Reclaimed wood for beautiful flooring
When part of Jonathan Orpin’s timber-framing wood shop in Shortsville, NY, collapsed from age in 1986, a client suggested he use the salvageable timbers from the wreckage in the construction of the client’s home.That customer was from the UK, where wood reuse was much more common than in the US. Orpin liked the idea of reusing wood from old buildings so much, he started a second company in 1988 focused on doing just that.Today, that business, Pioneer Millworks, specializes in reclaimed and sustainable wood.
“To date, we’ve rescued nearly 27.5 million board-feet of old wood from rot and landfills, giving it new life as solid and engineered flooring, paneling, millwork, cabinetry, and more from our mills in New York and Oregon,” says Megan Larmouth, Pioneer Millworks’ communications director.
She says the company was one of the first in the US dedicated to the reclaimed and sustainable wood industry.
“Fast forward to today, nearly 30 years after opening our doors: we’ve grown from a handful of folks in ramshackle building to a large group of craftsmen, artisans, and wood enthusiasts with mills on both coasts,” in Portland and Farmington, NY, says Larmouth.
The wood comes from all over the US, often found in sites rich with stories from the past. One Pioneer Millworks project saved the maple wood lanes from Olympic Lanes, once the largest bowling alley in New York state and the scene of many festive events and pro legends. Rather than letting the wood go to waste when the facility closed, Pioneer Millworks salvaged wood from all 80 bowling lanes. Its reclamation team kept the original Olympic Lanes finishes and foul-line markers and arrows intact, turning the wood into restaurant tables and kitchen counters with loads of character.
The company has salvaged wine vats, wood from factory buildings slated for demolition, and many other sources. After rescuing the wood, Pioneer Millworks staff will remove nails and other metal for recycling, then saw, plane, sand, and refinish the wood into like-new materials. The company offers a huge range of wood types—from chestnut to elm to hickory to tropical hardwoods. It sells the salvaged timbers both with a minimal finish, to let the beauty of the wood shine through, or painted or stained with zero-VOC finishes for a custom look.The company will even char your wood using the ancient Japanese tradition of shou sugi ban, which gives it a dark and slightly iridescent look.
The majority of the company’s sales are for flooring and paneling, though it’ll turn wood into just about anything you need to build a home or office.
Pioneer Millworks’ finished products are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) point-eligible. Buildings can get LEED-certified by the US Green Building
Council when they incorporate several green-building techniques, each of which are worth several LEED “points” toward certification.
Its products are also certified by the ForestStewardshipCouncilm (FSC,seep. 125) in three categories: Pure, Mixed, and Recycled. Wood with FSC certification usually means it came from a sustainably managed forest, but in Pioneer’s case, it means the wood is sustainably reclaimed.
Aside from its deep-green products, the company is rooted in green practices. Larmouth says the company’s roofs house a 400-panel solar array, and it uses its wood scraps for heating. One percent of its reclaimed teak sales are donated to conservation causes, and sales from its American Prairie line support domestic barn and historic preservation. In addition, the company offer its employees electronic recycling programs and electric car-charging stations in the facility parking areas.
Pioneer Millworks will ship its products anywhere in the world, says Jennifer Young, the company’s general manager, because the staff wants to share the beauty of reclaimed wood with everyone and bring attention to a renewable resource.
“Each knot, nail hole, and line is a mark of character in this wood, a piece of history to share,” she says.