Reclaimed lumber adds history to new home – Canada

Wide boards of reclaimed wood from the Canadian Heritage Timber Co. provide a warm base for this sunlit kitchen.

Wide boards of reclaimed wood from the Canadian Heritage Timber Co. provide a warm base for this sunlit kitchen.

Photograph by: Handout, Vancouver Sun

EDMONTON – Dear Leanne: We are planning to build a second home in Canmore and would love to use reclaimed lumber for the floors. Do you have any comments on this product and where to get it?

We have talked to a few flooring companies and have not received positive comments on the product.

A: Reclaimed wood is more than flooring, in my view; it is an art form that pays homage to our heritage. Reclaiming wood refers to salvaging the wooden remains of deconstruction sites such as historical homes, old buildings, mills, warehouse or barns.

The wood that is reclaimed holds the story of the building it had originally supported. It reflects a place in time and honours the craftsmanship involved in the original construction.

Another major interest people have in using reclaimed lumber is the eco-friendly nature of this resource. There are a few companies, with the closest Canadian companies being in British Columbia, that take great pride in restoring previously used lumber for various applications.

During the salvaging and restoration process, the lumber is categorized into suitability for interior flooring, decking, beams, mantles, stair rungs or furniture. In addition to determining structural integrity, the process is quite elaborate involving hand-grading each plank, sizing for both random and custom lengths and sanding to bring out the natural beauty each plank possesses. See a slide video at

There is a great deal of labour involved to get the wood from its original state to one that can be reused in homes today. It is no surprise that this product also costs more than the prefabricated wood floors that are a beautiful and readily available alternative.

One video I suggest you take a look at is offered by another B.C. company, Second Wind Timber. This video shows the splendour and versatility of reclaimed wood as an Alberta client takes you on a tour of her beautiful home overlooking Shuswap Lake.

I suggest you contact the companies that process these products directly to gain a greater understanding of the specific availability, limitations and costs involved. They can also give you names of clients that have used their products to get a truly unbiased view of choosing reclaimed wood.

Dear Leanne: I would like to add a solarium on to my home and wondered if you could tell me how to make sure it is energy efficient.

A: Adding a solarium or sunroom onto your existing house is a great idea. Planning is the key to longterm enjoyment. When it comes to building onto your home I always recommend you seek the advice of a professional who has expertise the in the area you require — and a client list you can call as a reference check.

There are a few steps you need to consider regardless of who will build the solarium.

Step 1: Determine how you want to use this room. Is it intended to grow plants, be used as a sitting room, a kitchen nook, house a hot tub or increase your current floor space?

Step 2: Consult with a contractor and designer if you are intending to construct this from scratch. This expertise will ensure you have adequate foundations, electrical/ plumbing, insulation, ventilation (important for room temperature as well as moisture control), window construction and security. If you currently have a security provider, ensure you inform them of this new project as it should be protected as well.

You may have decided to use a prefabricated room addition. See your yellow page listings or Google local solarium manufacturers.

Step 3: Ensure you have all permits in place for this construction. An experienced contractor can guide you effortlessly through this process.

Step 4: Plan a product list that will ensure the maximum effectiveness regarding energy efficiency. With glass being the predominant building material used in this structure you can understand why this room will not be the most energy-efficient room in your home.

There are a few things you can do to ensure the solarium is cool in the heat of the summer and yet warm in the winter without taxing your energy bill. Many all-year-round prefabricated solariums offer state-of-the-art window construction to improve temperature fluctuations during seasonal extremes.

If you are building yourself, ensure you use high quality windows. This is the most critical building product for reducing energy losses.

Other considerations include incorporating a stone floor to absorb heat and window treatments that can allow you to control the sun and heat throughout the day, while increasing your privacy at night.

An electric ceiling fan will also aid in moving air, and although does not have the same results as air conditioning, it is more energy efficient.

Leanne Brownoff is an Edmonton interior design consultant who welcomes your questions at Answers will be featured in her column as high volumes prevent individual e-mail responses. Also follow Leanne at

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