Many builders (those focused on make-it-fast, make-it-cheap) begin a building project by first tearing down the old structure- with no regard to salvage- sending to landfills perfectly good materials that could be used again.
We are trying to responsible with the use of wood on project in 3 primary ways: 1) re-use nearly all the 1880s lumber that was already part of the home. 2) when purchasing new lumber make sure it is FSC certified and 3) in general use less of it.
1) The original building was built sometime before 1886, when a two-by-four measured 2″ x 4″. It dark and brown and weathered, but run it through the planer and its beautiful and still strong. Technically if we were going to use the lumber for structural support we should have it tested for strength. But, none of our partition walls are load bearing so we can skip that step- and I would bet that the old lumber would perform every bit as good as new lumber. Using manual labor and techniques that are also outlined in the ‘bible of deconstruction’ Unbuilding by Bob Falk and Brad Guy we saved as much of the old growth lumber as possible.
2) When new lumber is purchased we make sure to use FSC lumber (look under the greenest garage tab for more information about FSC):
3) By changing the time-honored standard of placing studs at 16″ on-center, to 24″ on-center we can save 25% or more of the amount of material we use (whether its re-used or FSC).
If you are interested in purchasing old-growth salvaged lumber check out the Rebuilding Exchange. It’s a great resource for purchasing small quantities of the stuff when you need it.