The surge in popularity of farmhouse chic, featured on shows like HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” has led to a surprising rash of criminal activity, as crowbar-wielding thieves have descended on America’s heartland in search of authentically weathered wood planks.
In places like Kentucky, criminals are dismantling century-old barns plank by plank under the cover of night, according to the Louisville-based Courier Journal. The rustic booty can then be sold for a pretty penny to suppliers and builders, to be used in handcrafted tables and cabinets or Pinterest-perfect statement walls.
At least 13 Kentucky counties have reported such thefts, according to the Courier Journal. There’s no telling how prevalent barn-wood theft is across the country, but the sheriff’s office in Cumberland County, a community with fewer than 7,000 residents, is now seeing 20 or more barns burglarized a year, the Courier Journal reported.
Miscreants stole the doors and some of the wood off the sides of 95-year-old Lois Coffey‘s barn in Burkesville, KY. Her father-in-law had put up the building decades ago to store tobacco.
Coffey reported the theft to the police and her insurance company. She’s also had cameras installed to spot the bandits if they come back to her farm.
“It’s pretty low,” the retired elementary school teacher told realtor.com. “They ought to get a job or [find] work to do instead of stealing people’s stuff.”
What’s the appeal of old barn wood?
Battered, old wood planks may seem like an unlikely candidate for a gold rush, but they became popular about a decade ago for use on ceilings or as box beams (to camouflage wiring, plumbing, or other unsightly systems), say design experts. Today, the weathered beams have also become a popular material for accent walls thanks to its gray hue.
“That washed tone just suggests resort living, mountain living, relaxed living,” says Marc Thee, co-founder of high-end interior design firm Marc-Michaels, in Winter Park, FL. “The irregularity of it is part of its beauty.”
Barn wood is also one of the most rustic and easiest of the reclaimed woods to work with. It’s a more sustainable option than cutting down trees growing today. And the wood is often 150 to 200 years old, much older than what’s being used today. Older wood is often stronger and more resistant to pests.
Plus, there’s a vast supply of it in rural America.
Why is there so much barn wood?
“The whole country was built on the back of barns,” says Karl Kirven, owner of Barnstormerswood. The Gilson, IL–based company dismantles old barns and uses the wood as flooring and in new homes. The company also sells it.
“Barns were the heart and soul of the agrarian country.”
But with the move toward industrial farming, the machinery is often too big to put into these barns. More farmers also are having trouble making ends meet and are going out of business. That means there are plenty of fallow structures, particularly throughout the Midwest, Rust Belt, and the South.
“The barns are becoming obsolete,” Kirven says.
That makes them easy targets for criminals—and the ill-gotten gains can be hefty.
A single square foot of barn wood, which is 12 inches long and 1 inch thick, can sell for $5 to $10. The wood in an average-size barn can fetch anywhere from $12,500 to more than $500,000 in some cases.
“The demand for barn wood is really high,” Kirven says. “[So] there’s a gold rush to take these barns down.”
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Source: Housing Trends Feed