How to Store Dried Lumber to Prevent Reabsorption of Moisture

Imagine the anticipation of waiting patiently for your prized lumber to dry, investing time and effort into achieving the perfect moisture content. It’s an act of devotion that challenges one’s persistence. But it would be an utter shame if all that waiting went in vain due to improper storage practices.

Curious about the best practices on how to store dried lumber? In a nutshell, it involves maintaining the right humidity levels, controlling temperature fluctuations, and ensuring proper ventilation. Discover how these factors play a crucial role in safeguarding your wood investments, minimizing reabsorption of moisture, and unleashing the true potential of your projects.

Ready to unlock the secrets of proper lumber storage? This article will provide an exhaustive exploration of the concepts related to moisture content, equilibrium moisture levels, and their correlation with humidity, temperature, and airflow. Learn how to apply this knowledge to achieve optimal conditions.

By implementing the tried-and-true methods shared here, you can bid farewell to issues like warping, cracking, and compromised quality. Join me on this journey as I delve into the art of storing dried lumber, and emerge with valuable insights to enhance your workshop practices and elevate your woodworking endeavors.

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Importance of Proper Lumber Storage

Storing lumber is an essential aspect of woodworking and construction industries. Once the moisture content of wood has been adjusted to a predetermined amount (typically between 6% – 8% for indoor wood), it must be kept in a regulated environment to protect against reabsorption of humidity from the atmosphere. Moisture reabsorption can cause swelling, warping or cracking quickly if there are weather changes or if left unattended for too long.
Learn more about in my article 8 Simple Strategies on How to Prevent Wood from Warping

Pro Tip

To measure the moisture content of wood you need a moisture meter. Learn all about these tools in my article What is a moisture meter & Why Is It Essential for Lumber Drying and where to find the best ones on the market. Go check it out, because, in my opinion, every woodworker should have this tool in the workshop.

Common Problems with Improper Storage

How to Store Dried Lumber - Improper Storage

Improperly stored lumber can lead to several problems that make it unusable for many projects. In warm or humid climates, failing to store lumber correctly means they will rapidly absorb any moisture present in their surroundings leading to rotting issues that necessitate costly replacements. Another issue with improper storage is that it leads to cupping or bowing in boards when one side is exposed more than another side of the board causing deformation while losing stability over time.

Poor storage practices lead to significant losses in terms of money and time spent on fixing these issues which could have been avoided by proper handling during storage. It’s therefore important for anyone working with wood products- whether professionals or hobbyists- should understand how to store dried lumber properly so as not only to preserve their investment but also to produce high-quality final products.

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Understanding the Drying Process

How lumber is dried

The drying process is a vital step in the production of wood materials. It involves removing moisture from freshly cut wood to make it stable for use in construction, furniture making, and other applications. Two primary techniques exist for drying lumber: air-drying and kiln-drying. Check out my article Air Drying vs Kiln Drying: Battle of Wood-Drying Methods to dive deeper into this.

Air-drying involves stacking the freshly cut wood in a covered area or outdoor location where there is good airflow. The lumber is stacked with sticker spacers between each layer to allow air circulation around each board. go to my article The Pros and Cons of Air Drying Lumber – Important Information to Know to see more.

Kiln-drying speeds up the process by using heat and controlled humidity levels to remove moisture from the kiln dried wood.

How to Store Dried Lumber - Kiln (picture by Novadrykiln)
Kiln (picture by Novadrykiln)

Moisture content and equilibrium moisture content (EMC)

To properly dry lumber, it’s important to understand moisture content (MC) and equilibrium moisture content (EMC). Moisture content refers to the amount of water present in a piece of wood expressed as a percentage of its weight based on dry wood weight.

Determining Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) requires an understanding of relative humidity (RH) and temperature. When MC reaches EMC, it indicates that the amount of water inside the piece of wood has reached equilibrium with its environment.

If conditions change – such as an increase in temperature or humidity – then the EMC will change as well. This can lead to issues such as warping, splitting, cracking, or fungal decay if proper precautions aren’t taken during storage.

Knowing these factors helps determine when drying is complete and make adjustments during storage to prevent reabsorption of moisture. Learn more on how to dry wood in my article 4 Correct ways to dry lumber fast | Complete wood drying guide.

Factors Affecting Moisture Reabsorption

Humidity Levels: The Role of Relative Humidity

How to Store Dried Lumber - Humidity Levels

Relative humidity (RH) is a measure of the amount of moisture in the air compared to its capacity at a predetermined temperature. High relative humidity levels promote moisture reabsorption, while low levels prevent it. In general, lumber should be stored in an environment with an RH level between 30% and 50%.

However, achieving these ideal RH levels may be difficult depending on your location’s climate. For regions with high levels of humidity, it may be necessary to deploy dehumidifiers or air conditioners to maintain a balanced humidity in your storage space.

Conversely, in areas with low humidity, misting systems or humidifiers may need to be used. It is essential to regularly monitor the relative humidity levels of your storage space using a hygrometer and adjust accordingly.

Temperature: The Effect on Moisture Content

How to Store Dried Lumber - Temperature

Temperature plays a crucial role in controlling moisture content in lumber. Higher temperatures lead to higher moisture content due to increased water vapor pressure within the wood cells. The temperature at which wood is stored should remain stable and consistent for optimal results.

The optimal temperature range to store wood lies between 60°F and 70°F (15°C-21°C). It is crucial not only for preventing the reabsorption of moisture but also for avoiding excessive drying that can cause cracks and splitting.

Temperature changes can cause condensation to form on the wood surface, which is then absorbed back into the lumber. To combat this problem, insulation can be used to maintain consistent temperatures within storage areas.

Airflow: Proper Ventilation Is Key

Proper airflow within a storage space or lumber rack is crucial as it helps regulate both temperature and relative humidity levels by allowing for proper ventilation and circulation. Good airflow helps to remove moisture, which is essential to preventing reabsorption. One technique for promoting good airflow is by stacking lumber with spacers between layers.

This allows air to circulate through the stacks, leading to more efficient drying and reducing the chance of moisture reabsorption. Additionally, using fans or exhaust systems can aid in regulating humidity levels by removing moist air from the storage space and replacing it with drier air.

However, caution must be exercised in order to avoid generating too much airflow, which can lead to the wood becoming over-dried. By understanding how humidity levels, temperature, and airflow affect wood’s moisture content and reabsorption rate, you can take significant steps towards ensuring proper timber storage practices that will promote optimal conditions for your wood products.

Best Practices on How to Store Dried Lumber

Indoor Storage: Climate-controlled environment

How to Store Dried Lumber - Indoor Storage

Indoor storage is the preferred option for drying lumber because it provides greater control over humidity and temperature. A climate-controlled environment is essential to keep the humidity levels consistent and prevent moisture from being reabsorbed by the lumber.

Install a dehumidifier to control the excess humidity in the air, which can lead to mold growth within stacks of wood. In addition, controlling the temperature inside your drying space will also help with keeping your wood dry.

Proper ventilation

Ventilation is a crucial aspect of indoor timber storage. Adequate airflow helps prevent pockets of stagnant air, which can increase humidity levels and slow down drying times.

At least two opposing vents are necessary for proper ventilation. One should be placed at or near floor level while another one should be placed near or at ceiling level so that hot air rises.

Stacking and spacing techniques

How to Store Dried Lumber - Stacking and spacing techniques

Proper stacking and spacing techniques are essential for maintaining airflow throughout stacks, to prevent warping in boards and other defects such as cupping or twist in rough sawn lumber. When stacking boards horizontally, place them consistently on top of each other with stickers (small pieces of wood) between them but not too close together so that there’s enough space for air to flow between each board.
Related article: Is Storing Lumber Vertically A Good Idea? A Clear Answer

Outdoor Storage: Covering materials

If you have to store lumber outside due to limited space indoors, covering materials such as tarps or plastic sheeting can protect your wood from direct sunlight exposure and rainwater seepage while still allowing adequate airflow around individual boards within stacks. Properly covering your stock with a waterproof material also helps keep out dust from settling on top of ends where water collects during rainstorms.

Elevated platforms or pallets

The elevation of your lumber stacks is another important consideration when storing wood outside. Elevating your lumber off the ground on pallets or other platforms prevents ground moisture from seeping up into the stacks and keeps your wood dry. It also helps with airflow around the individual boards within each stack.

How to Store Dried Lumber Outside: Ventilation Considerations

When storing lumber outside, ventilation is just as important as it is with indoor storage. Proper ventilation helps to reduce humidity levels inside the stack and prevent mold growth or a musty odor.

Leave at least two sides of each stack exposed to fresh air, and make sure there’s adequate spacing between each board so that air can circulate freely through stacks. Storing dried lumber properly requires a well-thought-out plan for both indoor and outdoor storage solutions.

The best practices for wood storage include ensuring adequate airflow and proper ventilation through climate control, covering materials such as tarps or plastic sheeting, using elevated platforms or pallets to keep wood off the ground to prevent ground moisture from seeping up into racks while still allowing enough space between boards so that air can circulate freely through stacks. By following these guidelines, you’ll reduce reabsorption of moisture in your wood during storage, which will help maintain its quality over time.

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Advanced Technique: Chemical Treatments – Creating a Barrier Against Moisture

For those who want to go the extra mile in protecting their lumber from moisture, chemical treatments can be an effective solution. These treatments create a barrier against moisture and help prevent reabsorption. One option is wax emulsions and coatings that are applied to the surface of the lumber.

The wax fills the pores of the wood, effectively sealing it off from moisture. Woodworkers tend to favor these products for their ease of application and rapid drying time.

Another option is borate treatments which use boron compounds to penetrate the wood fibers and create a protective barrier that repels moisture. Borate-treated lumber is particularly effective when used in outdoor applications where exposure to rain and humidity is common.

While these chemical treatments can be effective at preventing moisture reabsorption, it’s important to note that they can alter the appearance of the wood. Wax coatings may darken the color of your lumber slightly while borate-treated wood may have an unnatural green tint.

How to store dried lumber – Conclusion

In the realm of woodworking, the art of how to store dried lumber properly holds the key to preserving the beauty and strength of your prized materials. As we’ve explored the significance of humidity control, temperature stability, and adequate airflow, we’ve come to appreciate the delicate balance required to safeguard dried lumber from the clutches of warping, fungal decay, and compromised quality. The journey of drying and storing wood is one of patience, craftsmanship, and dedication, and it would be a shame to let that effort go to waste due to improper handling.

But what happens when warping does occur? When your wood takes an unexpected twist or bend, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. In fact, there are effective methods to fix warped wood and restore its former glory. If you find yourself facing this woodworking challenge, fear not! my article “How To Fix Warped Wood: 8 Methods To Make It Look Like New” dives deep into the solutions that can bring your misshapen wood back to life. Don’t let warping become a roadblock in your creative journey; click through and discover the techniques to salvage and rejuvenate your woodwork.

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I hope this information on how to store dried wood was helpful, and that this blog inspires you.

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