This is Part II of our Alway Homes interview with professional ‘Barn Buster’ John Robinson. Want to know where we have sourced some of our amazing barn wood? For the whole skinny, please read PART I first!
Q. Tell us about how you take a barn down. Is it difficult?
A. Most barns are structurally-compromised when we find them, so taking them down without collapsing the building is challenging. Most every job requires a Gradall extended forklift to help bring down the big beams. Once the wood starts piling up on the ground, we scrape, wire-brush and de-nail every usable board. This is a very tedious process, but it allows us to sort, bundle, and stack lumber in an orderly manner so that we don’t have a big mishmash pile to deal with at the end of the job.
This also means that all of our nail and scrap cleanup happens on-site, thus eliminating multiple messes elsewhere. As we near completion, I bring in the big truck/trailer and start loading it while the crew hauls off the mountain of unusable scrap. We always make sure to clean up the site to the property owner’s complete satisfaction. We also always encourage the owners to pick out a few boards that they could hold onto as a keepsake from the old barn. Every one of our customers is happy that they had us come take the barn down and haul it away to be reused. It is difficult, but rewarding work, especially when we get to see the lumber being put back to good use for another century to come.
Q. When you go to resell this wood, what are people looking for?
A. That’s a tough question. Everyone has that unique thing that they’re looking for when they think “barnwood.” For the contractors, the big seller is definitely the 1″x12″wide barn siding and the big beams. Furniture makers like the consistency and straightness of the dimensional 2x. The hipster-Portland type like the unique or industrial items that came out of a barn. For the Etsey moms looking for something to post on Facebook or Pintrest, just about any random piece of old wood or window works! We have sold wood to all these people.
Q. Who has been your primary customer?
A. When we started, we were primarily looking for old lumber specifically for the custom home building business—but my inlaws revamped some commercial property in an industrial part of Boise, and put everything we couldn’t sell to builders up for sale in a big warehouse. We sold wood to a really mixed bag of customers. Rendevoux Reclamation became kind of a hot item in Boise for awhile, but staffing a retail business was not in the long-term plans for any of us, and my in-laws eventually closed the business.
Thanks, John! We will continue this interview in Part III, coming soon!