“When we imagine a green product, most of us envision something that looks just like the conventional one, minus the offending ingredients and manufacturing processes.
But several adventurous entrepreneurs in the wood-flooring business have developed green products that can be more beautiful and exotic than the ones they seek to replace, and that greenness can connect us to a past we may have thought was lost forever: old growth timber. We still have huge, untapped reserves, albeit not in trees but in old and often long-abandoned buildings.
Willie Drake, a self-described “accidental environmentalist,” has been turning reclaimed lumber into flooring for nearly 40 years. He got his start when he and a friend were building a house in rural Virginia for a homeowner who wanted wood paneling made from “something unusual.” They decided to use “wormy chestnut,” undaunted by the fact that this once-plentiful species was wiped out by a blight in the early 1900s.
They located a large number of rough-cut chestnut boards in a barn in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, stacked there decades before by a farmer trying to salvage the wood after the blight killed his trees. They turned it into finished paneling.
Drake soon learned there was enough old lumber in southwestern Virginia to make sourcing and producing finished paneling and flooring a full-time pursuit. He founded Mountain Lumber (mountainlumber.com) in Ruckersville, Va., in 1974.”
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