Mountain Lumber Company Blog

antique oak flooring with a rich patina from stout beer from the original Guinness brewery
Sep 01 2017

Gifts of Grain — Antique Oak Flooring from Guinness

More than 100 years ago, skilled coopers honed staves of wood and fortified the knots with hand-carved wedges, tapping them in by hand one at a time. Perfect curves of heavily grained brown oak – chosen for its strength – came together to form a massive brewing vat capable of holding some 722 pints of stout.

Mountain Lumber rescued this unique wood from these giant brewing vats and have since transformed them into flooring.

reclaimed antique oak flooring from the guinness brewery's brewing vats

Founded in Dublin and first brewed by Arthur Guinness in 1759, Guinness Stout has become one of the most recognized and staple beers in the world. The St. James Gate brewery still exists today, where their founder leased a disused brewery for 9,000 years at £45 per year some 200 years ago.

In time, brewing technology changed. Guinness’s St. James’s Gate brewery replaced the great wooden vats with metal ones. Some of the wooden vats were dismantled and stored while others were marked for demolition. Willie Drake, Mountain Lumber’s founder, traveled to Dublin to hand select many of the long, curved planks from those wooden vats.

From there, Mountain Lumber’s craftsmen were careful to save many details that show the wood’s history. They skillfully sanded the planks, preserving the wedges in the knots and retaining accents left by iron bands that once wrapped the massive vats. The warm-colored oak flooring ranges in hues from golden brown to dark brown, which is the result of countless pints of the famed dark ale producing a rich patina, indicative of years of brewing the world’s first stout.

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Museum Flooring – Go Down In History

Museum Flooring at Monticello

There’s a lot to see at a museum – artifacts from various military campaigns, a mastodon brought back to life with prosthetics, or a day in the life of our Colonial ancestors. When we visit museums, rarely do we look down when there’s so much awe at eye level and above.

Mountain Lumber has worked with a number of museums across the country, balancing esthetic and durability to these well-visited visual gems. Museums pose a particular challenge for floors. All elements of the design must complement the overall artistic, cultural and historic value of the museum while holding up to thousands of visitors every year.

Our custom floors do just that – add beauty and stand up to heavy traffic. We floored the visitor centers at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia, the South Street Seaport Museum in New York, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut among others.

The art and history aren’t the only stories in these buildings; their floors have a story too.

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New Life to Old Lumber

Badgley Mishkay whitewashed antique oakWe recently helped a high-end designer in New York City capture a more modern feel to their space using a versatile wood – Rich with history. We custom finished reclaimed oak sourced from Appalachian barns for the project, developing the finish and applying by hand at our shop in Ruckersville, Virginia.

Antique oak is an exceptionally stable platform for flooring, posts and beams. It can hold up under the most extreme conditions and continue to look stunning, the perfect balance for this new project.

When sourcing reclaimed oak, we inspect every piece, grade each on varying degrees of character and quality, and remove all the nails by hand. We retain the nail holes and other scars to celebrate the wood’s history.

For centuries, oak was used to build barns and other structures that have come to define Americana. Much of our reclaimed oak is recovered with chestnut, poplar, hickory and pine. An essential part of farm life, barns constructed through the early part of the 19th century were typically built using trees growing closest to the property. The beams, being larger elements of the structures, were limited in size to what could be moved by man and horse. The wood was either hand-hewn using an axe or squared with an adze.

Early settlers also recognized the value of oak from its European subspecies and used red, white, black, scarlet, willow, post and pin varieties to build their barns as well. These varieties are still available in new growth today, but develop a very different appearance after years of being subjected to natural and human elements.

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Welcome to Mountain Lumber Company’s Blog! We want to offer helpful advice, tips, and educational information in regards to selecting, installing, and maintaining the wood floor of your dreams. We will have open discussions regarding trends, colors, and textures. We also will offer input into Reclaimed materials, Newly Harvested materials, FSC Certification, Leed Compliance, and custom finishing.

Flooring is the centerpiece of any home and we understand that it is one of the most important interior features. We want you to count on us not only for trends, but technical advice, so that you’ll love your floors for years to come.

Our bloggers are made up of our Sales and Technical Staff who have a combined 50+ years in the wood flooring, construction, interior design, and customer service fields. Each of our team members bring individual experience and perspective to their topics and showcase the depth of what our company has to offer. Guest bloggers will also be featured, including customers who have our floors in their home.

If you have any questions or requests, please let us know! We would love feedback from you and look forward to your comments. If you have questions about specific projects, feel free to reach out to

Once again, Mountain Lumber Company would like to welcome you to our blog. We look forward to providing you with insights that will assist you in your search for the perfect wood floor.

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