Out past the rows of corn, down the gravel road in Trimble, Mo., stands The Barnwood Farm, purveyor of wood reclaimed from old barns and other buildings.
The company does full scale lumber and barn demolition then mills and retails the product for consumers. Calvin McElroy, who is building the retail side of the business, explains why he and his partner Joe Campos got into the business and what people who want to use the popular product should consider before buying.
Q. How did Barnwood Farm get started?
A. Joe and I have been working in the reclaimed wood industry for about 15 years. The company started with full-scale lumber and barn demolition. We now take the old barnwood and also re-mill it into something that can be used for home décor.
Q. What is the reclaimed wood industry about?
A. There are standing structures and buildings that need to come down because of damage or storms. It could be anything from an old corncrib or an old barn that’s still standing but the roof is falling in or it could be an old building downtown where the old wood is getting replaced. You have materials which are still good and could be over 100 years old. We are taking them and making them into something reusable instead of letting it end up in a landfill.
Q. If someone has a building they think could be reclaimed, what should they know?
A. Often people have heard about this movement who have a building they want gone for insurance or tax reasons. There’s also a risk of old barns falling down and people getting hurt. It is a lot of work, but we work for the wood. It is a labor-intensive process. We have to remove the nails and cut out any rot. We have to deal with the elements or trash that might be in a barn. We demolish the whole thing and clean everything up like it wasn’t ever there. Usually, the work is paid for by the wood. Sometimes they think the barn could be worth a lot of money. The materials are not actually worth that much until you do the work involved to reclaim it properly.
Q. How far will you travel to take down barns?
A. We go all around the Midwest. You pretty much have to go where the buildings are. We have a lot of farmland in Missouri, but on the east coast there are places that have been around a lot longer so there are other varieties of wood. The south is known for hard pine. The north has bigger beams than in Missouri. You can find snow fencing and corral board in the northwest. Missouri is a great source for walnut and oak. The Appalachian area has some of the best hardwoods in the country.
Q. What do you sell retail?
A. Our bread and butter is flooring and paneling, but we also offer countertops and tabletops, solid wood beams, fireplace mantels and shelving. We can also make faux beams, which look real, but are not solid.
Q. Why do you think barn wood is so popular?
A. It is hard to replicate the look that reclaimed wood can provide. The sun has bleached the wood because it has been outside for 100 years. You can’t make that in a factory. If you already own the building, you can also have a story behind the wood and pictures of the original barn. Reclaiming has been going on for a long time. It really did not start getting traction until the early 2000s. People realize sustainability is important.
Q. What should people know before they buy authentic barn wood for their home?
A. Barn wood is custom made. It is all solid wood and every piece is different. You have to be ready to have character or have things that might not be present in a manufactured product. There could be waste because of a knot in the wood, or there may be something that you prefer not to have in the middle of your floor. So, you will have to cut it out.
Q. Any pitfalls to avoid?
A. Just understand that this is real reclaimed wood. It is not manufactured to look like that. People will see a look online and not realize it is not authentic reclaimed wood. For example, there is a tile that looks like it is gray barnwood and people can walk around on it and it wears well. We sell actual gray barnwood siding. It will not always work on the floor. People need to know that it will perform better on the wall. There are ways you can take the gray paneling and put it on the floor, but it needs to be prepared in a certain way. Customers need to know that before they buy a product, and that’s the kind of thing we try to do.