Reclaimed redwood has natural color variations and patinas derived from exposure to the elements and the way the wood was originally used. For example, Wood from an old wine vat will have absorbed some of the wine over the years, altering the coloration significantly. Additionally, some reclaimed lumber contains nail holes which have acquired their own colors related to the presence of the metal nails. Reclaimed redwood is a prized material and needs to be protected in a way that prevents decay but does not eliminate the qualities it is valued for. The process you use will depend on the application as well as the appearance you are trying to achieve.
Soap and Water
If you really want to preserve the natural qualities of reclaimed lumber, the best way to take care of it is to avoid harsh abrasives, chemicals, and artificial sealants. Instead, use a soft to moderately firm brush and a mild dish or laundry detergent. The idea is to remove dirt and grime without disturbing the appearance of the aged wood.
Sanding and Refinishing
Avoid using abrasive materials on your reclaimed redwood, the less of the naturally acquired finish will remain. Avoid coarse sandpaper of 80 grit or lower, altogether. For best results, limit sandpaper use to 120 grit or higher. If you are only trying to create a smooth, even surface, gradually step up the grit, starting with about 160 grit and ending with something around 220 grit or higher. For a super-fine finish, complete the sanding using steel wool.
Sealing with Oils
Avoid tinted oils or weatherproofing agents when sealing reclaimed redwood, as they will affect the coloration of the material. Keep in mind that your lumber contains micro-pockets where oils and stains can accumulate, making some parts to the wood look darker than others. Murphy’s Oil Soap or other furniture polishes will highlight the grain of the wood with minimal interference. Oiled wood needs to be retreated 2 or 3 times a year to maintain the luster and may require sanding with a super-fine grit sandpaper every couple of years.
The importance of testing stains on a small, preferably hidden, part of the wood first cannot be understated. Because of the way wood ages, the result of stains and sealants is somewhat unpredictable. For reclaimed redwood, the best option is generally to use a clear polyurethane sealant. You can choose a flat, satin, or glossy sealant to match your preferences. Apply thin coats with a fine brush or soft, clean rag and allow to dry thoroughly after each coat. Before applying additional coats, remove bubbles or blemishes using fine grit sandpaper or steel wool.
The Lumber Baron is the Bay Area’s source for reclaimed redwood. We provide you with the history of our hand-selected material, and offer sage advice on protecting it. If only the best results will do, come in talk to us about your project and how to achieve the desired finish.