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Finding new uses for creaky barns

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - merican Barnwood Flooring & Design repurposed a century-old barn from Cornelius into floors for this Street of Dreams home in West Linn. What’s old is new again.

Drew Ackerlund is helping old wood find new homes while providing a sustainable alternative for those in need of some construction.

With a passion for woodworking sparked by his grandpa, Ackerlund set out to run his own business from his warehouse in Forest Grove.

Ackerlund took an interest in the area’s old barns right away, and what started out as a hobby is now a growing business called American Barnwood Flooring & Design.

Ackerlund is always on the hunt for barns that look distressed. Once he finds one and contacts the owner, he determines if they’re interested in deconstruction, enabling him to reuse the wood in a new project.

“Many times people are attached to their barns, but it’s often a better way to go to lend it to another use,” Ackerlund says. “These barns are made of wood you just can’t find anymore.”

Deconstructing a barn is no easy task — nor is it inexpensive. It involves specific equipment and a lot of heavy lifting. Ackerlund and his team must disassemble the barns without leaving them in a heap and salvage the wood without cracking or splitting it.

He tries to keep a wide variety of colors, textures, ages and qualities stocked in his warehouse at all times in order to be ready for the specific needs of customers. Ackerlund offers to oversee projects start to finish with designing and building expertise, or he’ll simply provide the materials. He also ships wood out of state.

Recent projects include the flooring for 2012 Street of Dreams homes in West Linn and the new wine bar at Forest Grove’s 1910 Main: an American Bistro, which he constructed mostly of wood that is 300 to 400 years old, with the help of contractor Josh Thomason.

“These craftsmen who built these barns were an amazing breed of people. They often built with timber that was right there on the property and could build sturdy, well-constructed barns with very little metal that stood for a 100-plus years,” Ackerlund says.

A typical barn built in the early 1900s was made from wood that was 100 to 200 years old.

“Some of the wood in these barns was growing when our nation was founded,” he says.

Old growth lumber is no longer widely available. And timber-cutting techniques used in the late-1800s and early-1900s often ensured the strongest cuts of wood from the heart of the tree.

Reusing the materials gleaned from old growth trees is important to Ackerlund.

“My interest in green building has heightened,” he says. “Just about anything can be made from reclaimed materials, and it’s all part of the Northwest. It’s a great way to reclaim and repurpose old growth.”

Ackerlund hopes to team up with Thomason again.

“Finding a new place for this wood is a tribute to the forest, the materials harvested 100 years ago and the craftsmen who were actively engaged in logging and building,” he says.