Reclaimed wood tables are a Country Willow specialty, and because we have built more than 4,000 of them since 1996 we consider ourselves experts on the topic. We also have thousands of customers who have shared their own experiences with us, which has contributed to our knowledge in this area. In the past, we have purchased imported reclaimed wood tables to see if they were something we would want to provide, and through this process we have uncovered many of the issues and problems that are discussed below. So for quality and safety, we continue to build our own reclaimed wood tables to provide the best and most reliable product to everyone. They are 100% American made, extremely durable, family friendly, and hand crafted with the utmost care.
So how do you know your Reclaimed Wood Table is what it says it is? Here are some tips and important questions to ask when shopping for your table.
1. How do I know if the quality is good and the table will last?
You want to feel confident you’re getting a quality product. But unless you know exactly where the wood came from, it is difficult to determine the quality of a reclaimed wood table. Reclaimed wood is very temperamental and can easily crack, split and warp. It is best to work with a builder or supplier that has specific experience with reclaimed wood and knows how to avoid these problems. If you are looking at a reclaimed wood table from a large chain store, unfortunately all bets are off for quality. It might look pretty, but buyer beware: the rush towards mass-production of these popular tables has unfortunately led to “fast buck” building techniques and inferior wood sources, resulting in many problems. It is best to buy American made for trust and quality, especially in this case. The odds will be in your favor for a high-quality product.
2. Will the finish hold up in my home? I don’t want to worry about food or water stains.
Unless the table is catalyzed, lacquered, or finished with polyurethane, it probably won’t hold up to daily use in an active home. A waxed, raw or unfinished surface looks beautiful, but it’s not practical or family-friendly, and trying to keep it safe and protected from stains can cause a lot of anxiety. Some retailers and chain stores offer an optional can of wax to apply, but this provides very limited protection and requires maintenance. In addition, an unfinished table can easily crack due to changes in temperature and moisture content in the air. Country Willow tables have a minimum of 3 layers of a durable polyurethane coating that enhances the wood and lengthens the life of the table, which is ideal for daily use and family gatherings.
3. Is there anything I should know to determine if the table is well made and will last for many years?
If you are not a cabinetmaker, this can be hard but we do have some suggestions. One feature of good construction is a floating top. This means the table top is not fully attached to the base, allowing for the expansion and contraction that solid wood requires, especially on a large flat surface such as a table. Another feature of good construction to be aware of is that the wood is sealed and finished, which adds to wood stability and protects it from dry and humid conditions as temperature and seasons change. Also, how the boards were paired, joined, glued and clamped is critical to longevity- but this can be hard to determine. Again, if the table is imported, unfortunately the construction can often be questionable. Always buy from a reputable store with a long history of reclaimed wood experience. As we mentioned earlier, Country Willow has built and sold over 4,000 reclaimed wood tables, as well as thousands of pieces of furniture also made from old wood. Our craftsmen are the best in the business and only utilize time tested techniques specific to reclaimed wood.
4. Does reclaimed or salvaged mean it is sustainable and good for the environment?
The short answer is a definitive No. If the product is from the other side of the world which is often the case, it has to be shipped here, and even if the wood itself is from a viable reclaimed source (which there is no way to really know), the fossil fuels needed to harvest the wood, manufacture the table, and ship it to the US negate any sustainable quality your table may have had. In fact, the impact on the environment will likely be greater.
Also, “reclaimed” doesn’t mean “sustainable” or “old”, so be aware of what the store is advertising versus what type of product you want. Reclaimed only means that it was used for something else before it was made into a table. Country Willow uses only 100+ year-old barn wood, which offers qualities such as a rich natural patina plus the strength and durability from a tighter grain only available from these beautiful old weathered boards.*
*Here’s an interesting fact: the lack of air pollution before the turn of the 20th century is part of the reason that reclaimed wood is so strong. In addition, trees that grew naturally- not force-grown like they are today- have a tighter grain and are stronger and more durable.
5. What is the best way to avoid poor quality reclaimed wood tables, and what questions should I ask?
We’re not going to name names here, but keep in mind that most chain stores buy mass-produced products that are manufactured overseas. If you purchase a “reclaimed wood” table from a chain store, there’s a chance you will be disappointed for some or all of the many reasons we’ve listed above. It might not happen the first week or first year, but buyer beware. The bottom line is to ask questions like the ones discussed here and get the scoop on your table: Where was the wood sourced? Where was the table made? How will the surface hold up in my home? Will it stain and how well is it protected? Is it a veneer of old wood and not actually solid wood? The more informed you are, the smarter your purchase will be. And of course stop by Country Willow and see one of the largest collections of 100% American Made reclaimed wood farm tables- all available in many sizes and finishes, including complete custom.