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Repurposing Old, Solid Wood Into Furniture

Turning old, solid wood into a new piece of furniture is a hot trend, from the top posts on Pinterest to the pages of home magazines. You probably already have old solid wood pieces in your home that can become a new piece of furniture with a bit of sanding, sawing and patience. Not sure what to do with those old pieces? Doors, ladders, windows, pallets and many other wood items can become a variety of new pieces to give your décor an update.

Benefits of Repurposing Solid Wood Into Furniture

Repurposing old wood into something new is more than just a fad. It’s beneficial for you personally and for the environment. Check out these reasons to jump on the repurposing bandwagon:

buying new wood furniture increases your budget significantly

  • Affordable: Have you checked out the price of lumber lately? Buying new wood increases the budget for a furniture project significantly. When you use wood you already have on hand, you can make the furniture for very little money. You can also snag old wood items if a friend or neighbor remodels or declutters. Thrift stores and garage sales are other options for finding inexpensive solid wood items to repurpose.
  • Eco-friendly: New wood furniture construction strains natural resources. Mass-produced wood pieces often contribute to deforestation, especially when manufacturers don’t use sustainable sourcing. Since an old wood item has already been harvested, you’re not taking up any new resources.
  • Reduced waste: Instead of sending the old item to the landfill, you’re giving it a new purpose. You generate less waste, which is helpful to Mother Nature. Because you’re using strong, old wood for the new furniture, it’s likely to last indefinitely, so it won’t end up in the landfill anytime soon.
  • Strength: Wood is a strong, durable building material that can last for decades with proper care. If the old item is in good condition, you get a sturdy foundation for your new piece. Many old wooden items are made from old-growth trees, which is much harder than newer trees that haven’t had as much time to grow before harvesting.
  • History: Your new furniture pieces come with a story. You might repurpose a solid wood door from your home when you remodel, or you could gather barnwood pieces from your grandparents’ farm when the barn gets demolished. Even if you don’t have a personal connection to the wood, it’s an interesting idea to know the pieces are getting a second chance at life.
  • Appearance: Reclaimed wood has a unique look you don’t get in the mass-produced furniture sold by many retailers. Old wood often has a weathered look with knots, dings and other marks that make it one-of-a-kind. You get a natural patina that comes from years of use.

Choosing Wood to Repurpose

sources for repurposed wood projects come in many forms

Sources for repurposed wood projects come in many forms. Some common options include old doors, windows, ladders, chairs, pallets, crates and barns. Crates and pallets work well for small projects. If you want a large furniture piece, barnwood comes in large pieces suitable for shelves, tables and other bigger items that require more wood.

No matter what source you choose, paying attention to the characteristics of the wood helps you pick the best pieces. Use these tips when you select reclaimed wood.

  • Look for signs of pests: Wood that has been outside can be exposed to pests, which can cause damage to the wood, introduce pests into your home and expose you to bacteria. Look for signs of pests, such as live bugs or holes that could be made by insects.
  • Check the strength: Most wood is strong and durable, but pieces that don’t receive proper care weaken over time. Feel the wood to check for strength. If it bends easily or seems weak, look for a different source.
  • Watch for dangerous coatings: Some wood has chemicals or old coatings like lead paint that expose you to dangerous toxins. If you’re using an old item, proceed with caution to ensure you don’t stir up lead paint or other dangerous chemicals in your home.
  • Inspect the wood for damage: Look at each piece individually to check for damage that can affect the integrity of your new piece. Cracks, holes, splintering and other damage mean the wood may not hold up well on your furniture pieces.
  • Consider the beauty of the wood: The character that comes from the markings, nail holes, knots and other spots on the wood is something many people want to capture. Look for sections of reclaimed wood that draw your eye, whether they have an interesting grain, unique markings or stunning natural beauty.
  • Check the source: Knowing where the item came from can help you determine if it’s safe to use. A pallet from a grocery store could be covered in food particles that are susceptible to rotting. Items used in industrial settings may have toxic chemicals on them. If you’re repurposing something from your home, you know the history, so you don’t have to worry as much.
  • Make sure they’re clean: A thorough physical inspection gives you clues on the quality of repurposed wood. Avoid wood with spills on it if you don’t know what the spill is. For instance, a pallet from a manufacturing company could have potentially dangerous materials on it that are impossible to remove. You often can’t tell by looking at the stain what it is, so it’s best to avoid using pieces with unidentified stains.
  • Find pieces that work for your project: The furniture piece you’re building can help you choose wood pieces to use. Plan the piece first, so you know how much wood you need. Some projects may call for larger pieces of wood, while others are fine with smaller pieces. You might need a certain number of similar-sized pieces to make the furniture.

avoid wood with spills if you don't know what the spill is

Repurposing Old Wooden Doors

A solid wood door is one of the best ways to repurpose solid wood because it offers a big piece to work with for a unique project. Doors often have panels and detailing that make them look unique and add interest to the finished product. If you use a solid wood door, you can easily cut it down to size if you want a smaller section. Doors work for a variety of furniture projects.

Place the door horizontally to create the top of a large coffee table. You can also cut the door down to size for a smaller version if the full door is too large for your space. Attach the door to a base or four individual legs to complete the table. If the door has inset panels, you can leave it as-is or cover it with a piece of glass, so you have a smooth surface.

repurpose wood into a solid wood door

Another easy option to repurpose a solid wood door is turning it into a headboard. Choose a door with lots of fun detailing to make it a focal point of your bedroom. Attach the door directly to the wall horizontally, just above the top edge of your bed. You can also add legs to the door to make it look more like a traditional headboard.

If you need to organize your entryway, use an old wooden door to create a tall shelf and coat rack. Attach the door vertically to a wooden base. Add a shelf near the top. Attach hooks to the door just under the shelf to hold purses, hats, coats and other essentials. You can also attach a bench to the door if you want a little seating near your entryway. Leave the doorknob on the door, and use it as an additional hanger, especially if it’s an antique or has a unique look.

Gather three doors to build a unique room divider. You don’t need three of the same door to make it work. Using three different doors with unique design elements adds a fun, eclectic look to the divider. Leave the doorknobs and locks on the doors for a decorative touch. Use hinges to connect the doors, so you can position the divider easily. You can also attach casters to the bottom of each door to make the divider easy to roll into place.

A door with unique detailing can serve as the frame for a leaning mirror. Attach an inexpensive floor-length mirror to the door, allowing the best detailing of the door to show. You can paint the frame of the mirror to match the wood door, so it blends in seamlessly. Lean the door against the wall for an instant centerpiece in the room.

Use the same concept to create a wall mirror. Instead of using a full door, cut the wood down to size, making it large enough to frame a simple wall mirror. Attach the mirror to the partial door, and hang it on the wall.

Repurposing Old Wooden Windows

repurpose old wooden windows into a new project

Old windows were built with wood frames, so they are suitable for your repurposed wood project. You can use the windows with or without the panes of glass, depending on the project and how you want it to look. The divided design of old windows adds stylish detailing to the pieces. Like doors, windows are versatile enough to use for several different projects.

Add storage to your space with a shelf system made from an old window. Decide if you want to hang the window vertically or horizontally on your wall before building the shelf. Add a wood shelf along the bottom or top edge of the window. You can replace some of the glass with corkboards, chalkboards or dry-erase boards to add extra functionality to the piece.

An alternative shelving option is to remove the glass, and use the window as the front frame on a wall shelving unit. You’ll likely need to build a custom box for the shelving unit, so the window frame fits the front perfectly. This option creates a shadowbox-style design.

Just like doors, windows can work as headboards. You’ll like need more than one window to create a headboard large enough to fit your bed. Look for unique windows that are curved along the top for beautiful detailing. Traditional rectangular windows also work. Attach two windows above the bed as the headboard. Add a second row of windows above if you want a larger, more dramatic design. If you don’t feel comfortable with glass above your head, remove the panes and leave the gaps open, or replace them with fabric panels for a softer touch.

Turn an old window into a cabinet door on a freestanding shelving unit. You can build your own custom cabinet from reclaimed barnwood to get a perfect fit. Attach the window to the front of the cabinet with hinges. The glass panels keep the cabinet contents visible.

Repurposing Old Wooden Ladders

repurpose an old free-standing ladder

You may not want to climb an old wooden ladder, but you can use it to make a unique furniture piece for your home. Shelving is a popular option for ladders, with different variations depending on the type of ladder.

If you have a freestanding ladder, open it up and position it sideways to create a shelf. Place planks of reclaimed wood across each rung of the ladder to create shelves. Attach the boards securely to the ladder.

A single-sided wooden ladder can also work for storage. Hang it horizontally on the wall, so the sides of the ladder become mini shelves where you can display items. Another option is to lean the ladder against the wall with baskets hanging from it. Yet another option is to create hanging storage. Suspend the ladder from the ceiling using strong chains. Hang pots or other items from the ladder.

Repurposing Old Wooden Chairs

Replacing your wooden dining room chairs? Instead of throwing them out, keep them to use in a small repurposing project. Chairs are designed for stability, so whatever you turn them into should also have a strong, stable construction.

Turn two or three individual wooden chairs into a unique bench option. After removing the seats from the chairs and connecting the legs in the front, add reclaimed wood planks horizontally across the chairs to form a new bench seat. The backs of the chairs serve as the back to the bench.

Another new use for an old chair is as a plant holder. Cut a hole in the middle of the seat just large enough to fit a flower pot. You want the hole small enough so the top edge of the pot sits on top of the chair, and the rest of the pot hangs below the seat.

Give yourself more display space on the walls by turning an old wooden chair into a shelf. You can remove the legs or leave them attached. The seat of the chair becomes the shelf when you hang the piece on the wall. If you don’t want the unit to stick out too far from the wall, cut the seat to get the desired depth. You can add hooks to the horizontal slats on a ladder-back chair for additional display space.

Repurposing Old Wood Pallets and Crates

repurposing old wooden pallets into solid wood furniture

Pallet furniture is a huge trend in home décor. Pallets are inexpensive, or even free. The wood gives the pieces a rustic look that appeals to many people. When choosing pallets, be cautious about their provenance and previous use. Industrial use, for example, can mean the wood has chemicals soaked into it.

What can you do with pallets? Here are some popular choices:

  • Wall-mounted wine rack
  • Coat rack with hooks attached
  • Coffee table with a piece of glass on top to cover the gaps
  • Headboard
  • Outdoor benches
  • Pet bed with room to hold a pet pillow for cushioning
  • Freestanding corner shelves

Antique crates offer many repurposed furniture options, and they come with vintage character. An all-wood poultry crate makes a unique coffee table option. You can store items inside the cage. Add casters to the bottom to make the coffee table easy to move.

A large soda or milk crate works as a shadowbox-style top for a side table. Attach the crate to wooden legs with the crate open to the top. Add decorative items inside, then top the crate with glass.

Turn a wooden crate on its side to create a functional nightstand. Add legs to the bottom. You can stack books and other essentials inside the crate. Place your alarm clock, lamp and other items on top. For a floating design, attach the crate directly to the wall next to your bed without any legs attached.

Repurposing Old Barnwood

Reclaimed barnwood works for nearly any type of furniture piece you want to build. The wood comes in large planks, which you can leave as-is for big projects or cut down to size for smaller projects.

repurpose reclaimed barnwood into furniture

Perhaps one of the biggest draws of barnwood furniture is the distinct beauty you get when you reclaim pieces of an old barn. Years of standing outside create a beautiful patina you can’t duplicate on a new piece of furniture. You get unique colors and markings.

Try some of these reclaimed barnwood furniture projects:

  • Headboard made from horizontal planks attached to a frame
  • Farmhouse-style dining table
  • Attached to a wall to create an accent
  • Rustic home bar in your basement or rec room
  • Sofa table for the living room
  • Simple bench for your entryway or patio

Other Reclaimed Wood Furniture Ideas

Doors, windows, ladders and pallets are readily available and common repurposing items, but they’re not the only options. You can turn virtually any solid wood piece into something new. Check out these ideas.

  • Library card catalog cabinet: Add legs to a small library card catalog cabinet to make a side table. Add a piece of glass or a mirror to the top for a bit of shine.
  • Game board table: Make a unique addition to a game room or entertaining space when you use a wood box-style game board as the tabletop. Add reclaimed wooden legs to support the game top, and you have a one-of-a-kind table for your entertaining space.
  • Log slice table: Another unique tabletop idea is to use a reclaimed log slice. The shape doesn’t need to be perfectly round. Bumps and irregular curves add to the uniqueness of the table.
  • Wooden spool nightstand: Organize your bedside area with a small wooden wire spool turned into a nightstand. The spool table offers open storage and a unique design.

Tips for Building with Reclaimed Wood

Building with reclaimed wood is a bit different than buying new wood. Knowing how to work with the wood efficiently reduces frustration and increases the chances of success.

reclaimed wood can have so much variation in appearance

Keep these tips in mind when creating reclaimed wood furniture.

  • Clean the wood first: Reclaimed wood is often dirty, so take time to do a thorough cleaning before you start building.
  • Expect variations: No two pieces of reclaimed wood are the same, which is part of what makes the finished product so special. However, those variations in size, thickness and look can make the building process frustrating. Be aware going into the project that the pieces won’t be perfect.
  • Have extra wood on hand: Variations and potential damage to some areas of the wood mean you may have to ditch some of your materials. Make sure you have extra wood on hand, so you don’t come up short.
  • Choose pieces strategically: Since reclaimed wood can have so much variation in appearance, spend time inspecting the pieces to choose the best parts. Look for unique grain patterns or markings you want to showcase on the finished piece.
  • Check for nails: Before you begin work, look through every square inch of the wood to check for nails, staples or other remnants of the wood’s previous life. Those items can damage your saw blade if you cut through them.
  • Sand with caution: Wood projects typically require sanding, but taking off too much of the old wood also removes its distressed charm. Sand only as much as you need to get a splinter-free surface.
  • Skip the stain: Staining reclaimed wood takes away the natural beauty of the pieces. It can cover up the markings that make the wood so unique. Leaving the wood its natural color is ideal.
  • Add a protective coating: Instead of stain, coat your finished project with a wax finish or clear polyurethane. The natural wood look still shines through, and the wood gets a protective layer on it.

Add Reclaimed Wood Pieces to Your Home

If you’re looking for reclaimed furniture without the work of building it yourself, check out the options at AmishOutletStore.com. We offer reclaimed barnwood furniture for rooms throughout your home. Each piece goes through a cleaning and drying process, so you know the furniture is safe for use in your home. Our high-quality, custom barnwood pieces are made by hand to give your home a truly unique touch.


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