April 1, 2010
Second Time Around
Reclaimed wood with a patina as rich as its history
The fortunes of McCloud, California, had been tied to lumber since the 1890s, when its first mill was built. But by the end of the 20th century, that industry was on the wane. Richard McFarland and Erika Carpenter, who stumbled onto the massive beams that were being discarded as the town’s mills were torn down, thought there must be a demand for them. “Originally, the market was people building timber-frame vacation houses,” says Matt Nichols of TerraMai, the reclaimed-lumber company that the couple launched in 1991. Today, with the push for certifiably sustainable materials, demand has exploded.
Most of TerraMai’s domestic woods are now supplied and manufactured regionally, through local salvagers, mills, and cabinet shops, but it is also able to procure hardwoods for outdoor applications through an extensive Asian network. That’s because in 2001, McFarland and Carpenter began to add exotic woods to their offerings in much the same way they started. “They got a tip about tropical-hardwood railway ties in Thailand that were being swapped out as the tracks were modernized,” Nichols says. “Indigenous woods that had been milled and stuck in the ground decades ago were stacked in huge yards, so Rich and Erika bought a bunch and started milling them into flooring.”
The company today supplies wood to designers who are just as interested in aesthetics as they are in green credentials. HOK, for example, chose an oak rich in character for the New York offices of the computer animators Blue Sky Studios, completed last summer. Even resurfaced, the material has a depth of color and durability not found in virgin wood. “New wood has a tragic story,” says TerraMai’s Andy Kjellgren. “Ours has a great story. That’s the nonessential frosting you get when you use a reclaimed material.”
The reclaimed woods are FSC certified and 100 percent postconsumer recycled and can help projects earn LEED points. Some TerraMai woods
are applied to FSC-certified new wood and plywood substrates to
create veneer panels.
Reclaimed woods are typically harder and more stable than new woods.
Commercial and residential flooring, siding, paneling, decking, beams,
lumber, veneers, and panels. Custom products are also available for countertops, tables, ceilings, and more.