Rumour has it that as recently as the late 1980’s, large timber sections from the demolition of our old historic buildings were ferried out to sea on a barge and set on fire. At that time there was no market for the timber and this solution was cheaper than disposing of the timber in a tip! It seems therefore that it is only in the last 15-20 years that people been made aware of the inherent beauty of old timbers and the fact that it is recyclable.
Knowing that we can reuse and restore the surfaces of our magnificent enduring hardwoods means that these timbers are now highly sought after.
At Ironwood we recycle timber from wharves, wool stores, shearing sheds, factories, warehouses, bridges, mills and derelict buildings. It is a lengthy and laborious process. Under normal circumstances a building which can be demolished in 2 weeks can take up to 3 months to take apart if we are to ensure the safe retrieval of all the recyclable timber. (Under normal circumstances the Blackwattle Bay Studios would have taken less than 2 weeks to demolish. As 98% of the material was recyclable we worked with demolishers for over 3 months to ensure the safe retrieval of the timber).
As fewer large demolition sites become available our recovery of demolition timbers has a limited supply – particularly as only high quality timbers make it to our mill. The timber has to be large enough to turn into product and must not be overly damaged – generally only around one third of a total haul is recyclable. Of course the larger demolition jobs have larger quantities and generally bigger timbers, which we prefer as they provide better product consistency and can satisfy economic order quantities.
The process of converting a large timber beam into wideboard flooring involves patience and precision. Each beam has to be metal detected and de-nailed manually. This is a labour intensive and tedious process. Once free of metal bolts and nails, the timber needs to be dried. Once it is dried it is cut into planks or subjected to a surface skim, which exposes a new surface layer to the elements.
Even though this timber is already seasoned and dry, it still “pulls” a different way every time after being cut so needs to be air dried again.
The time frame for this process alone is dependent on the species and how exposed to the weather the timber may have been. It can take between 3 – 6 months before the entire drying process is completed.
Only then will we mill it into tongue and groove flooring sections.
The old timber clearly has more character and definition, and now having been seasoned over the years, and re-seasoned, the timber is inherently more stable.
We market our recycled woods as either ‘creams’, ‘browns’ or ‘reds’ – the colours invariably being highly complimentary, as it is usually impossible to sort and sell the timbers by specie alone.