Reclaimed Wood Gets a Second Chance

Wood. It’s the most-used material for residential construction, framing, finishes and furniture. Almost everything we see and touch in our work incorporates wood in some form. If you have followed our recent blogs, especially the sustainable topics, you already know we like to repurpose and reuse materials in our remodeling work. Here we share recent inspirations for using salvaged wood we’ve found.


A Treasure Trove and A Trip to Iowa Barns

This past week a team from Silent Rivers went on a short excursion to an Iowa deconstruction team to check out their inventory. Deconstruction teams specialize in the selective dismantlement of building components, specifically for re-use, recycling, and waste management. This is different from demolition where a site is cleared by the most expedient means. On this day, we were looking for salvaged wood posts for an exterior trellis project.

Rendering of design for a trellis of salvaged reclaimed lumber that will be attached to a historic preservation building remodeling project by Silent Rivers

This drawing above shows how the wood timbers for the trellis will be connected to the building and the foundation piers using pieces of steel.


Iowa barn containing salvaged wood that will be used by Silent Rivers in upcoming projects

We visited several large weathered barns in Iowa that provide storage for reclaimed building materials, including this one that was full of beautiful salvaged wood and materials. Inside we found extra-large sized wood posts and beams neatly stacked and waiting to be incorporated into one of our remodeling projects. In each of the barns we visited, we found a plethora of various wood elements and other reclaimed materials to choose from.


Structural lumbar from an old Iowa barn that will be salvaged and reused by Silent Rivers

When we found these main structural pieces from old barns, some of the joinery was still intact. Mortise and tenon with pegs and bolts, along with scarf joints, were holding them together. These pieces tell stories of how generations before us built without power tools.


Scarf joinery on lumbar found in an old Iowa barn

Above is an example of “stopped-splayed wedged scarf joinery” typically used in older American structures including barns. As longer timbers became scarcer, early Americans developed various scarf joints to join two shorter timbers end-to-end to make one longer beam. Unless you visit old barns, you rarely see this detail anymore.


Large undisturberd timbers found in an old Iowa barn that will be used as reclaimed lumber in future Silent Rivers projects

We were exceptionally intrigued by several stacks of large undisturbed timbers. They will give us clear, non-compromised main structural wood pieces –which we know will make our structural engineer smile. We are considering using these for our trellis project, but if they don’t work, they will certainly find themselves part of a future project.


Old pulleys handing in an Iowa barn

In addition to reclaimed wood, the barns stored old corrugated metal siding, old pulleys and pins and other treasures waiting to be re-used in a creative and useful way.


Maple tree stump that is being designed into the island of a downtown Des Moines loft kitchen remodel by Silent Rivers

Returning to our office in Clive, we encountered this tree stump donated to us and standing tall next to a desk. This stump of a maple tree is interesting, attractive and organic, and it is the beginning of something unique. A Silent Rivers loft remodel in downtown Des Moines is calling for a mix of industrial and organic elements. Combining the roughness of the bark with sleek and modern stainless steel countertop will be the perfect modification for the interior environment for our clients. We will be using the stump as a contrasting element and support to a 16 foot-long stainless steel countertop.

The architectural sketch above shows how the wood stump will penetrate the stainless counter. We can’t wait to start constructing this project in the upcoming season. More on this project will be forthcoming.



Stay connected to our upcoming blog posts and our Facebook page to see the next updates on our work.

If you like the way Silent Rivers creatively incorporates reclaimed wood into home remodeling designs, you may also be interested in our experience with Sustainable Resource Management.


Share this Page: