Transforming Lost Logs into Tomorrow’s Treasures

Photos courtesy of Goodwin Company.

By Jeffrey Forbes

Not long ago, a customer visited Goodwin Company’s mill looking for reclaimed wood for a bar front. She was presented with some of the loveliest antique heart pine on the lot, to which she replied. “No, no, no. I mean reclaimed wood. Don’t you have any pallet wood?”  

Reclaimed wood means a lot of different things to different people. In short, reclaimed wood is any wood that is salvaged and re-purposed. However, for wood flooring professionals, there are specific types of reclaimed wood that are the industry standard. 

Goodwin Company founder George Goodwin.

For more than four decades, Goodwin Company in Micanopy, Florida, has specialized in transforming the rarest and most precious “reclaimed” species into wood flooring, paneling, and ceilings. Let’s take a closer look at the three most common types of “reclaimed wood.”

River-Recovered® Heart Pine & Cypress

Goodwin Company pioneered the River-Recovered® process. With a lack of passable roads in the 18th and 19th centuries, virgin growth longleaf pine (pinus palustris) and bald cypress (taxodium distichum) logs used for building materials were floated down rivers for processing at waiting sawmills. The two species dominated the Southern landscape. Florida alone boasted 23 million acres of longleaf pine before the Civil War. Often, the densest logs – full of olio resin and cypresene oil – sank and were lost in the cool waters, which kept them perfectly preserved in a state of low oxidation. These “sunken treasures” now are recovered carefully from river bottoms and crafted into wood products. These rare logs have virgin quality, rich patina, amazing grains, and historical significance. 

Reclaimed Heart Pine

When Industrial Revolution-era buildings have to come down, our demolition partners carefully procure antique wood building materials from the site. Heart pine timbers were “steel before steel” in the building trade of yesteryear. These magnificent structural members proudly display the marks of time, showcasing how the wood already has played a significant role in our country’s rich history. We de-nail and then re-saw beams that oftentimes can be as large as 14”x16”x25’ dimensionally. Building reclaimed wood typically has more-frequent and slightly larger knots than River-Recovered® wood. These coveted features result from the majority of the clear wood on the outside of the log being cut away to produce the industrial-era beam. Time, oxidation, and the crystallization of resins lead to a deep, rich red patina. Additionally, nail holes and nail staining can add to the narrative the wood has to disclose.

Rescued Heart Pine

Rescued wood is derived from old-growth trees felled during hurricanes and storms. Powerful Hurricane Michael (Category 5) plowed through the Florida Panhandle and Southwest Georgia in October 2018. In its wake, nearly three million acres of southern yellow pine was dropped to the ground. A small percentage of those downed trees were old-growth longleaf.

After retrieving a great many of these trees, they were transformed into beautiful wood flooring. To us, it is important to breathe new life into this beautiful wood that would otherwise be destroyed and lost forever. The company’s mission extends far beyond sustainable and green manufacturing practices, though. 

Rescued wood is derived from old-growth trees felled during hurricanes and storms. After retrieving a great many of these trees, they were transformed into beautiful wood flooring such as the flooring used in many homes like the historic Shel Silverstein Home Renovation in Key West, Florida.

Protecting Native Habitats

Goodwin Company founder George Goodwin is the pioneer of the River-Recovered® process. In an effort to protect the habitat of rivers where logs are recovered, he spearheaded the development of the Florida Deadhead Logging permit, which was signed into law in 1998. This permit must be obtained by anyone desiring to recover logs from bodies of water in the state of Florida. It requires the entity applying for the permit to provide an archeological survey of the area to be logged to ensure no ancient sites or endangered species will be disturbed. 

Unique Uses for Waste

Goodwin has partnered with the University of Florida to provide sawdust and wood chips for biochar research. Biochar is used in reclaimed water filtration systems to help promote cleaner water throughout the state of Florida.

We also provide our sawdust to local blueberry farmers. The Goodwin mill sits in Alachua County, Florida. The area is the largest producer of blueberries in the entire southeastern United States. Goodwin provides blueberry growers with heart pine and heart cypress sawdust to spread under their bushes. The growers claim that the acidity from the antique wood increases the sweetness and yield of the fruit crop.

Reclaimed wood means a lot of things to a lot of people. To us, it’s about our environmental mission and turning lost timber into tomorrow’s treasures. 

Jeffrey Forbes is the Marketing Coordinator for the Goodwin Heart Pine Co. in Micanopy, Florida. He can be reached at jeffrey@heartpine.com or 800.336.3118. 

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