Barn Wood Accent Walls
One of the current trends in decorating that has really caught on is using barn wood for accent walls. It seems to be very popular in basement remodels, but is also being used in upstairs dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. In our house, we have used it in our office and we are thinking about using it in a couple of other locations.
The wood is so variable, that you can get just about any type of look you can imagine. Whites, reds, grays, browns and even some blues and yellows. Each board has a unique look so you can pretty much specify what type of colors you might like.
Why Use It?
Because it is so darn COOL! Need I say more? Well, that is my opinion anyhow. But let's focus (you are likely here because you already think they are cool!) on learning about the different types of accent material that is available.
Different Types Of Reclaimed Barn Wood Available
Barn Siding Accent Walls
This is material that was used on the outside of the barn. Typically gray in color, gray with red, white, lots of different options. The siding also typically has a beautiful brown tone on the inside of the board.
Circle Saw Pattern-boards
This is material that could be used almost anywhere in the barn, typically hardwood material. It can be a weathered gray, brown or even reddish brown. You can usually see the original saw marks in the material, the "circle saw pattern".
This is material that has been sawn from barn wood or could also be siding that has been planed. There is still a lot of uniqueness in the wood and you can do a variety of things with this material such as varied species, staining with multiple colors then mixing or just the natural look of the wood.
Many species used in barns are not around today, so having a accent wall made from reclaimed barn wood, doesn't mean it has to look old. You can still get a modern, clean look and use reclaimed material.
What Colors Are Available?
The colors available are varied from barn to barn. It depends on the type of wood(usually Pine), if it has been painted or not, direction the side it facing and how long the wood has been there. But for the most part, here are the most common colors;
- Brown, many tones
- Faded Red
This constantly changes based on the barn. The most popular colors for accent walls is all brown, mixed brown and gray, and mixed brown and gray with a hint of red.
What Makes Our Material Different?
Its The Real Deal!
Yes, we actually use real barn wood for our accent walls. I didn't even realize that this was a big deal until a customer recently mentioned that she ordered samples from a couple of other online vendors and they were using new wood that was distressed. Just not the same thing.
We take down barns and we also buy material from folks who have already taken their barns down. I can't even imagine trying to get the new material to look like the real stuff. You just can't match the weathering or coloring of wood that has been sitting in the same place for the past 100 years.
Customers have typically seen a picture of a type of wall that they like. If not, we also have a selection of photos that our own customers have used and we keep tabs on popular sites like Houzz.com and Pinterest where we maintain idea books and boards of what other people have done with the material.
Once we have an idea of what you are looking for, we hand select the material. Want a little bit of red mixed in, no problem. Don't want any red, no problem. All gray? A mix of grays and brown? How about all brown? You get the idea, we can customize the material to the look that you have in mind.
One of the least favorite jobs around our place is de-nailing material. But it is just one of the jobs that has to be done. We take out the obvious nails, but there are some of those pesky devils that have been there so long, they don't want to come out.
If removing the nail would destroy the look of the face of board, we leave it in. There are some boards, commonly referred to as "naily board" that has tons of nails on the one side, but few on the other.
Because of all the nails, you get a very unique look on the back-side without the nails. These were boards that were used on the roof and the old cedar shingles were attached to them.
Using the wire brush is the most common way of cleaning the barn wood. By using the wire brush, you are able to get rid of the dirt that has been sitting there for many years, but you don't destroy the color of the boards which is very important if you want a mix of colors.
If you power wash silver gray or red boards, you will quickly discover brown board material below, which is fine if you want all brown, but not so good if you want the silvery gray colors.
We usually reserve this for the really dirty material. Fact is there is a lot of dirt around old barns whether blown around by the wind or kicked up by the animals who were housed there. Some boards are just too nasty to wire brush, and we have no choice but to power wash these.
You can still get nice colors with this type of washed wood, but we usually mix this material in with others because it is mostly all brown.
Most people think that because the wood has been on a barn for 100 years, that is must be dry. In a way, they are correct, it is drier than the material you would get from a tree you just cut down, but it is usually not dry enough to be used indoors.
Most barn wood we come across has a moisture content of 13-20%. Wood will move and I actually learned this first hand in my own application. Before I had all the tools and knowledge, I put up a wall of siding in my office.
Quick Tip: I know all about wood movement because when I did my accent wall, I didn't know any better....I didn't dry it, I didn't straighten the edges. I now have a 1/4-1/2" gap between the boards. Not good! So, heed my advice, make sure your material is dry BEFORE you install it! I have to redo mine.
When we kiln dry the wood, we take the moisture down to 6-7%. The wood will likely acclimate back up to around 10%, but it should not cause any problems.
Wood moves, so you will likely still get some spacing depending on the season, but it should be hardly noticeable. A good way to accommodate any gaps or holes is to paint the wall a dark color behind the boards.
For the last 24 hours of our kiln drying cycle, we take the kiln up to at least 130 degrees. This gets rid of all the insects that may still be living or any eggs left behind. There are lots of nooks and crannies in this material, so this is the best bet for getting rid of all those things you likely would not want in your house!
Straight-Line Ripped 2 Sides
This is one of the most important parts for DIY installation. We run all the material through a straight line rip saw. What is a straight line rip saw?
It essentially guarantees a straight edge on a board when you feed it in. We typically run one side of the board, then set the fence to run the other side. This gives us material that is nearly perfect width. Straight edges give you excellent fit from board to board so that you don't end up with gaps when you install the wood.
Straight End Cut
Once we have the wood edged on both sides, we use a saw called an up-cut saw. This saw holds the material down and cuts the ends at a perfect 90 degree angle to the straight edge that was created on both sides.
Why is this important?
Like the great fit between edges, this creates a perfect fit on the ends as well so you won't get gaps. You will likely still need to cut the ends of some boards to fit your wall, but a mitre saw will work for that. This just saves you the time of having to cut each end of every board.
Why Does It Matter?
Are You Installing The Accent Wall Yourself?
If you want a simple DIY project but don't have a lot of tools, this material is perfect. All you really need to have is a way to fasten the material, some glue and a way to cut some of the ends to fit straight, and you are good to go.
Here is a photo of a customer installation;
This Mother Son team did a great job on this wall. These days time is a precious commodity and this material saves you many hours of processing the wood yourself.
Are You Hiring It Done?
If you are having someone install it for you, it will save you money on the amount of hours it takes to have this done. You are likely paying for the time your Builder is on site, so the less time it takes, the less you have to spend. If you are paying hourly, you likely wouldn't really know how many hours it takes to prepare the wood.
I would say for every hour of installing, you would have 2-3 hours (just a guess!)of preparation. Paying for the material to be prepared at a fixed cost, gives you a better control over the cost of your entire project.
It's Really Up To You....
If you are into de-nailing, cleaning off 100 year old dirt, not worried about shrinkage and ready to invite some new, interesting insects into your home, grab up a cheap pile of siding.
On the other hand, if you want something that has been prepared properly, is an easy DIY project and will look amazing when your done, then start with PROCESSED reclaimed barn siding for your accent walls. You won't regret it!
I started my first business when I was 14 years old and have been working in my own businesses or family businesses ever since then. My parents placed a high value on education and instilled a strong work ethic. We fixed and built our own stuff including homes while I was growing up. I love to write and author both this blog and a blog on energy efficient lighting. I have 4 kids and live in Michigan. You can contact me below.