The fate of Ontario bank barns has often been to lean farther and farther away from the wind ‘til they fall and molder with rain and snow into their own foundations. Sometimes, they are set alight as the fire department watches, making sure the flames don’t spread. But some people see that as a waste. Jim Steinstra, Peter and Bill Van Veen of Century Wood Products in Marsville are giving that old wood new purpose. At the same time, they’re saving trees and reducing the carbon footprint of building materials.
Often you’ll see a barn skeleton – hand-hewn beams holding up a roof – after salvagers have harvested the worn flooring and weather-beaten cladding. While Century Wood Products will keep this lumber in stock, the company is more interested in the hardwood – some of the beams, and almost all the sill logs. Sill logs are usually fashioned out of half a tree, split down the middle. The cut side sits on top of the rubble wall and the posts fit into notches cut in the bark side. “You can get at least one transport truck of timber out of a single barn,” said Bill Van Veen, “and it might be beech, black ash, elm, maple, or oak.”
Century Wood Products started in 1997 when Jim Steinstra heard about a need for reclaimed timber in The Netherlands. He started sourcing and shipping it but when he bought a Mizer saw, in partnership with Peter Van Veen, their business began to grow in the local market and Peter’s brother Bill Van Veen joined to take care of sales. They soon grew out of their small shop in Fergus and started looking for land to build a larger facility.
Their search took them to Dufferin County. They wanted to know about zoning and by-laws, and any other criteria they’d have to meet. “They were very cooperative and hospitable,” said Bill, “and very interested in seeing us set up shop. They even came to visit us in Fergus just to check us out.” As it happened, East Garafraxa Township had a piece of land right opposite the Roads Department in Marsville, close to the source of raw material with easy access to shipping routes. That’s where Century Wood now stands, with a showroom, lots of room for storage indoors and out, and a manufacturing facility that includes the original Mizer saw.
Today Century Wood Products focuses primarily on flooring and while some of it goes into housing, most goes to retail chains and restaurants where the rich warm glow of ancient wood adds its charm to the decor. “We’re starting to work on thinner cuts,” says Bill, “for the top layer of laminate or engineered flooring that’s in demand… also for flooring that you glue down over in-floor heating systems.” Among the more specialized Century Wood customers is another local company Mono Centre Salvage and Wood that uses reclaimed lumber in doors, tables and other furnishings.
Next time you go shopping or out to dine, look down. You might well be dining on a table or walking on the beams of an old Ontario barn reclaimed by Century Wood Products in Dufferin County.
Century Wood Products was also a nominee for a 2015 Dufferin Business Excellence Award in the Sustainability category.
Peter Van Veen – 519 855-9559