Calgary·Video

Southern Alberta man salvages timber from 26 old grain elevators and builds 5,000 sq. ft. home

The old, wooden grain elevators that used to dot Canada's prairies have been slowly disappearing, as many have outlived their useful lives and are being blown up, burned and destroyed.

'Sometimes the hunting, the finding, is part of the joy of the project,' says Doug Ward

Alberta man builds home from old grain elevator timber

4 years ago
2:30
Alberta man builds home from old grain elevator timber 2:30

The old, wooden grain elevators that used to dot Canada's prairies have been slowly disappearing, as many have outlived their usefulness and are being blown up, burned and destroyed.

But a Bragg Creek, Alta. woodworker has, rather accidentally, become a saviour for this timber.

Doug Ward has now rescued 26 elevators' worth of timber from the scrap heap, turning it into everything from benches and tables to his personal 5,000-square-foot home.

Roughly half of Doug Ward's house is made from wood salvaged from the Vulcan grain elevator. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Roughly half of his home is repurposed wood from the grain elevator that used to be in Vulcan, Alta. The other half is a mish-mash from similar structures that once stood at various places across the province.

Part construction, part history

Ward doesn't mind that the smooth wooden panels that comprise his home bear signs of staining from metal screws and supports. He appreciates the added character.

"That grain running over the timber created some amazing patterns," Ward remarked. "It polished it. It carved out the soft wood and left the hard wood standing, and made it look like ocean patterns and stuff," he said.

"The smoothness of this can't be replicated," he asserted.

Doug Ward bought the Vulcan grain elevator wood from a friend, who was responsible for the demolition. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

Beyond the esthetic, Ward prizes the historic component of the wood.

"If you go back to when this was a sapling, this would've been sometime in the late 1600s," Ward said, gesturing to a plank.

"Then it grew for 300 years, and then we cut it down and built a grain elevator," he remarked.

"I think we lack history. We kinda don't know ourselves, because we're so young here in this country — in relative terms, at least.

"When you can connect with something that has history, that tells a bit of that story, then sometimes the hunting, the finding, is part of the joy of the project."


With files from Paul Karchut, Monty Kruger and the Calgary Eyeopener.

now