Using driftwood beams in my house

jamesbodellDecember 6, 2010

My 100 year old house has some unique archticture features. It's Royal Berry Wills old summer house, and there is some history (and pictures) in one of his books. In it, the book claims that a large beam in the living room was found on the beach and used in the house construction.

He also used solid beams for stair treads, which I plan to reproduce on a new set of stairs I am adding in an addition. I was walking down the beach the other day and came across a very large 12"x12"x12' beam. I am wondering if there is a down side to grabbing the beam and re-using it for my stairs? It's not uncommon for such beams to wash ashore here in NE. I have seen beams up to 20' drift ashore! I guess my questions are will it smell like low tide once I start to dry it out, and if the salt has done anything nasty to it? I also wonder if it would need to be kiln dried and other prep I might have to do to use it. I most certainly would trim it down to the size I need, about 9"x8"x3'6".


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I'd be more worried about what might be living in it, than what the salt has done, plus if you don't know the age of the beam, I'd definitely want a pro to check it for inner rot, etc.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 2:16PM
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Any critters would smell as they died. That's one concern. As for inside, I would be cutting into pieces so would know right away what condition it was in. Apart fronm that, dry rot does not occurr in salt water, only fresh.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 2:36PM
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There's got to be a lumber salvage company in your area. I'd be looking for a phone number or address and ask them.
Pulling timbers out of water both fresh and salt has been going on for a long time. Loads shift, boats sink, timber sometimes gets lost.
There was a tv show about it not too long back on either Discovery Channel or the History Channel.
You're best bet is to talk to someone whose been in the business for awhile and get their take on what to do.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 4:08PM
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Fully submerged timers are often just fine after drying out.

There is a huge market for old growth wood that has sunk in rivers and can now be retrieved and milled.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 4:40PM
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If this is a piece of old timber, it will be better than anything (except salvage) you could buy today - tighter grain, older growth, etc. The one thing to look out for is embedded pieces of metal you can't see. These can ruin a saw blade, so using a carbide blade or checking with a nail finder/metal detector before cutting is the way to go.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 5:07AM
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