Reclaimed Beams: Things to Consider

You may be considering integrating beams into your decor, but not all beams are created equal. Beams are trending today as a popular design element of a rustic home, but they remain a classic and traditional style in many types of homes. Before you shop for beams for a ceiling or mantle, here are some things you should consider:

Circular Sawn vs. Hand Hewn

This is really just what it sounds like. Beams cut in more modern times will have been circular sawn. This results in a straight smooth cut, and sometimes round blade marks will be visible on the exterior of the wood. Beams that were cut prior to the invention of the circular saw will be hand hewn with an axe or other hand tool. This makes for a rougher, more textured and rustic appearance that cannot be replicated today and is very desirable in the interior design market.

Hand-hewn beams are cut by an axe or other hand tool, resulting in a rougher, more rustic and old fashioned appearance.

Hand-hewn beams are cut by an axe or other hand tool, resulting in a rougher, more rustic and old fashioned appearance.

Cut from Old Growth Trees

When you look at the rings of a tree, it tells you a lot about the life that tree lived. When a tree grows in an urban environment, it gets full portion of sunlight and rain, and doesn’t have to contend for nutrients. This surplus of everything results in a large amount of growth each year, and therefore the rings are spaced widely apart.

This tree demonstrates the wide spacing between rings that occurs when growth happens in an optimal and unchallenged environment.

This tree demonstrates the wide spacing between rings that occurs when growth happens in an optimal and unchallenged environment.

But when a tree grows deep in a forest, from the time that it’s a tiny sapling, it fights for space, water, nutrients, and light because it’s surrounded by other, bigger trees that are sharing its resources. This results in only a small amount of growth each year, and therefore the rings are very tightly spaced together. There are huge benefits to tightly packed rings for the tree, which translates to benefits to you as a builder. Old growth wood is stronger, more stable, rot resitant and termite resistant. It lasts longer and looks better than it’s quickly-growing counterparts.

Tightly packed rings on this old-growth beam provide craftsman with strength, durability, and rot and termite resistance that trees grown today don’t offer.

Tightly packed rings on this old-growth beam provide craftsman with strength, durability, and rot and termite resistance that trees grown today don’t offer.

Using old growth beams makes a difference when they are used for structural purposes, when they’re part of an outdoor design element, or when you’re searching for a genuinely old-fashioned piece in your home.

What’s your purpose?

The type of beam you choose will greatly depend on it’s intended use. If the beam will simply act as a decorative element (such as a mantle) in your home, you can choose the species, size, and type of beam based on your aesthetic preference. If you’re using beams to support structures, you want to choose old growth beams, and beams of species that are notoriously solid, such as White and Red Oak.

If you’re considering reclaimed beams, give us a call! We can walk you through the process and help you find the right ones for your project!

Amanda McDanielComment