Reclaimed wood is expensive. Think about it: Companies are delicately salvaging a part of old buildings in a way that doesn’t destroy any of the wood, and this takes time. A lot of time. And then there’s the processing: “Everything is brought back to a mill,” says Jamie Hammel of The Hudson Company, “where every stick of lumber is de-nailed by hand before being kiln-dried and re-milled to custom specs.” Oftentimes, more labor and skill goes into this process than into processing new wood flooring—and you pay for that.
Getting that this-floor-has-been-here-forever look by using reclaimed hardwood can run you anywhere from $12 to upward of $20 per square foot, depending on the mix of the woods and the finish. At the high end, that means reflooring your 1,000-square-foot apartment could run you $20,000—and that doesn’t include any new subfloor, if you need one, or any of the installation labor.
But there’s a way to get the look for slightly less: Look into reclaimed pines instead of hardwoods. Because pine is more plentiful, less in demand, and a softer wood than more sought-after hardwoods like red and white oaks, it typically goes for at least a couple of dollars less per square foot. And in a big room, or a whole house, that could add up to thousands saved (or put into that really fancy sectional you’ve had your eye on).
While some distributors will warn against softwood floors because they can be dented more easily, one person’s dent is another person’s charm and character. “Wood adds authenticity to an interior,” Jamie says, “dings and all.” If you appreciate that kind of warmth and want your floors to look lived-in, reclaimed pine is probably right for you. To be sure, start your search in a showroom like the Hudson Company’s, where you can look at and feel the samples. Most places offer samples to take home, too, so you can stare at them (read: stomp on them) in situ. Be persistent: Because of certain processes, some pines can creep up toward hardwood pricing. If you can find wood reclaimed from smaller timbers—the horse fencing that Pioneer Millworks re-mills, for example—there’s less work involved in processing, so prices tend to be lower.
If you’re looking to minimize the denting and patina, consider installing reclaimed pine in a laundry room or a living room instead of a main hallway—or look into heart pine, a slightly harder species. When you’re giving your friends tours of your new floors, make sure to mention that heart pine is the same wood—all 270,000 board feet of it, milled by Jamie and his team—used by Renzo Piano to craft the floors at the Whitney.