Construction crews can have a love-hate relationship with old lumber. During demo work on an old building, a project can generate a lot of scrap that is destined for some landfill. But what if you could pull out the wood that was good — if the structure is old enough, possibly of a higher quality than you can readily find today — and reclaim it for the current project or another one?
This is not a deed for the faint of heart. Someone has to examine the entire surface (hopefully using magnets or some type of imaging) for staples and nails and then remove them all because you don’t want a saw or chisel plowing into some chunk of metal that will dull or dent a cutting edge and send you to find the nearest sharpening stone.
It is time-consuming and particular work that too often is best recognized by its absence. Maybe some kids working on a backyard fort will snag some to keep tight control of their budget — and then spend all that time carefully examining each piece and prying out what they can, cutting off as they must, and stacking the remains.
What if you could achieve all this with a minimum of human supervision and effort? Urban Machine has a system they claim can go over pieces of dimensional lumber from 2×4 up to 6×18, remove nails and staples, clean the surface, and leave now reusable wood.
If the process works as advertised, there are a number of benefits that accrue. One is cutting waste. If the price of the processing — which might include milling, depending on the need — is low enough, reclaimed lumber saves money over new purchases.
Then there is the additional savings of not putting something into a landfill. Sending dumpsters out to be emptied adds up. The less that goes, the more a project saves.
Then there are the environmental concerns. Reuse wood and there is no destruction of the carbon capture in the wood and no additional carbon footprint of the newly delivered replacement material. Beyond the feel-good value is something more substantive that will become clear over time as developing regulations will demand disclosure. Better to highlight how much carbon has been avoided than how much you added.
Currently, there is only one machine that can be operated in the company’s facilities or at a job site. The company expects a second one in northern California in Q3 and eventually plans a dozen more across the US and Canada.