TerraMai Story

Reclaimed wood at TerraMai

TerraMai began, like many start-ups, with faith in a crazy idea. In 2002, TerraMai co-founder Ken Westrick was on sabbatical from the frenetic world of Silicon Valley. As often happens when we let down our guard and free our mind, a great idea formulates.

While road tripping through Montana, Ken kept noticing rundown old barns and fences. It wasn’t the dilapidated structures that caught his eye, as much as the wood those structures were built from. The weathered patina of the wood was beautiful, varied and seasoned from decades of sun, wind, rain, and snow.

Ken began to wonder if there was a way to salvage the wood from these old barns and repurpose it as siding and interior paneling, all the while maintaining its beautiful weather-worn patina. Ken loves a challenge. He dove in seeking out information and like-minded soulmates.

Ken teamed up with some early trailblazers just beginning to hunt for reclaimed teak and other tropical hardwoods in Asia, where Ken had roots and connections going back to his high school years in Hong Kong. From these early seeds, TerraMai sprouted. There were many starts and stops along the way - but mostly starts. TerraMai grew from an idea into the leading reclaimed wood brand in the industry. TerraMai has achieved this by listening to our core customer – architects and designers. They are our inspiration.

By continually listening to designers - understanding their needs and providing them solutions and tools - TerraMai has lead the transformation of reclaimed wood from a novelty material into a go-to standard for designers everywhere.

When TerraMai started nearly 20 years ago, few people knew the term reclaimed wood, even among professional architects and designers. At that time, the reclaimed wood industry consisted of only a handful of mom-and-pop businesses catering to local homeowners and builders.

TerraMai took a different path. From our early days, we sought to align ourselves with architects and designers. They appreciated the beauty of the material. And just as importantly, the potential. Plus, they were simply fun and interesting to work with.

Today, TerraMai works and collaborates with top design firms throughout the county. Our project list now includes familiar names like Google, Facebook, Marriott, Hilton, Williams-Sonoma, REI, HBO, Disney, the San Francisco 49ers, the Seattle Seahawks, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, the City of New York, the White City Fire Department – to name just a very few.

It wasn’t easy. But it’s been gratifying. Of all TerraMai’s accomplishments, transforming a funky material once deemed fit for only off-beat home projects into one of the most highly prized and versatile materials across all segments of the design and building industries has been the most satisfying.

At the heart of it all has been a pioneering spirit and a commitment to customer experience. Our national sales team is here to be your partner. We’re here to share the soul and story of this wood while ensuring it delivers on the look, quality and performance demanded on the highest-profile commercial projects and also your project, however big or small.

TerraMai provides clean, sustainable materials that offset the need for new wood products from harvested living trees. We search the world over for reclaim opportunities. We do this with an eye for quantity and longevity of supply. Here’s a summary of our sourcing types:

Post-Consumer Reclaimed – This is wood has had a life as old structures such as old buildings, bridges, tanks (like wine or olive), fencing, shipping dunnage, bleacher seating, and other structures. Often this source is what first comes to mind when one thinks of reclaimed wood.

Post-Industrial Reclaimed – An enormous amount of scrap wood is created during the production of wood products such as furniture, culinary items (think cutting boards, bowls, etc.) and construction. We seek out these valuable waste streams and find ways to repurpose the material. By doing this TerraMai diverts this material from the landfill.

Water Reclaimed – Decades ago, huge, ancient forests in South America and Africa were flooded to create reservoirs for water storage and power generation. Under the surface of those reservoirs lie an abundance of useful tropical wood. Tropical woods are valued for their looks, strength and durability but can come with a dark side. Many are illegally harvested, thus endangering rainforest habitat. Bringing the submerged giants to the surface is supported by and done in collaboration with the local community. Removing the submerged wood also eliminates a dangerous water hazard for the locals that use the lakes. Water reclaimed is an ecologically friendly alternative to obtaining tropical woods in which no living trees are cut.

Orchard Salvage – This wood comes from aging orchard trees that have declined in production after many decades of harvests. The aging trees are culled and replaced. TerraMai works to foster strong markets for the culled wood rather than have this valuable resource be used as firewood or be landfilled. The wood yielded from the culled orchard trees is of exceptional quality and beauty.

Forest Floor Salvage – Smaller diameter trees can be deemed unworthy in the timber cutting process and are left behind. Typically, this rejected wood is chipped into mulch. TerraMai works with partners to reclaim this discarded wood. With some extra effort, it becomes a useful product able to live up to its full potential rather than relegated to the wood chipper.

All of TerraMai's post-consumer reclaimed products are FSC® certified (SCS-COC-001014). Many of TerraMai's products contribute toward various LEED credits.   Whenever possible, the woods we reclaim are remilled as close to the source as possible, both domestically and overseas. This enables TerraMai to reduce shipping and supply LEED-eligible regional wood products.

This practice also allows TerraMai to take advantage of local and regional knowledge and expertise and to support local communities both in the U.S. and overseas. The overseas transport of wood products by container ship is many hundreds of times more energy-efficient than the transportation of material overland by truck. 

TerraMai only works with overseas operations that meet our high standards for workplace conditions and technical excellence. TerraMai personally inspects all overseas facilities we work with to ensure quality and workplace standards. 

The world of reclaimed wood continues to evolve and is never boring. There are unique challenges when working with reclaimed materials but TerraMai loves the challenge and sets the bar high to ensure high-quality, beautiful reclaimed wood materials that meet all your needs. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years and appreciate our role with the design community to place natural, reclaimed and repurposed materials into spaces that not only look great but just feel good.

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