A simple approach to drying lumber (2023)

This is the third and last installment of "Producing Your Own Lumber." Previous articles covered log procurement (June 2006) and the different strategies for sawing logs (October 2006).

A simple approach to drying lumber (1)

The next step in the process is successfully drying the lumber you produced to a stable and usable state. The information in this article is targeted to the individual who would like to learn to produce their own lumber from local resources as simply as possible.

The first thing you need to understand is humans have been successfully drying lumber for thousands of years, long before the advent of modern dry-kiln technology, which has really only been around on a broad scale for the last century or so. The drying of lumber often is presented as a difficult task, and if you are trying to push the lumber to turn it over as quickly as possible, it can be. But if you process it right, take a few precautions, and take your time, it is not that difficult to achieve your goal.

If you want to produce your own lumber though, you generally have to come up with your own strategy to get it dry. It is difficult to find commercial lumber dryers that are willing to dry small quantities of wood, and the results can be less than satisfactory if they do. They often don't handle the wood with the care you would like, and these kilns work best when the woods are of similar species at about the same moisture content. If you have a friend with a kiln, it better be a good friend. It is hard to make money custom-drying lumber, so most people do it for their own control and convenience. If, in the end, you aren't happy with the way your wood was dried, you will both be very upset.

With Mother Nature's help

Reduced to its basics, drying wood is simple. The object is to reduce the moisture content of your wood to the relative content of the climate where the wood will reside, while trying to keep the lumber from distorting, checking, honeycombing, etc. The good news is that, like solar and wind power, Mother Nature provides the means to accomplish the task using those two sources: temperature and air movement.

Since we are planning to use these resources, the idea is to air-dry the lumber until it will give up no more moisture without assistance, and then look at different ways to complete the drying process. Typically, you can achieve a moisture content of 10-15 percent by air-drying alone, although this will vary according to your local climate. Arid regions of the Southwest can easily achieve a moisture content of 8 percent by air-drying, whereas humid areas such as coastal Maine or Oregon will be at the other end of the spectrum. The goal for commercially dried lumber is 6-8 percent, but it isn't necessary to achieve that number with your lumber.

I have checked the moisture content of furniture in my own house in Pennsylvania in the late winter and summer over the years just to see how the moisture content varies. With open windows and no air conditioning in the summer and a woodstove as a heat source, the moisture content of the furniture ranged between 9-11 percent over the course of the year.

The most common method used to air-dry lumber is to lay narrow sticks perpendicular to the layers of lumber to create an air space between each layer so the moisture can escape. A good foundation is critical to successfully drying wood. I like to use a three-tier system for the base, putting down three or more cross pieces — depending on the length of the lumber — on the levelest ground I can find or create.

(Video) How to Dry Lumber

Then I put two heavy timbers running the length of the pile. Finally, I put 3" to 4" square bunks across the timbers ready to receive the layers of lumber. Some people lay their bunks right on the ground and you can do this, but it is very hard to get so many pieces level and then maintain that status through changing seasons and weather. This three-tier system also keeps the lumber higher off the ground and farther away from moisture. The pile may need some correction in the course of drying, and with this method you can easily jack and shim the bunks any place that has settled to keep the lumber true.

However you plan to do this, it is essential that it be very straight. Understand that you don't have to drive yourself crazy achieving absolute perfection setting the base, because even slight variations in the sawn lumber will negate that perfection, but a sloppy, poorly aligned base will be reflected in the final product. It is more important to have a system where you can correct the pile after it is completed and during the drying process, and to keep an eye on the pile as the lumber is drying to head off potential problems.

I like to build my pile 4' wide and place the cross bunks every 2'. When I first started drying lumber 30-plus years ago, the stickers were typically placed on 2' centers, but over time I have switched to placing the sticks on 1' centers for lumber that is 4/4 to 6/4 thick, although I still sticker my thicker lumber on 2' centers. I have found that placing the stickers at 1' intervals results in flatter lumber and fewer problems and is worth the extra work and greater number of sticks used. As I stated earlier, air-drying lumber is not difficult. However, correctly building the pile is essential to producing good lumber, and a poor pile will absolutely haunt you through the life of that lumber. The bunks must be properly spaced and perpendicular to the pile, and the sticks must be aligned directly and carefully over the bunks. Variation in the alignment of the sticks will have a negative result, so this is the time and place to pay close attention.

Procuring sticks

Actually, the biggest hassle you may incur in drying is to come up with enough sticks to sticker your lumber with. If you are drying a thousand feet of 4/4 lumber and planning to use 1' centers, you will need 275 sticks for that lumber. If you have different stacks of lumber drying for various lengths of time, your needs will be in the thousands. It isn't fun making your own sticks, endlessly passing boards through a table saw to produce them, let alone coming up with enough lower-grade material to cut up in the first place.

A simple approach to drying lumber (2)

By the way, stickers are typically 3/4" thick and 1-1/4" wide, and you don't want to use thinner sticks, because you need enough space for good air flow. There are companies that produce sticks commercially, but they are not cheap, or you can try to find a lumber mill that has an overabundance and purchase some at a reasonable price. I get my sticks from a mill that stacks their lumber in 6' wide packs, and I take the broken sticks they can no longer use and cut them down to the 4' lengths I use. You do get lower-grade material from your logs that you can turn into sticks, and you can always cut the material from logs that you don't value as highly, such as beech or ash. They should be from a harder wood and shouldn't contain a lot of knots, since they are so narrow they can easily break. One thing you don't want to do is use green sticks on your lumber. Moisture will get trapped between the green sticks and the green lumber, creating an environment where mold and fungus can flourish and damage the lumber. Most beginners are focused on the lumber and the sticks are an afterthought, but they are a very important part of the process, and you don't want to have to scramble at the last minute come stacking time.

Every log produces some lower-grade and junk lumber, so I like to begin and end my pile with this material. I always start with the longest lumber first, putting down one or two layers of low-grade to better protect the better lumber from ground moisture and dirt. It is best to try to keep the pile one length. But if you can't do that, you want the lumber to step back incrementally as much as possible, so you have a minimum number of unsupported boards. I leave a small space, 1" or less, between each board in the layer, a little more on the thicker stock, and try to spread the boards evenly, adjusting the spacing as necessary. If I have boards of different lengths, I like to put long boards on the outside and alternate shorter boards square to each end to keep the pile even.

When I have to step back, say from 10' to 8' lumber, I will finish that length with a few low-grade layers and put a concrete lintel on the last layer to keep weight on the longer lumber. I complete the pile with layers of low-grade lumber I set aside while stickering the pile. The top layers are prone to more distortion and these boards provide a measure of protection to the rest of the pile, so it is good to have a use for this material, often referred to as cover boards.

When the pile is complete and I plan to leave it outdoors, I like to cover the top of the pile with longer bunks placed perpendicular to the pile, usually 6' or longer and placed on top of the rows of stickers to concentrate any weight over them. The next step is to cover the bunks with old metal roofing I have reclaimed from some other project or a friend who knows that we don't mind roofing with a few holes in it.

(Video) Sawmill School - Air Drying Your Lumber

I fasten the roofing to the bunks with screws, which will make the disassembly much easier, and then pile some slabs or timbers on the top to help weight the top. A little water drips through the old holes, but the cover boards take the brunt of the moisture. If that doesn't suit, lay some tar paper on top of the pile with the roof bunks on top of the paper.

I like longer top bunks to allow some overhang for the pile to provide extra protection from the elements, and I usually allow the roofing to extend 1' to 2' over the ends for the same reason. Do not make the mistake of tarping a pile, since it prevents the wind from removing the moisture and will create a climate conducive to mold and decay, which can negatively impact the lumber and greatly lengthen the drying time. You do not want to put freshly cut lumber in a closed building such as a garage or barn for the same reasons. The protection the building provides can prevent the wood from properly drying for the same reasons.

The only exception I know of is when you are drying crotches, burls or other highly figured wood with a lot of interwoven grain. Because of the volatile nature of this type of wood, I like to dry it as slowly as possible to minimize the damage, but I only would put it inside in the fall or winter when mold won't form. Lumber stickered under an open shed roof is fine. This often is the best scenario for lumber if you have such a space available, since it allows good air movement and greater protection from the sun and other elements. You also can use portable buildings that have a metal frame and a plastic cover as long as the ends are open to the air and there is good flow across the pile.

Providing protection

Speaking of the wind, you have to consider it your friend, but you also have to respect its temper. And you need to keep those parameters in mind when choosing the site for your lumber stacks. I have seen entire piles of lumber dismantled by a severe storm and it is not a pretty sight, nor is it much fun to restack the wet and soiled lumber.

Air movement is the key to successful drying, and you need enough air to move the moisture. But too much wind can be detrimental to the lumber. Under the right conditions, like a very arid day with too much wind, you can ruin a freshly stickered pack of lumber in a very short time by drying the surface so fast it surface-checks and honeycombs the lumber at the same time. It is hard to believe you can damage lumber outdoors, and while air drying lumber is pretty forgiving, there are limits you need to be aware of.

The sun is a similar friend — very necessary but also dangerous. Lumber dries better in warmer conditions. The heat gets those water molecules up and dancing and easier to move off the wood, but direct sun can cause damage, especially in the height of summer. This is another reason for overhanging the tops. If I feel there is too much exposure to sun and wind, I might use a commercial screening like Shade-Dri attached to the sides of the pile to deflect some of the sun, wind and rain.

The time of year is another consideration. It is best to take your trees down after the sap is down in the fall and through the winter before it rises, and also to try to have your lumber sawn and on sticks for a while before the weather gets warm so the lumber isn't shocked by the extremes of summer heat. This is an ideal that isn't always possible to achieve, but it is worth striving for.

Some woods, especially white woods such as maple and pine, are very susceptible to staining, particularly when freshly cut in the warm weather. Pine suffers from blue stain when cut too late and can affect the whole pile, so I never cut pine after March. And maple, ash and other light woods can suffer from sticker stains when the lumber stickers trap moisture where they are set, which can result in shadow marks on the lumber. Sticker stain isn't as much of a problem with wood stickered in the winter. In warmer weather, you can either use grooved sticks that allow some moisture to escape from under the sticks or you can sticker the lumber for a few weeks until the surface dries, then re-sticker the pile with the sticks in a slightly different location. This might sound like a lot of work, but the alternative is lumber that looks like someone laid railroad ties across it, ruining the appearance.

Darker woods such as cherry and walnut are not as susceptible to staining, but immediate exposure to warm weather will stress any wood and increase the degrade.

(Video) How I Dry Wood Fast // Tips and Tricks

Preventing damage

There are other precautions you can take to minimize the damage to the lumber during the drying process. I like to seal the ends of the lumber with log paint to keep them from drying out faster than the rest of the board and checking in from the ends. The best time to do this is when the log is freshly cut, or you can also seal the boards while the ends are fresh. The longer the ends are exposed, the less effective the sealer will be, so be prompt.

A simple approach to drying lumber (3)

If you are cutting crotches or burls, it is good to seal the flat surfaces with the same log and lumber sealer to prevent them from drying too quickly. But only seal the figured area and not the whole board or the moisture will have difficulty escaping.

I like to use clear sealer when doing this, so I can still read the grain without planing off the sealer. I have a real affinity for wider boards, which are more prone to splitting from the ends and can travel much further into the board in the course of drying, and I use a number of strategies to combat this. I may drive heavy electrical staples into the ends to secure the split, but I mark them carefully with an arrow on both sides of the board to make sure I find them before my tools do. You can also tack thin strips of wood across the end of the board, using several nails to keep the board from spreading. On particularly valuable wide boards I have occasionally used small nylon ratchet straps to hold the board together, taking up the slack as the board shrinks. I also have used steel banding like you see being used to band packs of lumber together for shipping, driving small wedges along the edge of the board as the lumber dries to keep tension on the board.

This may seem a little obsessive, but having a beautiful board split along a check will quickly drive you to find some solution to save such valuable lumber.

When will it be dry?

Once the lumber is properly stickered and covered in a good location, all you have to do is let time and the elements work on your lumber, occasionally checking the piles for any sagging. The traditional rule of thumb is to let the lumber air-dry for one year for each inch of thickness, but this is only a general rule and close monitoring of the lumber, especially with the help of a moisture meter, provides more flexibility. If your heavier lumber is cut into squares and can dry evenly from all sides, you can definitely speed up the process, but wide thick planks will pretty much take the required time, and your local climate also will have an effect. I would recommend putting 4/4 and 6/4 lumber on sticks in the spring and leave it on sticks until the following fall. Then dismantle the piles after a spell of dry weather to minimize the moisture in the lumber.

When you decide that the lumber has air-dried enough and it is time to take the pile down, you then need to determine how to complete the drying process to remove the remaining moisture, which is usually only 2-6 percent. If you are going to use any quantity of wood on a regular basis, you may want to consider building a very simple kiln.

Don't panic when you hear the word kiln, because it is easy and inexpensive to construct one. You just need to build a box, insulate it with something as basic as plastic foam sheeting, and hinge a door on the front that folds up and out of the way for loading. If you are going to stay with 4' piles, I would recommend a chamber that is 6' deep, because you need adequate airflow around the front and back of the pile, and whatever height you deem necessary for your operation.

A couple small fans are necessary to move the air, and they can be mounted in a piece of plywood extending the length of the chamber at the top and parallel with the pile, so the air will be pulled through the pile the way the sticks run. You want to be able to seal the space between the fans and the top of the pile with tarps, loose fiberglass insulation, pieces of insulation board or plywood, so the air has to move through the pile and not around it. It is difficult to seal all the areas around the pile perfectly and it is not necessary to do so, but you do want to block the big open areas to get the best air movement.

(Video) Air Drying Your Own Lumber

A heat source is necessary and can be as simple as a portable electric heater, but be sure to isolate the heater in a way that you aren't creating a fire hazard. The heat will be enough to dry the lumber, but you also can put a small dehumidifier in the kiln to speed the process. The conventional wisdom is you cannot use a home dehumidifier to dry wood, especially with acidic woods such as oak that will corrode the coils. But at this stage of the drying, there is very little moisture to remove and the exposure is minimal. You can get a house dehumidifier for $100-$200 as opposed to commercial wood dehumidifiers costing a minimum of $2,500, so you can go through quite a few inexpensive ones before you approach the cost of a regular unit. I would recommend bringing the drain hose out of the box and have it empty into a bucket so the water flow can be monitored. You can also use a hand-held moisture meter such as the Lignomat with remote probes connected to cables, so you can check the moisture content of various boards deep in the pile from outside the kiln.

A solar kiln is a definite option, especially if your schedule is flexible. Solar kilns work fine in most places on a seasonal basis, because they perform best in warmer and sunnier weather. My first kiln was a solar one, and it worked very well from spring through fall, with the added benefit of lower energy costs. They are basically constructed the same as any other kiln — an insulated box with fans to move the air, with glass or plastic panels above the lumber and properly angled and located to take the best advantage of the sun. The key here is designing a means to automatically vent the kiln on the sunniest summer days to keep it from overheating and damaging or destroying your lumber. You definitely want to research this well before beginning.

Simpler methods

If you want to dry smaller quantities or don't want to complicate your life by constructing a kiln, there are other, simpler strategies for finishing off your lumber. You can bring the lumber inside into a heated room and pile the lumber on sticks right on the floor. You can speed the process by putting a small fan or two on the floor in front of the pile, but far enough away that the air moves through the whole pile. This is another reason I like to take the lumber piles down in the fall, mainly to take advantage of the existing heat in the building. Without heat and lower humidity, you aren't creating an environment where the wood will give up much more moisture than if it was outside.

You also can put the lumber up in a crawl space or attic in the summer to take advantage of the heat generated there, but you need to sticker the lumber so the heat and air have access to all the lumber — whatever the location. If even those methods are more than you want to get involved in, you can bring the boards you want to use into a heated shop and stand them nearly vertical against a wall with adequate air space between them, and they will dry. I am sure there are many other possible methods to finish off the lumber and as long as they involve heat and air space, let creativity and circumstance be your guide.

The key to working with wood from any source, including commercially dried lumber, is to bring it into the shop and let it acclimate as long as reasonably possible, although even a few weeks will make a huge difference. One definition of the word "acclimate", according to the Merriman-Webster dictionary, "is to become accustomed to a new situation or climate," and that is what your wood needs to do. I don't think there is a more important piece of advice I could to give to a fellow woodworker regarding working with wood.

If you can plan even one project ahead, or can bring lumber for the next job in while you are completing your current one, it will make a huge difference in the workability of your lumber and minimize many potential problems. Obviously this is difficult to apply to a large commercial operation, but I am assuming such an outfit probably isn't going to pursue backyard lumber production, either. I try to do this with all the lumber I use no matter what the source, because all wood is hydroscopic and wants to reach equilibrium with whatever environment it is in.

You're good to go

I have tried to include the basic information that you need if you have any inclination to try producing your own lumber, along with some possible ways to get that wood dry. Once you understand a few of the principles of drying lumber, essentially the need for wind, heat, proper stickering and some type of cover or shelter, then common sense and a little innovation are all you need.

As you experiment and gain experience, you will learn to develop your own system based on what works best in your situation and the limitations of the space you have to operate in. Space is a real consideration because this can quickly get out of hand. I went looking for a walnut crotch panel for a clock I was building back in 1972 and ended up in the lumber business, so it can be very consuming.

I can honestly say that after chasing logs and lumber for more than 35 years, I still get excited by seeing the quirks of nature that result in some very special wood. And you never know what will turn up next, what crazy pattern a tree might produce, without rhyme or reason.

(Video) Wood drying (1) basic principles

The more you are involved in producing the lumber you are using, the more meaningful the whole woodworking process can be. Finding great logs or salvaging those destined for a less noble fate, knowing where your lumber came from, having it cut the way you want, nurturing it to a usable state, and maybe finding something very special that you don't have to battle the hordes to pay a fortune for, are just a few reasons to give it a try. If you decide to go down this road, you will gain a very healthy respect for the amount of work it takes to get logs and/or green lumber to a usable state, and an appreciation for the true value of lumber and the people who produce it. n

Louis Irion is the owner of Irion Lumber Co. in Wellsboro, Pa.


What is the best way to dry lumber? ›

The fastest way to dry lumber is by kiln with high temperature and high airspeed. These can dry lumber with a thickness of 25 mm in about 10 hours to a moisture content of 18%. However, if you want to dry lumber to a moisture level of 8%, an oven needs about 28 days to dry.

What 2 methods are used in the drying process of wood? ›

The two most popular ways of drying your own timber is by kiln or in open-air. Air dried wood contains much less moisture than green wood, but a little bit more than the faster and more aggressive method of Kiln drying.

How long does lumber need to dry? ›

Depending on outside conditions and lumber species and size, air-drying to a desired MC can take from several months to almost a year. Wood stored outdoors and under cover will dry to an approximate moisture content of 12 to 14 percent in western Oregon and 8 to 10 percent in eastern Oregon.

How do you dry wood without it cracking? ›

You can dry wood without cracking by applying a sealant, stabilizer, or salt paste before drying. Finally, you can apply boiled linseed oil or let logs dry as boards to avoid cracking when drying. Treating wood with stabilizing solution keeps wood from cracking when drying.

How do you know when lumber is dry enough? ›

How to Tell When Your Wood is Dry Enough to Use | Drying Lumber

How do you dry wet wood fast? ›

By placing your wet wood nearby the fireplace, the moisture will quickly eliminate and help to dry the wood faster. This is the method that I follow during rainy days. Or you can heat the wood by placing them in a shed or garage. Those areas have enough space and heat to make the drying process faster.

What is the process of drying lumber called? ›

The kiln process involves the drying of wood in a chamber where air circulation, relative humidity and temperature can be controlled so that the moisture content of wood can be reduced to a target point without having any drying defects.

What is the most common drying method? ›

Hot air drying is the most common drying method as of today. It is simple and effective for sturdy industrial and food products and an inexpensive solution.

What happens if you don't dry lumber? ›

Just as drying wood shrinks, wood that is absorbing moisture from its environment will swell in size. While that might cause a tight fit or even a potential split, in some wood projects and in wood floors it can also cause crowning or buckling.

Can you build with fresh cut lumber? ›

Building with green lumber for timber frame construction can save time, money and energy. With green timber, you can begin building right away without having to wait for the wood to dry, or having the added cost for kiln drying, which uses environmentally damaging fossil fuels during the drying process.

Do you have to dry lumber before building with it? ›

The answer is dimensional stability and it is one of the main reasons wood must be dried. Wood begins to shrink in width, and thickness when the moisture content starts to get below 30%. The amount of shrinkage varies by species.

How long do you let wood dry before splitting? ›

Let the wood dry at least six months and preferably longer

The hardest lesson: firewood takes a very long time to season Most folks who split their wood and stack it in well-spaced rows find that they can dry their wood in about six months.

Why is my wood splitting when drying? ›

Splits and cracks (known as wood checks in the industry) occur when wood shrinks as it dries. Wood shrinks roughly twice as much along with the growth rings (radially) as it does across the rings (tangentially). It is this uneven shrinkage that causes checks to develop.

How long does wood need to dry before turning? ›

Dry Wood Understanding

Wood will become “dry” by letting it sit for a long enough period of time. A rule of thumb that is thrown around often is one year of air drying time per one inch of wood thickness. A dryer or kiln can be used to reduce the moisture content more rapidly.

How can you tell if wood is dry enough for woodworking without a moisture meter? ›

The Oven Test. The simplest way to check the moisture content of a piece of wood is to weigh a piece of wood, dry it in an oven, then measure it again to see the difference in weights. This is the most accurate way to test MC in wood, but it's also time-consuming.

What percentage should wood be dried to? ›

For almost all kilns and hardwoods, drying down to between 6 and 8 percent is going to be the best choice. However, if a woodshop is located in an exceptionally wet or dry area, it's a good idea to keep control boards on hand.

What happens if you dry wood too fast? ›

Seal the ends. In addition to processing logs in a timely manner to prevent stain and decay due to excessive moisture, the opposite is also to be avoided: allowing the wood to dry out too quickly will result in splits and endgrain checking.

Does wood dry in winter? ›

Yes, but firewood dries slower in winter. Sunlight—one of the key ingredients for drying wood—is in short supply in winter. Though drier winter air helps extract some moisture from the firewood, the process is much slower than in warmer weather.

How do you get moisture out of wet wood? ›

Use a dehumidifier placed at the highest setting possible to dry the floors. Place it in the center of the room and leave it on for at least 24 hours. Next, place fans around the room so the entire surface receives the blowing air. Place the fans at the highest settings possible.

How do you dry wet wood at home? ›

How To Dry Wet Wood Fast! - YouTube

What are the two methods of drying? ›

Basically, drying can be done by two processes viz. natural drying and mechanical dehydration or artificial drying based on source of energy. Natural drying takes place under the influence of sunlight and wind and is of three types viz. sun, solar and shade drying.

What is the process of drying? ›

Drying is the process of using evaporation to remove water from a solution, suspension, or other solid-liquid mixture. In addition to solids, the process can also be used to remove water from liquids or gases.

What is the method of drying lumber in a seasoning? ›

There are two main ways of seasoning timber, Natural (Air) and Artificial (Kiln) drying. Both methods require the timber be stacked and separated to allow the full circulation flow of air, etc. around the stack. Air seasoning is the method used with the timber stacked in the open air.

What is the most effective drying agent? ›

1. Calcium chloride (n=6, e=1.5 mg/L) is a very good drying agent for a broad variety of solvents but is generally not compatible with hydroxy (alcohol, phenol), amino (amine, amide) and carbonyl (acid, ketone, ester) functions due to basic impurities such as Ca(OH)2 and CaCl(OH).

Which drying option is best? ›

The “permanent press” or “wrinkle-resistant” setting is a great choice for many of your everyday clothing items — from slacks and dresses to outerwear and jackets. This setting generates a medium heat. It will dry your clothes without inflicting the damage high heat can cause.

What is the most common drying agent? ›

Common drying agents are anhydrous inorganic salts that acquire waters of hydration when exposed to moist air or a wet solution. For the most common drying agents such as sodium sulfate or magnesium sulfate, the crystals form larger clumps when they absorb water.

What are the examples of drying method? ›

Foods can be dried in the sun, in an oven or in a food dehydrator by using the right combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and air current. The optimum temperature for drying food is 140 °F. If higher temperatures are used, the food will cook instead of drying.

What is the natural method of drying? ›

The natural drying method consists essentially of exposing the threshed products to the air (in sun or shade). To obtain the desired moisture content, the grain is spread in thin layers on a drying-floor, where it is exposed to the air.

What are the two main steps in drying of materials? ›

Heat transfer and mass transfer are critical aspects in drying processes. Heat is transferred to the product to evaporate liquid, and mass is transferred as a vapor into the surrounding gas. The drying rate is determined by the set of factors that affect heat and mass transfer.

Is it better to dry wood inside or outside? ›

3. The best place to dry freshly-cut firewood is outside. If you throw it straight into a wood shed, it will take twice as long (18-24 months) because it's not getting assistance from the sun or air movement.

How long does it take for lumber to dry naturally? ›

Depending on the species and your climate, it can take from 2 to 12 months to bring 4/4 lumber from green to air-dry (12- to 20-percent moisture content, depending on your location). Air-dry isn't dry enough for indoor use. If you're planning to use the lumber for outdoor projects, airdrying outdoors is fine.

Can you dry lumber standing up? ›

Wood is much more pliable when wet, thus this sort of stacking scheme is crucial when drying lumber. Once you dry a board in a deformed shape, it's hard to get it back to straight. If you stack boards vertically, they have a tendency to bow or sag, simply due to the weight of the board.

Will lumber go back down in 2022? ›

As a result of this and other factors, Fastmarkets RISI predicts U.S. softwood lumber consumption will drop 1.4% year over year in 2022. But Jalbert noted in a July research report that this is still a “modest” drop by historical standards, and that it's too soon to call a recession in the lumber market.

Is it better to cut wood in the winter? ›

The ideal time to cut firewood is in the late winter or early spring months. This allows for maximum drying time.

Is it better to cut wood wet or dry? ›

It may come as an eye-opener to some. But wet wood is actually much easier to cut than dry wood. With dry wood lacking moisture content, more friction is created as the chainsaw chain comes into contact with the wood fibers. This friction results in the chain slowing down.

What happens if you build with wet lumber? ›

Wet lumber is no big deal, as it will dry off. Non-kiln-dried is slightly different. As it dries out during and after construction, it'll shrink a little. If size is critical, you'll need to allow for the shrinkage.

Can you build a house with wet lumber? ›

Normal rainwater will not harm the wood that is used to build homes. Many homeowners fear that wood will immediately rot if allowed to get wet. That's simply not the case. The only thing that doesn't fare well if it gets wet is low-grade OSB.

How do you cure fresh cut lumber? ›

To cure wood, you can stack it on top of a concrete foundation outdoors and let it air dry, which takes about 1 year per 1 inch of thickness to cure. If you want to speed up the process, try moving the foundation and wood into a shed and setting up some fans inside.

Is there a trick to splitting wood? ›

Simple steel wedges and sledge hammers are another method of manual firewood splitting. Hold the wedge against the log, tap it in slightly with the hammer, remove your hand, then pound the hammer against the wedge until the log splits. These are the log splitters that we think are the best of 2022.

Can wood be too old to burn? ›

Firewood shouldn't be able to age past its usefulness for burning. In other words, if the firewood is protected from insects and moisture reasonably well, it could last for many years before burning.

How can you tell if wood is seasoned? ›

It can be difficult to tell if firewood has been seasoned by sight alone. Deep radial cracks at the ends of split logs are one indicator of dryness. Seasoned firewood will also be lighter weight than green wood, although judging this can be subjective.

Does linseed oil prevent wood from cracking? ›

Wooden boards and logs can be treated with linseed oil to prevent them from splitting or cracking. Linseed oil is a natural product that easily penetrates deep into the wood, forming a strong seal on the surface and reducing the loss of moisture.

How do you stop lumber from cracking? ›

How to Avoid Cracking?
  1. Avoid direct sunlight on your pieces before installation. ...
  2. Acclimate your pieces to the environment. ...
  3. Purchase higher grade lumber for your project. ...
  4. Securely fasten all pieces of your project. ...
  5. Use kiln-dried lumber instead.
21 Oct 2020

How do you kiln dry wood without a kiln? ›

Kiln Dried Wood

Without a kiln, you should try to achieve an air-dry moisture content of 15-20 percent. Further moisture reduction occurs when you move the boards indoors where they'll eventually reach their equilibrium moisture content (EMC).

How do you dry wood slowly? ›

You can reduce the air-drying time by cutting wood into thin pieces since thick pieces take so long to dry. Some thick wood slices can take up to 3 – 4 days to complete the drying process. Air drying is the best method to dry fresh-cut wood.

How can you tell if wood is dry? ›

SMELL it – fresh wood has a strong smell, dry wood barely any. LISTEN to it – dangle a piece of firewood in each hand, then smack the lower ends together. Wood with high moisture will 'thud' while dry wood will 'bonk' or ring. Radial cracks spread out from the centre of the wood, and only form when it's dry enough.

How long does it take a 2x4 to dry? ›

Given enough time (assuming it's not getting wet again) that wet lumber will naturally dry. If the outdoor temps are above 60 degrees F then it won't take much time. Maybe 3-5 weeks to get from 18% down to 14%. But, if it's cold & rainy outside it might take 6-12 weeks.

› Skills › Woodworking ›

Wood moves constantly. Remember these tips for how to dry lumber so you don't have to deal with twisted, cracked wood.
Wood is essential in our day-to-day activities. They're likewise used for different projects ranging from carving to furniture etc. It is, however, vital th...

5 tips to drying firewood

https://thisnzlife.co.nz › 5-tips-to-drying-firewood
https://thisnzlife.co.nz › 5-tips-to-drying-firewood
The art of firewood isn't cut and dry. Here's how to make your wood dry thoroughly to burn well. Words: Nadene Hall. 1. Cut your firewood in ...

How do you dry fresh cut lumber at home? ›

Wood Tips - Air Drying Fresh Cut Lumber - YouTube

How long does it take to dry lumber without a kiln? ›

The traditional rule-of-thumb for air-drying lumber is to allow one year of drying time per inch of wood thickness; this adage obviously only takes a few of the aforementioned variables into account, but it's at least a rough starting point in understanding the time investment required in order to properly air-dry ...

How long does it take for lumber to dry naturally? ›

Depending on the species and your climate, it can take from 2 to 12 months to bring 4/4 lumber from green to air-dry (12- to 20-percent moisture content, depending on your location). Air-dry isn't dry enough for indoor use. If you're planning to use the lumber for outdoor projects, airdrying outdoors is fine.

How do you dry thick lumber? ›

How I Dry Wood Fast // Tips and Tricks - YouTube

How do you make a cheap wood kiln? ›

Simple DIY Wood Drying Kiln - YouTube

Is it better to air dry or kiln dry wood? ›

There are many reasons why wood suppliers like Northern Log Supply believe kiln-dried logs are better than air-dried logs. Because of the high heat, kiln drying ensures that all insects, eggs, mold, and fungi in the wood are killed and dries off the resin, which would otherwise turn to liquid at room temperature.

What temperature should you dry wood in the oven? ›

How To Dry Your Timber In The Oven
  1. Prepare the racks to fit the pieces of wood with plenty of space for air to move.
  2. Preheat the oven to between 200 and 225 degrees F (95 to 110 degrees Celsius).
  3. Turn on the convection fan (if your oven has one).
  4. Check the temperature. This should happen after 15 minutes have passed.

What happens if you don't dry lumber? ›

Just as drying wood shrinks, wood that is absorbing moisture from its environment will swell in size. While that might cause a tight fit or even a potential split, in some wood projects and in wood floors it can also cause crowning or buckling.

Can you dry lumber standing up? ›

Wood is much more pliable when wet, thus this sort of stacking scheme is crucial when drying lumber. Once you dry a board in a deformed shape, it's hard to get it back to straight. If you stack boards vertically, they have a tendency to bow or sag, simply due to the weight of the board.

Can you build with fresh cut lumber? ›

Building with green lumber for timber frame construction can save time, money and energy. With green timber, you can begin building right away without having to wait for the wood to dry, or having the added cost for kiln drying, which uses environmentally damaging fossil fuels during the drying process.

Do you have to dry lumber before building with it? ›

The answer is dimensional stability and it is one of the main reasons wood must be dried. Wood begins to shrink in width, and thickness when the moisture content starts to get below 30%. The amount of shrinkage varies by species.


1. The problem with Air dried lumber... Don't let this happen to you.
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2. Drying Wood with Dehumidifier Wood Kiln - How to Dry Wood
3. Air drying rough cut lumber without a kiln for less than $100
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4. DIY Wood Kiln. No Nonsense Guide To Drying Your Own Wood. FarmCraft101
5. How To Air Dry Wood
(Chris Cute)
6. Simple DIY Wood Drying Kiln
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