I just happened across your web page on the internet and found it very interesting and informative.I do small wood crafts and just starting making bird houses from old barn wood.I was wondering if you have to wash or disinfect the barn boards in any way before you use them for the projects or do you just use a steel brush on them and then go ahead and put your project together.?
Well, this brings back memories. I had a period of about ten years doing things with barn boards. It started when a lady offered me a whole barn if I would totally remove it and clean up the site. It was a treasure trove. Besides the huge pile of beautiful boards, beams and weathered shingles there was a truckload of goodies including a perfectly good parlor woodstove, old tools, even an antique crank telephone. I wonder if there are deals like that anymore?
Barn boards are dirty from being around so long and most of them didn’t shower regularly so it is wise to clean and disinfect them before using. Wear good leather work gloves. Barn boards have slivers galore.
My first treatment was to shake the dust and loose stuff off them and pull out nails while making sure to not damage the beauty of the piece. Then I piled them in a stack with sticking between the layers to let air circulate around each board.
Every few weeks I would rebuild the pile so the boards would dry and weather evenly. While doing this I learned to put my favorite boards face up on top of the pile to let the sun and rain give them a “finish” weathering. Sunlight kills some of the mystery microbes in and on old wood but not all. If I am not too concerned about the color of the barn board I want to disinfect, I spray them with a solution of 1/3 laundry bleach and 2/3 water. I do this at least three times and let them dry in the sun between treatments.
Cleaning your boards with a steel brush gets the loose stuff off. A stiff bristled cleaning brush works without damaging the wood grain too much. For bird houses, brushing and disinfecting should be enough. If you rehab your bird houses occasionally, it would be wise to disinfect them before handling. Birds carry little things you don’t want to inhale or get on your skin.
A way to clean smaller barn board projects is with compressed air. It gets dirt out of all the cracks really well and doesn’t hurt the color, grain or texture of the wood. It is a good way to remove dust from your finished products after they have been around awhile too. Be sure to wear protective eye glasses and gloves.
This may be more than you wanted to know for your bird houses but someday you may get offered a whole barn and you will be ready.