10 New Uses for Old Barnwood

Just because your old barn is no longer structurally sound doesn’t mean the weathered wood can’t be put to good use elsewhere.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Tom Kelly/Flickr

There’s something about the weathered look of old barnwood that brings to mind images of pioneers, hard work, old farms and early America. The sight of an old barn, standing proud after 100 years or more, is a sight to behold, as anyone who has ever seen one will surely attest.

Once in awhile, the wear and tear of time will force an old barn to be renovated or even torn down, but that doesn’t have to mark the end of its life. An old barn—specifically its beautifully weathered wood, which can only be created by the passing of the years—can live on forever in a variety of homemade creations ranging from tables to houses and everything in between.
If you have some old barnwood on hand and would like to give it a new life, here are some ideas to help get you started.

1. Make a Table

There may be no better way to reuse old barnwood than by making a table. Take some of the largest boards and attach them to the top of a metal picnic-table frame to give it a weathered look. Or if you’re feeling more ambitious, build the frame itself out of barnwood to make a table that is 100-percent reclaimed wood.

2. Make Signs

The weathered appearance of old barnwood makes it perfect for use as signs. A large board can be painted with the name of your farm and used to welcome visitors, or you can use smaller boards to make smaller signs for identifying some of the places around your farm, such as the orchard or the chicken coop.

3. Make Adirondack Chairs

If you’re handy with tools, try using barnwood to make Adirondack chairs. Use an existing chair as a reference or find instructions in a book or online. With a little effort, you’ll soon be relaxing on your porch in chairs that contain a piece of your farm’s history.

4. Use it on Other Buildings

Think about it—most old barns are very big, and contain a lot of wood. Although the barn itself may have had structural issues that necessitated renovation or deconstruction, you might find that much of the wood—including the weathered siding—is still in great shape and perfectly usable for a new construction process.

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Take advantage of the beautiful aged appearance of barnwood by utilizing it in a variety of ways on other buildings. Using it as the walls of a room in your house can give that room the feel of an old homestead or cabin. You can also use old barnwood as siding for a shed, garage or other outbuilding, giving them an instantly aged and historic appearance, even if they’re new construction.

5. Make Garden Trellises

Anyone with a large garden knows that trellises for climbing plants are a must, so why not build some out of barnwood? The classy, old-fashioned appearance of the weathered wood will enhance the pioneering spirit in any garden.

6. Build a Treehouse

Looking to build a treehouse for your kids? Consider building it out of barnwood—the more weathered the wood, the better it will blend in with the tree. Best of all, you know the wood you use in a treehouse will be thoroughly enjoyed and put to good use for years to come. (Be sure that all pieces of wood are structurally sound; use additional lumber wherever necessary.)

7. Make a Fence

Tidy painted fences are great, but for a farm, it’s hard to top the rustic appearance of a rough-hewn wooden fence, which means that old barnwood is a great choice of material. Use new, sturdy fence posts to ensure a long-lasting fence, then use the barnwood for the boards that connect the posts. With some digging and a few nails, you’ll soon have a rustic fence to be proud of.

8. Build a Wishing Well

It doesn’t have to surround a real well, but a stereotypical “wishing well” can be a very quaint and fun addition to your lawn. Use large rocks from around your farm to build the foundation of the well, then top it off with a barnwood roof and an old bucket to complete this picture-perfect lawn ornament.

9. Make a Clothesline

If you’ve got some wood from the frame of the barn in addition to the weathered siding, consider making a clothesline. Use two of the sturdiest, squarest pieces of wood as the posts, then add to each post a long board from the side of the barn to hold the lines in place.

10. Build a New Barn

If you’re replacing a time-worn old barn with a new one, why not reuse some of the old wood in your new project? Even if it’s just a few pieces of siding placed on the front of the new barn, using the reclaimed wood will allow the memories of your old barn—and the old farmers that built it—to live on for another 100 years or more. If there’s a better use for old barnwood, I can’t think of it!

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