No matter which way you obtain your wood for your projects, before you start working with that wood, you must ensure that you have perfectly dry lumber.
But what does that mean?
When does wood have a perfect moisture content?
Well, you are in the right place because in this blog you will learn how to know when the wood is dry, how to dry lumber and the answers to many other questions about wood drying will be shared here.
Discover the essential wood drying tips in this blog, rule out all moisture issues in wood, and make sure your next woodworking project is a success.
Why do you need to dry wood before building with it?
Theoretically, it is perfectly possible to build something with wet wood.
However, when you do this you will notice that the wood will slowly lose its moisture, over time the wood used will warp, planks will shrink or the wood will start to crack.
So theoretically it is possible, but it is better to use dry lumber.
When you have bought wood or if you have cut a log yourself into planks, you first need to know how much moisture is present in the wood.
Only that way you will know how long the wood will have to dry before you can use it as an essential part of your woodworking project.
It doesn’t matter why you will be using the wood, for a piece of furniture or to build a shed, it is important that the wood is sufficiently dry.
So you will have to dry lumber if you want to avoid things like shrinkage or warping.
If you want to start drying wood, you can choose between several options that you can use to dry lumber.
Keep in mind that drying wood always depends on the thickness of your wood, so you will have to determine the best way tailored to the wood you want to dry.
But don’t worry, by the end of this blog you will be perfectly able to estimate which method is needed to dry lumber.
How do you get moisture out of wood?
There are several ways to get the moisture out of wood. Some ways are slower, other ways get the moisture out of the wood faster, but are also more expensive.
The different ways to get moisture out of wood are:
- air dry,
- dehumidifier or fans (or a combination),
I will discuss this in more detail further in this blog.
What are Acceptable Moisture Levels in Wood?
To know when the wood is dry enough to use for your projects, use a moisture meter. It is therefore recommended having a quality moisture meter in your workshop.
With that moisture meter it is best to always check the wood for moisture levels before you start using the wood.
For exterior wood, the acceptable moisture level is between 9% to 14%.
For interior wood, the moisture level is lower and is between 6% to 8%
However, the acceptable moisture content in wood depends on two factors:
- The place where the wood gets its final destination,
- The average RH of the environment where the wood is used.
Some recommended quality moisture meters to have in your workshop
How long does it take for lumber to dry?
How long it takes for wood to dry depends on the method of drying. Each drying method will have its own drying times. The thickness of the wood to be dried also plays an important role in this.
Air dry in the slowest way to dry lumber where drying will take approximately 2 to 12 months. Depending on the climate and the humidity in the air, you can reduce the moisture percentage to about 12% to 20%.
Air-dried wood is therefore never dry enough for indoor use.
When you are going to use a dehumidifier or fan, you can speed up this air drying process, and you can shorten the maximum drying time.
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.
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4 Correct ways to dry lumber (fast)
Ok, now that you know more about moisture in wood, you can find out how the wood can be dried.
All methods of drying wood discussed below are very efficient. The only difference between the drying methods is the speed at which the moisture level can be reduced.
If you have the space, dry lumber indoors
I know not everyone has a huge space to dry lumber indoors, but if you have the possibility to make some room, try drying wood indoors.
Drying indoors has the advantage that you have to deal with better conditions than outdoors.
You will not only have less impact due to the weather conditions, but it will also be less humid.
So try to put your wood in a dry shed or a garage.
If a heating system has been installed in the garage, this is even better, as it helps generate dry heat and speed up the process to dry lumber.
dry lumber outdoors
When drying indoors is impossible, you have no choice but to let the wood dry outside.
By thinking about where and how you will store your wood, you still can achieve very good results.
If you want to choose the perfect place to dry lumber, you will have to keep a few things in mind.
Sun is the most important factor in drying wood faster.
Your wood will dry faster if it is exposed to a lot of sunlight every day.
So dry lumber in a place where there are as many hours of sun as possible.
Another factor that plays an important role in the drying of wood is wind. The more wind can blow through your wood stack, the faster the moisture level will drop.
So, a combination of sun and wind is ideal. To use these elements of nature you will have to find an open and sunny place to dry your wood.
But there is also a disadvantage to that place, and that is rain.
You will therefore have to find a way to protect the wood against rain, but where sun and wind still can have a positive effect on the wood.
A solution to that is to cover the wood with a heavy- duty tarp or roofing sheets.
Always be sure the covers are well secured and stay perfectly over the wood. From time to time check the cover to see if there are no holes in it where water can infiltrate.
Use A Dehumidifier or Fan (or a combination) to dry lumber
If you can dry lumber indoors, you can speed up the entire drying process in 3 different ways:
- With a dehumidifier,
- with a fan,
- or by combining both.
When you use a dehumidifier, be sure you buy a decent dehumidifier and place it next to the stack of wood to be dried. This dehumidifier sucks the moisture directly from the wood, as it were.
Depending on the humidity in the room where the wood is located as well as the amount of moisture present in the wood, a dehumidifier can speed up the drying time. As a result, wood can dry faster for months, weeks, or just a few days in the least favorable circumstances.
A second option is that you stimulate the airflow through the wood. You can do this using a high volume fan.
The last option to dry lumber is to combine the dehumidifier with the fan. This way you combine the benefits of both ways of speeding up the drying process.
If you want to let your wood dry quickly, the combination of the dehumidifier and the fan are the best method to air-dry wood.
Dry lumber in a microwave or oven
Okay, with this method, as you might guess, it is not possible to dry large pieces of wood. Unless you have access to an industrial wood-drying oven.
This method of wood drying in a microwave is very effective and fast for removing moisture from the wood, but keep in mind that you will need to air regularly while using this wood drying technique.
If you don’t air it regularly, it will scorch to the core and destroy your wood.
Repeat small periods of drying no longer than 2 minutes.
Every time the wood is aired, you can check with a moisture meter what moisture percentage the wood has.
In this way, you can estimate how long still needs to be continued with the drying of the wood.
Although this method gives faster results than air drying, it is only useful for small pieces of wood.
If you want to dry slightly larger pieces of wood, you can use the same method with a normal oven.
The periods in which the wood dries will therefore be longer, depending on the type of oven you have.
But here too you are limited in the length of the wood that you want to dry.
Step-by-step actions to dry lumber correctly
You now know everything about moisture in wood, you also know the best methods for drying wood, so all you need to know now is how to dry lumber correctly.
Regardless of which drying method you will use, the steps you need to take to set up a wood stack are always the same.
That’s why I’ll go through these steps below.
Apply these steps to your own wood stack and your wood will dry effectively and in the fastest way.
If you do this correctly, after a few weeks or a few months you may have wood that is dry enough to use in one of your next projects.
Step 1: The moisture level
Make sure the moisture content in the wood is known.
Buy a decent wood moisture meter for this.
I already showed you the best models above.
By regularly checking for moisture present in the wood you can better estimate when the wood will be ready for use, but you will also be able to switch to another method if necessary.
Step 2: The foundation of the wood stack
Make sure that the wood is never placed directly on the ground.
Always start with a row of stickers on the floor. For the stickers you can use pieces of wood that are already dry.
Lay them out evenly with a space of no more than 40 cm (16 inches) in between to avoid sagging or bending the wood. That way air can get to the wood from the ground.
Step 3: Building up the wood stack
Now place the wood you want to dry perpendicular to the stickers. Place new stickers between each layer of wood. Make sure the stickers have a minimum height of 2.5 cm (1 inch). This increases the airflow to each piece of wood. The better air can flow through the wood, the faster it will dry.
Always make sure that the stickers are placed one above the other. Alternating placement of the stickers will ensure that the wood will bend, and you obviously don’t want that.
Step 4: Weight down and cover
When the wood is stacked, it is very important to prevent the wood from warping during the drying process.
You can approach this in different ways.
Either you make the wood stack heavier by placing heavy materials such as concrete blocks on top of the top layer, or use tensioning straps to connect the entire stack of wood together.
By weighing it down sufficiently you create pressure on the wood so that warping during drying is kept to a minimum.
When wood is placed outside to dry, you will also have to cover the wood stack with a heavy-duty tarp to protect the wood from rain.
If you have followed all the steps, the process to dry lumber can now begin.
Don’t be impatient and give the wood enough time to make sure the wood has the moisture content you want it to achieve.
Remember, the drier and warmer the air, the faster this drying process will be.
If you follow the tips discussed in this guide, the wood you need for your future project will be perfectly dry in a reasonable amount of time.
A good tip: always dry enough wood, so you always have a stock of wood immediately available, and you do not have to postpone your projects.
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If, after reading this blog on how to dry lumber, you want to discover more about lumber for your projects, then I advise you to go over to my blog where I show you how you can cut your own lumber from a trunk with your table saw.
Another interesting article on my website that’s inline with this content is 7 Ways to Get Free Wood. In this article, you will find a few ways where you can find perfectly dried wood that is, on top of that, is also free.
I’m pretty sure these blogs will give you some more inspiration to this fantastic hobby.
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration