highly sought after.”  The human history of the wood also adds value to the product.

Some of the more recognizable structures from which Western has reclaimed wood include the Woodward’s Building and Drake Hotel in Vancouver, and the historic Glenrose Cannery on the Fraser River in North Delta, which was dismantled due to construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

“People are often more interested in the story behind the wood than the wood itself,” MacDonald notes.

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