How to Restore Lumber From Old Barns

Updated February 21, 2017

With the rising price of lumber, some homeowners turn to old dismantled barns as an alternative source of wood for building and decorating. Much of the wood in barns that are well beyond their original use can be recovered to provide lumber for all types of construction, both inside and out. Also, many older barns are made with heavy wooden beams that can create a dramatic architectural accent in new construction. After the barn is disassembled, inspect, grade, clean, treat and, in some cases, mill the wood to restore it to a useful state.

Examine the wood thoroughly for rot, insect or mould damage that has compromised the structure of the wood. Dispose of any lumber that has degraded. Cut good quality wood that can be salvaged away from wood that is not usable.

Pressure wash the lumber to remove any dirt, debris and paint from the wood. Position the nozzle close to the surface of the wood to strip paint more easily.

Treat the wood with an insecticide specifically formulated for applying to wood surfaces to kill powder post beetles, wood borers or any other pest that may still reside in the wood. Allow the wood to dry completely.

Inspect the surface of the wood visually for any protruding nails, screws or other fasteners in the wood. Remove all of these objects using a hammer and pry bar.

Pass a strong, hand-held metal detector over all surfaces of the wood, including the ends, to locate any remaining metal objects within the wood. When you locate an object, dig it out with the pry bar and hammer. Check the same area again for any additional objects near the one you just removed. Continue until the lumber is completely clear of all metal.

Mill the surfaces of the boards using a planer, if desired. Mill all boards to a uniform thickness. Re-examine the wood after milling to check for any hidden damage, such as rot or insect infestations that may require rejecting the lumber.

Things You'll Need

  • Pressure washer
  • Wood insecticide
  • Insecticide sprayer
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Metal detector
  • Planer
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