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The Latest Trend in Historic Home Restoration: Stolen Barn Wood

Have you checked on your barn lately?  If you live in an area where historic outbuildings are common, you may want to check that barn door both before and after the horse bolts.  A recent article in Mother Nature Network warns rural residents that they could soon be the target of the latest crime wave: vintage wood theft.  Theft of weathered barn and shed wood in both the United States and Canada has increased dramatically in the last three years.  The demand for antique wood is especially keen among home remodelers and interior decorators seeking to cash in on the latest trend in home décor.  Salvaged barn wood is often used for historic home restoration, antique conservation and even craft furniture.  In fact, reclaimed barn wood can sell for as much as $8.40 per square foot, according to writer Matt Hickman.  The problem is that supply can’t keep up with demand.  Most farmers aren’t keen on selling their barns and residents of historic towns and rural areas grow rather fond of their vintage outbuildings, especially if they’ve been in the same location for 100 years or more. 

This has led to some brazen thefts.  According to Hickman, one Canadian farmer in a rural stretch of Quebec was approached by several individuals over a series of months who offered to buy his barn for its historic wood.  Although the farmer refused to sell each time he was asked, a recent hailstorm provided enough cover for someone to pilfer two his barn walls.  Similar “wood reclamations” have been reported in rural parts of the American South and Southwest.  Hickman claims that Kentucky holds the dubious honor of being America’s “hotbed of illegal barn wood poaching”.  But this may be beginning to change.  In a related article published by the National Wood Flooring Association late last year, professional flooring companies are working with local law enforcement to avoid buying stolen barn wood.  Their cooperation has resulted in at least three arrests in the affected counties of Kentucky.

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