If you appreciate the beauty of natural wood paneling but don’t want to spend the time and effort to nail it up, there’s a new option you might want to consider: Timberchic. Made of softwood, and tinted naturally in a range of earthen hues, the product has a peel-and-stick backing that makes it easy to install. Its manufacturer — Maine Heritage Timber — reclaims the wood from sunken logs, mills and dries it, then topcoats Timberchic with an environmentally friendly soy-based finish. Everything happens in the company’s Millinocket, Maine, facility.
“Our goal in the DIY space (for Timberchic),” says Tom Shafer, who co-owns Maine Heritage Timber with partner Steve Sanders, “was to make a product that could arrive on someone’s doorstep on Friday and be installed on Saturday … It had to be an easy solution.”
Timberchic is Maine Heritage Timber’s most recent addition to an expanding product line of reclaimed wood flooring, thicker wall paneling, wainscot, countertops, furniture and other wooden accessories. All of these options are the result of the company’s efforts to retrieve sunken logs from the bottom of Quakish Lake, which is part of the west branch of the Penobscot River system in eastern Maine. The sinker logs were lost through the efforts of lumber commerce and paper production over the past several hundred years, and much of it is first-growth timber.
“We are returning Quakish Lake to its natural ecosystem that has been, up until now, a dumping ground for this timber,” Shafer says. “We do not ever cut a tree, and we save 1,000 acres from being cut every year we operate.”
About a year ago, we featured Maine Heritage Timber (MHT) in another Industry Interview. To read more about the company’s unique history and business ethic, click here.
Since our first interview, Shafer says MHT’s business has increased about 80 percent, with new commercial customers in the hospitality and restaurant industries. For those arenas, he says the company’s other wall treatment products, including Heritage Plank and Shadow Wood, have been extremely popular. MHT has also branched out into office furniture, ceiling clouds and tile options.
The notion of a peel-and-stick wall treatment actually came from a residential customer looking for a simple way to rehab a space. The solution was to saw the paneling very thin so it can be applied over any clean wall — even a wall surface with minor imperfections or not perfectly flat. The thinness of Timberchic — about 1/8-in.— enables it to be hung with three strips of 3M adhesive tape rather than toenailing through tongue-and-groove joints. The tape is pre-installed by MHT. So, the installation process basically involves snapping a level line, crosscutting the wood strips to length when needed and sticking them to the wall. Simple.
Each bundle of Timberchic, which is packaged in 3-, 4- and 5-in. widths to cover 20 square feet, is as unique as the logs from which it came. The species varies between spruce, fir, pine and hemlock. Over an extended submersion period, each log develops a unique range of hues and patinas from minerals in the water and the lake bottom. So, Timberchic lends a one-of-a-kind rainbow of colors.
“Our product can be a lot of things to a lot of different people,” Shafer says. “It looks great in a ‘man cave’ or as a base on a kitchen island, or as an accent wall in an entryway.”
The company sends out about 70 to 100 free samples of Timberchic every week, and Shafer admits he’s surprised that the interest is coming about evenly from both men and women. Originally, he thought the interest would be primarily from men.
Shafer is proud of MHT’s decidedly “Maine Way” of manufacturing Timberchic. After the logs are retrieved by crane and barge, they’re sawn into 1-3/8-in.-thick planks and kiln-dried to 6 to 9 percent moisture content. Defective pieces are culled, and the planks are then resawn to 10/64-in. thicknesses and sanded. All of the work is done by hand, including application of the 3M tape and packaging, but Shafer anticipates some of the processes will be automated this year.
Still, even if the steps for making Timberchic become more streamlined, MHT has no interest in parceling the work out to other companies. “We have been very aware of the economic climate here in northern Maine, so we try and keep everything we do ‘in-house.’ While we could most likely have this product made somewhere else, we are not willing to outsource anything we do. Maine is a powerful brand, and as ‘Mainers’ we want the world to see the quality that we can manufacture.”
As a final production step, Timberchic is triple coated with an environmentally friendly PolyWhey® finish for durability. It is manufactured by Vermont Natural Coatings — a Hardwick, Vermont-based finish manufacturer you can read more about by clicking here.
Shafer says MHT spent more than year looking for a water-based, low VOC finish solution with a fire rating. Vermont Natural Coatings was the “obvious choice,” he says. “They are a like-minded company that believes in the same core values that we do, (and) the fact that they are somewhat local was a huge bonus for us.”
While Timberchic is still in its product infancy, Shafer is encouraged by early interest in it, which is about an even split between residential and commercial customers. He anticipates the interest will continue to grow. And, later this year, MHT plans to begin offering Timberchic in water-based stain options, as well as in the natural wood tones. He hopes Vermont Natural Coatings will continue to partner with MHT for these wood stains.
Whether it’s Timberchic or any of MHT’s other reclaimed wood products, Shafer is pleased to be part of a business that turns lost and forgotten wood into products of special value.
“Maine is rich with history of days-gone-by logging drives, and we are able to use these amazing logs and turn them into something we are so proud of. In creating this sustainable product, we are also able to give back to the local environment, by returning a lake to its natural ecosystem. We feel a strong sense of community doing this,” Shafer says.