Saving Barn Wood, One Board at a Time
With an idea and a love of barns, this entrepreneur launched a business to preserve farming heritage.
As an old barn comes down, Angela (left) and her friend Lisa Wilson carefully move the lumber.
The thought was a simple one: I would do what I loved, and then share that love with others. Boy, how that snowballed!
I live on a farm, and I’ve always admired old barns. Haylofts fill my mind with memories. I also have a passion for gatherings and sharing meals with my family.
I knew the market for quality farm tables was a good one. But to sell them, I had to make them. How hard can it be? I wondered.
Fast-forward three years: I now run my own business, Reclaimed Barns & Beams. With the help and support of my family and a small but mighty crew, I reclaim old barns and then sell the lumber or use it to build furniture and other items for homes and businesses.
There are lots of beautiful barns in central Indiana, and so many are falling to the ground. They have stood in the fields—often for well over a century—but they no longer meet their owners’ needs.
This means a tremendous amount of quality lumber is being lost. I had stumbled across an opportunity to make a difference and save pieces of our agricultural heritage before it was too late.
Photos are an important step before Angela starts to work because barns hold so many memories.
The timing of my venture was perfect, as I was ready to leave the corporate world. I didn’t want to miss yet another family dinner because I was stuck in a meeting.
My first project was a 45-foot-tall gambrel dairy barn. The owner said I could have all of the wood. It had 90-year-old oak beams and floor joists, and it was covered in weathered pine shiplap siding.
The size of the barn was daunting, but the crew and I focused on one board at a time. We rented lifts and used any tools that made the job easier.
I filled buildings on my farm with the reclaimed lumber. Next, I took on the laborious task of removing nails from the wood. Then the wood was trimmed and sanded to prepare it for homes and businesses. Beams were kiln-dried and readied for their next purpose as a mantel or as part of a ceiling.
The business has grown more than I ever imagined. The crew and I finished taking down that first barn, plus eight others, and we have a list of barns yet to reclaim. Calls, emails and orders have come in from as far away as California and New Jersey.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that you cannot do everything on your own. You have to know your strengths and connect with others who have skills that complement yours.
I also ask a lot of questions and am honest about how much I don’t know. I’ve learned to speak “mill talk” and identify wood, work with it and create beautiful pieces.
Within a short time I opened a woodshop and a lumberyard. From there I added a second location and a brick-and-mortar store with a showroom for customers.
My favorite thing about my job is knowing that I can take lumber from these old barns and pass it along to future generations. I create mantels, farm tables, paneling, shelving and more, and I sell raw lumber for others’ projects.
As I walk through an old milking barn with someone who’s decided to let it go, I think: I am so grateful to do work that I love.
Barn wood warms the Animal Eye Clinic in Westfield
Visit reclaimedbarnsandbeams.com to learn more about Angela and her work giving new life to old barns.