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Wood Colors: A Quick Guide For Your Next Reclaimed Wood Installation

by Jake Park 

Reclaimed wood is our lifeblood at Modern Timber Craft. We love the look, the grainy texture, even the smell of freshly sawn pieces. But one characteristic that we really admire is wood coloring. 

Barn wood just has a special quality. One that conveys a comfy, warm feeling while displaying history and charm. A perfectly set installation creates coziness and provides years of enjoyment.

Wood from antique, historic barns comes from a variety of species, reclaimed from 18th, 19th, and early-20th century structures throughout the United States and Canada. The diversity of wood species used gives you many options for your next barnwood installation.

Choosing a color for your barn wood installation can be as unique as your personality. Some shades work well alongside painted surfaces of certain colors, while others can seem intrusive if not paired with appropriate wall or floor covering. That’s why we encourage you to explore your options before installation or even enlist a home designer for help.

hand staining reclaimed wood

Staining Reclaimed Wood

Untreated, aged wood develops a silvery-gray color over time, due to oxidation and exposure to the elements. Many homeowners enjoy the natural hues presented by original wood pieces. In cases where reclaimed wood has not faded from its natural beige color, you can speed up this graying process using household ingredients.

As an alternative to keeping the untreated look, you can choose to stain your barnwood mantle, door, or other product. Stains range from darker, more pigmented hues like cherrywood to lighter, less pigmented stains like oak. You can DIY your staining project but be prepared to test if you want to get it right. Perfecting stain shading may involve a few days of experimentation with different dyes and stains.

Again, selecting the right stain means you should consider the surroundings, décor, ambient and directed light, and location of your installation.

Time and Weathering Bring Color Changes

Identifying specific reclaimed wood species by color can sometimes be challenging – even for veteran barnwood recyclers. Barn wood is exposed to elements that alter its color over time. When the patina (encrusted coating from exposure) covers the wood surface, it will need to be planed down to reveal the wood’s natural color.

As mentioned, wood exposed to the elements tends to turn a dull gray color as a patina envelope surrounds the wood surface. Even interior wood takes on a patina as it ages. Some varieties may get darker or redder in color while others get lighter or lose their color altogether. It will depend primarily on light exposure. In most cases, interior wood tends to darken with age.

Depending on the species, processing of the barn wood, and your installation location, the wood coloring you select may change a little or a lot. For instance, when we remove the weathered surface to reveal fresh wood underneath, there may be some color variation from plank to plank.

The good news is the color variation in unstained wood will often mellow following an installation. Initial color variation across flooring boards, for example, will homogenize over time – leaving you with a more uniform color.

Wood Color by Species

Here is a breakdown of the wood species most often used in reclaimed wood installations. Those with a * indicate popular barn wood species that Modern Timber Craft supplies. NOTE: Wood varieties differ regionally across the U.S.

Variety Color Where Found
White Pine* Pale Yellow to Light brown Eastern US
Yellow Pine* Soft Yellow to Tan Southern US, Mid-Atlantic US
Hemlock* Light Reddish Brown Eastern US
White Oak* Light to Medium Brown with Olive Tint Eastern US
Red Oak* Light to Medium Brown with Reddish Tint Northeast US, Southeast Canada
Douglas Fir Salmon to Blond Western US
Walnut Pale Brown to Chocolate Brown Central US, Southern US
Ash Light Brown to Blond Eastern US, Central US
Maple White to Cream Eastern US, Midwest US, Western US

Sources: Reclaimed Wood Exchange , The Wood Database

Finally, when you’re thinking about wood color, consider where it will go. The placement of your barn wood will matter. Reclaimed wood installed outdoors as siding or decking will weather more deeply and faster than an interior installation.

Consider the application (mantel, flooring, furniture, etc.) as well as the location. Will it get constant sun exposure? Will it be used for an everyday surface? The most important factor will be its strength and durability but choosing the right color will make all the difference to your eyes and those of your guests.

Be sure to check out our reclaimed wood products inventory!

Jake Park
I am a timber expert and serial woodworker dedicated to helping you get educated about the finest woods and materials in the world. Join in my journey on the Modern Timber Craft blog.

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