Old House Journal - - Contents -

Re­claimed barn­wood is nice in a rus­tic kitchen.


Amer­i­can re­claimer Jesse Bene­dict (barn­wood­kitchen­cab­i­ dis­man­tles an­tique barns to pre­serve them or re­claim their lum­ber. Each piece is care­fully la­beled. Bene­dict says re­claimed wood from barns works well in any rus­tic set­ting. For kitchens, he se­lects only sturdy, tight-grained boards to use in face frames and door stiles and rails; drawer fronts and pan­els, held in place, may be made of lesser boards. He chooses boards with char­ac­ter: wide grain pat­terns, deeply weath­ered grooves, knots, and even holes from nails or pitch­forks.

When a barn is dis­as­sem­bled, boards are de-nailed on site with the help of a metal de­tec­tor. Wood is sprayed with boric acid to rid it of bugs and mold, then kiln-dried to a 9-10% mois­ture con­tent, not lower.


Cab­i­nets in the Nor­we­gian cabin in­clude a com­bi­na­tion of base units and open shelves. Thick, 1.5–2" barn­wood was used for the shelv­ing—dried, sanded, and fin­ished with the orig­i­nal un­milled edge. Floor­boards with heavy patina from old hay­mows and thresh­ing floors work best for open shelves. Lower base cab­i­nets were made from a solid wood ¾ " box, then faced with ¾ " barn­wood that was back­planed to the same thick­ness as the doors and draw­ers. Cab­i­nets are usu­ally fin­ished with flush in­set doors and draw­ers for a vin­tage look, but full over­lays can also be built. Cab­i­nets are screwed to­gether, not nailed, for stur­di­ness.


Putting a fin­ish on barn­wood isn’t easy. Polyurethane on any sur­face that has

weath­ered grey will turn an un­pleas­ant black color. A low-VOC, two-part con­ver­sion var­nish here was floated onto the sur­face, then baked into the wood be­fore cab­i­net con­struc­tion, cre­at­ing a crys­tal-clear fin­ish that pre­serves the nat­u­ral, sil­very grey of the weath­ered wood. Rec­om­mended clean­ing is with di­luted mild soap and wa­ter, avoid­ing oils and most mod­ern for­mu­la­tions.


It’s ob­vi­ously vari­able, but as­sume raw, un­fin­ished barn­wood pur­chased direct at $4–5.50 per square foot. Sim­ple, fin­ished cab­i­nets cost about $180 per lin­ear foot.

TOP An un­used, di­lap­i­dated Penn­syl­va­nia barn will be re­cy­cled as pan­el­ing, cab­i­nets, and floor­ing.

ABOVE Barn­wood with nails re­moved, stacked and await­ing new uses.

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