Wondering how to prepare reclaimed wood for future projects? Here’s how we revitalized old cedar for a barn wood privacy screen.
This project came about because we had a bunch of old cedar fencing that we wanted to reuse. Reclaimed wood was a natural for our project:
- It fit with our interest in reducing our footprint by reusing whatever we can.
- Reclaimed wood was more affordable than buying new.
- The vintage vibe of the wood was perfect for our project.
However, using reclaimed wood isn’t as simple as using new wood. Our wood was used for outdoor planters. It was full of rusty nails and staples. It had mildew and some pieces were rotten. And bugs were likely living inside the wood.
Here’s how to prepare reclaimed wood.
1. Clean the wood
- Start by removing all nails, staples, and screws. I recommend wearing gloves and making sure you have an up-to-date tetanus shot.
- Wash the wood to remove as much dirt and mildew as possible. If the wood is in good, solid condition, a power washer does a great job of cleaning. However, it is not recommended for wood that may be rotting.
- Our wood was not in great shape so we hosed it down with an intense spray head, then scrubbed the boards with a stiff brush and hosed it down again. This was sufficient to get off all of the dirt. However, it didn’t remove the mildew stains.
2. Treat for Pests
If the wood is going to be used indoors it needs to be treated for pests. There are several ways to kill pests:
- Kiln drying is what the industry uses to kill pests, however, it’s not an option for most DIYers.
- Similarly, a wood steamer is a professional product that kills pests.
- Freezing wood for up to 1 month will kill pests. A deep freezer works for small projects. For large projects, you could wait for winter. 😉 I love this guide put out by the Canadian government about how to kill pests with freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a region of Canada prone to cold temperatures.
- Probably the easiest DIY option for large projects is to use a product that is designed to kill wood-boring pests. If you happen to live in a country where borax is legal, you can mix a bug-killing spray using 1 tsp of borax in 1 cup of water.
- Our wood was going to be used outdoors, so we didn’t bother treating for pests. (lazy? yes!)
When the wood is clean, pest-free, and dry, it’s ready for refinishing! How you refinish your wood really depends on the project.
- If the wood is thick enough it can be put through a planer, sanded, or wire brushed to maintain that weathered look.
- To prevent pests from going back into the wood, be sure to paint, oil, or polyurethane your project.
Since our wood was going to be used outdoors as a privacy screen on our balcony, we chose to use a water-base deck finish. I love how warm and rich the wood became after finishing. It had exactly the look I was going for.
While using reclaimed wood for our project took a bit more time, it was definitely worth the effort!