We get many requests to take the wood from the side of a fallen down barn and turn it into a barn door. We love all types of lumber but we are leery to turn reclaimed wood into a interior door (or anything for that matter). While that barn may be the work of a beloved relative we don’t want you to bring anything more than sentiment into your home.
What I mean is that old or reclaimed wood can contain things like mold and mildew. Which can spread and become a problem in your home and can also affect your lungs. You can treat wood for this but there is no blanket method of vanquishing all mold or mildew. So it is best to just avoid it completely.
Now I know you might think “what if I plan to make a reclaimed wood project and leave it outside?” While that is a valid thought. Reclaimed woods can go through what is called “off gassing”. What happens is reclaimed wood has trapped volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can begin to release into the air and in the case of a raised garden encased by reclaimed wood. It could leak into the soil and cause whatever is growing to become toxic, especially edible plants.
Lead paints and other unknown chemicals. These can be inside or on the surface of barn wood. They can become mixed in with the dust in the air and can become harmful. This is something you have to consider especially if you know the wood is circa 1978 or earlier.
Railroad ties. In order to preserve the trestles, softwoods are often treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has noted some especially nasty side effects for working with wood treated with creosote and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has labeled pentachlorophenol as a “probable human carcinogen.” Railway trestles are not required to have any markings as to whether or not they’ve been treated, so it’s safest to stay away from them for project use.
Bugs, this is more or less the obvious fear of barn wood. While barn wood can contain termites which is more easily identifiable, barn wood can also contain species that burrow in the wood and become dormant. They then can lay eggs and become invasive to a home. We ran into a case of “stink bugs” and learned our lesson from there on out.
So it is very important to know where your wood is coming from and what lengths you are going to have to go through to get it in a safe state. These processes can be costly and time consuming. We at Tennessee barn doors are pros at taking safe free of harmful substances or creepy crawlies and turning them into beautiful doors that look as old as wood off your granddaddies barn.