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Sheep Dog Hollow: an eco-friendly renovation

Reclaimed wood flooring wins out in home renovation

In renovating an old house, the flooring decision comes down to new flooring (relatively inexpensive) vs. old wood planks (more expensive but charming and recycled).

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A site called Reclaimed Lumber explains why the old growth wood is better than the newer, fast growth lumber:

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Alexandra writes about the "green" and budget-friendly renovation of a 100-year-old farmhouse in south-central Connecticut.

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Consider the hardships of growing in an old-growth forest. A tree grown on a tree farm doesn't have to compete for space and light, and it will be harvested before it gets very old, so its growth rings will be widely spaced. But a tree that grew in an ancient forest had to compete with other trees, so it grew more slowly. That's why old-growth timber is strong and its rings are dense.

Rudy has two chicken coops packed full of old-growth planks that he’s rescued from area houses and barns that were being torn down. There are thousands of such lumber restoration businesses that "harvest" wood from old buildings around the country (although only one Rudy). But a growing number of companies have begun to rescue old-growth timber that comes from some unlikely spots.

One is called Timeless Timber, which “harvests" this highly prized lumber without eroding the environment because our source isn't a forest. Instead we plumb the chilly depths of America's lakes and rivers searching for these treasures.”

In Wisconsin, it’s estimated there are more than a million logs at the bottom of Lake Superior that can be recovered. A case study of the Superior Lumber Co., which now harvests the sunken logs, describes them as essentially sunken treasures that can recovered and then “processed and sold to furniture makers, architects, contractors, instrument makers and the Japanese at incredibly high prices. The high prices are because there no longer exists the same quality of old growth lumber anywhere in the world that can compare to the lumber that was harvested by the U.S. and Canadian logging companies during the late 1890s to early 1930s.”

I know we wouldn’t be able to afford that elegant wood for Sheep Dog, but we’re going for some of Rudy’s recovered hard-pine planks, some of which are fully three to four feet wide. They go for $7 a linear foot. While it’s not as cheap as what you can find at some liquidators, it is an ecologically sound way to go. And besides, “the old floorboards belong in an old house,” says Rudy. “If it’s a reproduction house, then it doesn’t matter. But if it’s old, the new boards will stick out.”

And we don’t want anything to “stick out” at Sheep Dog Hollow.

Next: Why bother to conserve water when you have a pond, two streams and a lake within spitting distance?

Editor’s note: Alexandra Marks blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays about her green and budget-friendly restoration of a 1902 farmhouse in Connecticut.

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