Back in 1923, carpenters chose a sturdy Douglas Fir beam to lend structural support to the Craftsman Bungalow they were building at 466 Aster, in North Laguna.

In 2016, when the home was remodeled and the floor plan altered, workers removed the 19-foot, 8” X 10” beam. But did they consign it to a burn pile? Absolutely not.

Antique beams such as this one are in high demand for “repurposing,” and this one has become an artfully designed door.

Old boards and beams such as this one have qualities that new lumber simply can’t match. They were harvested from trees that grew slowly due to competition from other trees for the available light, rainfall, and nutrients. This led to tight growth rings, which make the wood more stable than wood harvested from todays’ fast-growing managed forests.

Why does this matter? For one thing, old wood with tight growth rings is more attractive. It’s stronger, so beams can hold a heavier load, but more importantly for wood that’s been reclaimed and repurposed into doors, window trim, fireplace hearths, etc. it holds the finish better, is more stable, and is far more rot and termite resistant.

Houses move, and wood moves. Wood contracts when dry and expands when wet. This causes paint and varnish finishes to fail and causes joints to open, destroying the “fit” of windows and doors. Old wood with tight growth rings is drier and harder, and thus does not move as much as soft new wood with widely spaced rings. The dryness and hardness also discourage rot and insects, both of which thrive in soft, moist wood.

Not all old wood can be reclaimed and repurposed. Too much exposure to the elements can destroy even the hardest wood, and some is too small or so filled with nails that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. However, this old beam has been sheltered from the weather for all of its 90+ years, so it was a perfect candidate.

Below are a few pictures showing the beginnings of a new door, which, when finished, will be installed in another home in North Laguna.

 

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