No matter which way you obtain your wood for your projects, you must ensure that you have perfectly dry lumber before you start working with that wood.
But what does that mean? When does wood have a perfect equilibrium moisture content? How to dry wood correctly?
Well, If you have no idea where to start you are in the right place because in this blog you will learn how to dry lumber fast, how to know when the wood is dry, and find the answers to many other questions about wood drying.
In short, you can dry lumber in 4 different ways, which I explain in detail in this article, and that is by:
- Drying the lumber indoors
- Drying wood outdoors
- Drying wood by the use of a dehumidifier or fan
- Drying wood in a microwave or oven
Discover the essential lumber drying tips in this blog to gather the knowledge on how to dry lumber at home, rule out all moisture issues in wood, and make sure your next project is a success. Let’s go!
- Why do you need to dry wood before building with it?
- How do you get the moisture out of wood?
- What are Acceptable Moisture Levels in Wood?
- How long does it take for lumber to dry?
- 4 Correct ways to dry lumber fast
- Step-by-step actions to dry lumber correctly
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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.
Also, your project will start molding pretty quickly. To find out what else you need to do to prevent your wood from getting moldy, see my article, How To Prevent Mold On Wood – A Quick Guide.
So theoretically it is possible to use undried wood for your projects but to avoid a lot of problems it is better to use dried lumber. When you have bought wood or if you have saw 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 project.
It doesn’t matter why you will be using the wood, for example, to make wooden spoons or other wooden kitchenware (be sure to use non toxic wood for this!), 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 wood to lower the relative humidity of the wood if you want to avoid things like shrinkage or warping. If you want to start drying wood, you can choose between several options on how to dry lumber without a kiln.
Keep in mind that drying wood always depends on the thickness and the hardness 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 the moisture out of wood?
There are several ways to get an equilibrium moisture content in wood. Some ways are slower, and other ways get the moisture out of the wood faster but are also more expensive. The different ways on how to dry wood fast for woodworking are:
- air dry,
- Forced air drying with dehumidifier or fans (or a combination),
- dry kiln
drying the wood by air, drying the wood with a dehumidifier or fan, and using an oven are the 3 ways you can do this at home I will discuss this in more detail further in this blog post. Because a kiln is not something everybody has, I will mention it in this article, but will not go deep into it.
What is air drying?
Natural air drying is the process of allowing lumber to dry naturally in the open air. The process begins by stacking the lumber in a well-ventilated area, such as a shed or barn. The wood is then left to dry for several months, during which time the moisture is gradually evaporated from the wood.
The drying process can be accelerated by properly stacking and spacing the wood, as well as by protecting it from rain and sun. The final content of the moisture of the wood can be determined by using a moisture meter.
Air drying is most suitable for species with low moisture content and small thickness, otherwise, the drying process can take years.
The final product may be more stable than lumber that is dried by kiln, but it requires proper monitoring and protection during the process.
Pros of drying wood by air
- Natural air drying is the most cost-effective method for drying lumber. It does not require the use of any special equipment or energy sources.
- The drying process is more gentle and less stressful on the wood, which can result in fewer cracks, splits, and warps.
- The natural drying process allows the wood to adjust to the local humidity and temperature, reducing the risk of future movement.
- Air drying allows the wood to dry slowly, which can produce a more stable and stronger final product.
cons of drying wood by air
- Natural air drying can take a long time, depending on the type of wood and the local climate.
- The wood must be protected from rain and sun, which can be a challenge.
- The wood must be properly stacked and spaced to allow for proper air circulation, which takes skill and experience.
- It can be difficult to control the final moisture of the wood using this method.
- Air drying is not suitable for all types of wood, especially for species with high moisture content and large thickness.
Forced air drying
What is forced air drying?
Forced air drying is a process in which high volume fans are used to circulate air through freshly cut lumber. The process begins by stacking the wood in a well-ventilated area, such as a shed or barn. The fan is then placed near the wood and turned on to circulate air through the wood.
This helps to remove the moisture from the wood more quickly and efficiently than natural air drying. It is important to note that the wood must be properly stacked and spaced to allow for proper air circulation. Forced air drying can be used in combination with kiln drying to further accelerate the drying process.
Pros of forced air drying
- Forced air drying is faster than natural air drying, allowing for quicker turnaround times.
- The process can be used to dry wood in a controlled environment, such as a kiln.
- It can be used to dry wood to a specific moisture level, which can be beneficial for certain types of projects.
cons of forced air drying
- Forced air drying requires a powerful fan and energy source, making it more expensive than natural air drying.
- The process can be less gentle on the wood, resulting in more cracks, splits, and warps.
- The process is not suitable for all types of wood, especially for species with high moisture level and large thickness.
- The process requires a proper space, skilled personnel, and monitoring to avoid over drying or under drying the wood.
To dive deeper into the pros and cons of air drying wood, check out my in depth article The Pros and Cons of Air Drying Lumber – Important Information to Know
Wat is a Kiln and how it is used to dry wood
Drying wood by Kiln is a process that uses heat and controlled air movement to dry the lumber. The process begins by stacking the wood in a kiln, which is a special chamber designed for drying wood.
The kiln is then sealed and heated to a specific temperature, which is typically between 120 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. A controlled amount of air is then circulated through the kiln to remove the moisture from the wood.
Drying wood with a kiln can take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of wood, its initial moisture level, the thickness of the pieces, and the temperature and humidity of the kiln.
To see the differences between Air Drying Vs Kiln Drying, go to my in-depth article Air Drying Vs Kiln Drying: Battle Of Wood-Drying Methods to see more
Pros of kiln drying
- This type of drying allows for a more controlled and efficient drying process.
- The process can be used to dry wood to a specific moisture content, which can be beneficial for certain types of projects.
- The process is faster than natural air drying, allowing for quicker turnaround times.
cons of kiln drying
- Drying by kiln is more expensive than natural air drying, as it requires a special chamber and energy source.
- The process can be less gentle on the wood, resulting in more cracks, splits, and warps.
- The process is not suitable for all types of wood, especially for species with high moisture level and large thickness.
- The process requires skilled personnel and monitoring to avoid over drying or under drying the wood.
What are Acceptable Moisture Levels in Wood?
To know when the wood is dry enough to use for your projects, you have to use a moisture meter. I think that every good woodworker should have a quality moisture meter in their workshop.
With that moisture meter, it is best to always check the wood for moisture levels before you start using the wood. No matter what the durability class of wood you are using, the relative humidity of the wood should be as follows:
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, and the average RH of the environment where the wood is used.
Some recommended quality moisture meters to have in your workshop
Moisture meters are available in two different types: pin type moisture meters and pinless moisture meters. Below you can find the best one on the market for each type. If you want to see more meters of the pin type, go to my article Top 5 Best Moisture Meters On The Market: The Ultimate Buying Guide. There you will find more information about this type and the 5 best ones to choose from.
If you prefer a pinless moisture meter, I recommend you to go to my article The 5 Best Pinless Moisture Meters For Your DIY Projects (Expert Tips)
How long does it take for lumber to dry?
The rough cut lumber drying time depends on the method of drying. Each drying method will have its own drying times. Also, keep in mind that for each method drying times will vary depending on the thickness of the wood. The thicker the wood, the longer it will takes to dry.
To give you a clear view on the drying time for wood, I will go over the different methods and give you a rough idea about their drying times.
Air dry in the slowest way to dry wood 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%.
To dive deeper into this, check out my article How to Calculate Lumber Drying Time for Different Wood Thicknesses
As you could already notice earlier in this article, the highest percentage of moisture content is 14% for wood you will use outdoors. Therefore, air-dried wood is, in some cases, just enough to use outdoors, but never dry enough for indoor use, unless you can let it dry for a much longer period in a place with a low humidity.
When you are going to set up a dehumidifier or fan in the place where you are going to stack the wood to dry, you can speed up this air drying process, and you can shorten the maximum drying time.
Another method is to use an oven to dry the wood at home. This will shorten the drying time drastically. However, this also comes with a price. Heating an oven for a longer period will cost a lot of energy and money.
The drying time of drying the wood in an oven will vary depending on the type of wood, its initial moisture content, the thickness of the pieces, and the temperature and humidity of the oven.
To know more about drying wood in a kitchen oven, you can read my detailed article Can You Dry Wood in an Oven (A Clear Answer + How to Guide).
Next to the long drying time and the high energy costs, it is not recommended to dry wood in a kitchen oven as it’s not designed for that purpose. On top of that using this method could pose a fire hazard.
The fastest way to dry lumber is by drying it by kiln with high temperature and high airspeed. These professional types of ovens 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.
These types of ovens are professional ovens and are quite expensive, so if you are a hobbiest or DIYer, this oven is not for you as you would never earn back the investment.
Lets move on and check out how to dry lumber fast for the lowest possible price.
4 Correct ways to dry lumber fast
Ok, now that you know more about moisture in wood and all the possible ways out there, you can find out how the wood can be dried at home.
All methods of drying wood discussed below are very efficient and cost-friendly. 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.
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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.
Go to my article How To Store Dried Lumber To Prevent Reabsorption Of Moisture to learn more about wood storage
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 wood 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 for drying wood is to stimulate the airflow through the wood using a high volume fan. This method is known as forced air drying and it involves using a powerful fan to circulate air through the wood.
This helps to remove the moisture from the wood more quickly and efficiently than natural air drying. The fan can be placed in an open-air setting, such as a shed or barn.
However, it’s important to note that using a fan will only be effective if the wood is properly stacked and spaced to allow for proper air circulation. This method can be useful for small-scale wood drying projects, but it’s not as efficient as a kiln-based drying system.
The last option to dry wood fast is to combine the dehumidifier with the fan. This way you combine the benefits of both ways of speeding up the drying process even more.
If you want to let your wood dry quickly, the combination of the dehumidifier and the fan are the best method to dry wood by air.
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 lumber 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
Okay, 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 fast and 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.
Also read my article 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Drying Lumber To Preserve Wood Quality
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. This will make it possible for the wood to absorb moisture from the ground and never become dry. Above that, the risk of the wood starting to mold would be pretty high and can ruin your whole stack
To stack your wood the best possible way, 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 wood fast 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.
Ok, now that you know how to dry wood, you can go a step further and understand how to dry wood without cracking. Any crack that appears in the dried wood is a piece that you can no longer use.
It is therefore important to avoid this as much as possible and not to let precious wood go to waste. That’s why I recommend that you read my article, How to Dry Wood Without Cracking – 3 Clever Tricks, it’s full of useful tips that you’ll love.
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration