What do you think of when you think of snow fences? Do you even think of them at all? Me, I think of them rarely and when I do imagine those godawful strips of perforated orange plastic sheets that you also see around construction sites.
Chances are that if you live in Wyoming, you think of (and see) snow fences a whole lot. It’s a state where snow fencing is serious business and where these wooden, not plastic, structures are just as common, or more common, along roads as stop signs and traffic lights. In Wyoming, the wooden snow fence is iconic.
Given that Wyoming snow fences are made from wood, they do have a lifespan and eventually begin to fall apart. When this happens, the old (but still very much strong and reusable) boards are removed and either landfilled or burned. Enter Centennial Woods, a Laramie-based company in the business of reclaiming Wyoming snow fence and giving it a second life as lumber used in building and renovation projects both indoors and out.
Here’s a bit about the science of snow fences from Centennial Woods:
The convergence of heavy snow, high winds and bitter cold make Wyoming’s highways difficult to navigate, to say the least. Lucky for us, Wyoming has millions of feet of snowfence across the state to control the blowing snow during our five-month winters. Built to mimic the mountain face, these 9 to 13-foot-tall structures dot the landscape along Wyoming’s roads, bearing the brunt of the harshest winds. Snowfences disrupt wind flow and cause snow particles to drop out of the blowing snow. Instead of spreading across the road and obstructing the vision of fast-moving travelers, snowdrifts are put in their place, downwind from the fence.
Snow fence boards harvested by Centennial Woods can range in age from anywhere to 7 to 25 years old, giving it a distinguished look that’s a true product of Wyoming’s wild weather: snowy winters, arid winds, clear skies, and abundant sunshine. But instead of being broken down by the weather, the wood — primarily locally sourced ponderosa pine, douglas fir, spruce and lodgepole pine — is strengthened by it, or as Centennial Woods puts it, “perfectly cured.” And since snow fence boards don't touch the ground, the wood isn't affected by bugs or ground moisture making it extra resilient.
The applications for reclaimed Wyoming snow fence are numerous. Decidedly more appropriate for those going aiming for a rustic, cabin-in-the-woods kind of vibe, it can be used for interior projects like flooring, accent walls, wainscoting, cabinetry, ceilings, and even furniture. Outdoors, it can be used as siding and trim and can be incorporated into landscaping projects. And aside from it’s green appeal as a recycled product, snow fences, unlike other types of reclaimed lumber such as barn wood, have never been treated making them truly au natural and free of VOCs that could potentially off-gas.
Centennial Woods was kind enough to send me a big box of sample wood, booth milled and natural, and while I did admire the rugged beauty and imperfection of it (one block meant for interior paneling had a couple of nails in it) I was truly impressed by the fragrant smell of the stuff. I may have found a great way to reuse recycled wood samples: putting them in my closet and drawers.
For a 1” x 6” board of reclaimed snow fence that measures 6 to 16 feet, the price is $1.69 per linear foot. The price drops the more linear feet you order. Prices vary for other products including flooring and crafter wood.
Since its inception in 1999, Centennial Woods claims to have salvaged 5 million feet of snow fence and, in the process, curbed the emission of 9,000 tons of CO2. Pretty impressive. Have you used reclaimed snow fence in a building/remodeling project?
Project images: Centennial Woods; Sample image: Matt