kipnflip

Dry-Climate Drying: Outdoors, Garage, Basement?

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Hi. I have some wood from a tree that died, freshly cut at a local sawmill. Honey locust, slabs from a few inches to about 22" wide, up to about 6 feet long, all cut 1.75 inches thick, and the endgrain with some latex paint on it. Now, I need to dry the wood. That's something I haven't done before, and I want to do it right. There's all manner of information online, of unknown quality.

Some of the information says wood is best dried outside, where it gets constant airflow and won't make an indoor space overly humid while drying. (There are stories of shop tools getting rusty from the evaporating water from boards being dried in the shop.)

I don't really have a good, level, rain-protected outside space, although if absolutely necessary I could probably set something up. What I do have, right away, are (1) a garage, and (2) a basement. I live in a dry climate (north-central New Mexico, USA), for whatever that's worth. Some measurements today put the basement at about 35% humidity and 66 Fahrenheit, and the garage at about 30% humidity and 82 Fahrenheit. So, a hotter and dryer garage, a cooler and slightly more humid basement. Both probably have minimal airflow; maybe the basement a bit more, from some small vents to the outdoors.

The garage is easier. There's much more space, and I don't need to lug the heavy boards down into the basement. I could probably manage the basement, though, at least for the smaller pieces.

I know about stacking and stickering the wood. The man at the sawmill also suggested flipping the boards every week or two, to help prevent cupping, but that seems like an awful lot of extra work.

Any thoughts about how to best make this work, given the parameters I've described?

 

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Never heard of anyone flipping boards every couple of weeks.  If it's somewhere with good air circulation, it won't matter.  If one wants to move, there is not much that will hold it, and then expect it to stay there forever.  If a piece is dried with stress in it, you don't want to build anything out of it like that anyway, but rather straighten/flatten it to use after it's done what moving it's going to do.

Here we sticker green boards under a shed to keep rain off of it.   Stacks are best stacked up off the ground some.  We usually just use cinder blocks, and dry 4x's under the first layer, with a stick on top of the 4x's for most exposure to air even under the bottom layer.

Neither place sounds like it has good air flow.  I would rather stack them outside somewhere in open air, with some sort of makeshift cover over them.

Once they are down close to 12%, they could be moved somewhere with lesser air flow.  They'll be a LOT lighter to handle then too.

Sawmills around here, and most places, used to just sticker boards in stacks piled outside, with nothing over them, for about a year before doing anything else with them.

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I dreied some wood that needed air flow so i just pointed a fan at the stack from a ways off. The goal with the air movement is to prevent mold from forming on the wet boards. In some areas too much airflow can dry the lumber out too fast.

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Sounds like you're on top of the process. I don't have  a great deal of experience drying wood, but since honey locust is common in northern NM (I'm near Santa Fe) it should dry just fine in either your garage or basement. If you were bringing koa to this climate I'd worry. I cut down a small honey locust about 3 years ago behind my shop and milled it into ~1" planks. I stickered it in my garage and painted the ends and it stayed well within what I consider flat. Very little checking.

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I'd put them in the garage with a fan blowing on them to circulate the air. I would also place a dehumidifier in the garage to lower the over all moisture in the air. The blowing fan circulating the air is the most important. I'd use four stickers per level - placing a sticker close to each end of the boards. Hope this helps.

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1 hour ago, Keggers said:

I would also place a dehumidifier in the garage to lower the over all moisture in the air.

Normally I would agree with you, and in SE Missouri a dehumidifier is no doubt a necessity. With the extreme drought we've been having here in NM this year, I think a humidifier might be required instead. I would be more concerned with it drying too fast. The yuccas on our property are dying for lack of water. 

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8 minutes ago, Mick S said:

Normally I would agree with you, and in SE Missouri a dehumidifier is no doubt a necessity. With the extreme drought we've been having here in NM this year, I think a humidifier might be required instead. I would be more concerned with it drying too fast. The yuccas on our property are dying for lack of water. 

You're probably right, Mick. I missed that he was from NM. Like i said, the fan is the most important component.

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You might want to contact Matt Cremona Here  He does a lot with cutting his own slabs and should be able to give you lots of help and information.

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7 hours ago, Tom King said:

Never heard of anyone flipping boards every couple of weeks.  If it's somewhere with good air circulation, it won't matter.

Yes, that as news to me as well. Whatever I do, I don't think I'll be wearing out my back by flipping those boards so often. Flipping boards might be something to do if the boards aren't stickered at all, but that wouldn't be any good.

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7 hours ago, Mick S said:

Sounds like you're on top of the process. I don't have  a great deal of experience drying wood, but since honey locust is common in northern NM (I'm near Santa Fe) it should dry just fine in either your garage or basement. If you were bringing koa to this climate I'd worry. I cut down a small honey locust about 3 years ago behind my shop and milled it into ~1" planks. I stickered it in my garage and painted the ends and it stayed well within what I consider flat. Very little checking.

Thanks for the information. It occurred to me that there's actually a small vent from my home's central AC to the garage. It never has done any good at keeping the garage cool in summer and warm in winter, probably because the garage's roof isn't insulated. However, if I move some things around, I could probably place the stack near the vent. Then, it would get a bit of airflow occasionally, whenever the AC runs. Maybe that would be enough.

 

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5 hours ago, Keggers said:

I'd put them in the garage with a fan blowing on them to circulate the air. I would also place a dehumidifier in the garage to lower the over all moisture in the air. The blowing fan circulating the air is the most important. I'd use four stickers per level - placing a sticker close to each end of the boards. Hope this helps.

Thanks for your comments. I may put the boards in my garage, somewhere near the small vent from my central AC to the garage. There'd be occasional airflow, at least, when the AC runs. Regarding stickers, some of the online information I found actually suggests doubling-up the stickers at the ends of the wood, to slow the endgrain drying even a bit more beyond what the sealant (in my case, latex paint) might do. So, I plan to do that as well.

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I agree with the stickering, latex on the ends and air flow. Also covering the top from the elements, although major yards don’t see this as a concern, but they can afford more waste. I have some walnut, cherry and pecan that I cut down and had milled three years ago and am just now using and probably could have used last year had I have had a use for it. From what little experience I’ve had, I think air fllow and overhead protection are the biggest concern. You can’t to do anything about your humidity. Patience sir, patience! 

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8 hours ago, K Cooper said:

I agree with the stickering, latex on the ends and air flow. Also covering the top from the elements, although major yards don’t see this as a concern, but they can afford more waste. I have some walnut, cherry and pecan that I cut down and had milled three years ago and am just now using and probably could have used last year had I have had a use for it. From what little experience I’ve had, I think air fllow and overhead protection are the biggest concern. You can’t to do anything about your humidity. Patience sir, patience! 

Hesitant to say anything because I don't want to jinx it, but we're supposed to get rain today and tomorrow! Fingers, toes, eyes and everything else crossed! 

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To air dry a miller told me an inch to a year plus one. So yours is 3 years. Maybe faster with your low humidity. Basement would work in your environment but better in the garage. Like already said, fans, airflow and exhaust. If there is a kiln near you, you may want to take your lumber after it has dried for a month or 2. Ask the miller about availability of a kiln if interested...

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23 hours ago, kipnflip said:

Thanks for your comments. I may put the boards in my garage, somewhere near the small vent from my central AC to the garage. There'd be occasional airflow, at least, when the AC runs. Regarding stickers, some of the online information I found actually suggests doubling-up the stickers at the ends of the wood, to slow the endgrain drying even a bit more beyond what the sealant (in my case, latex paint) might do. So, I plan to do that as well.

I strongly recommend placing a fan in there. You won't get enough air flow from your AC vent.

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2 hours ago, Bankstick said:

Inch a year?  I might not live long enough to use wood, at that rate.  I don't even buy green bananas.

When I first read this I thought you were referring to our rainfall...:wacko:

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Many years ago I processed a full flatbed truck of black walnut. Instructions from both the mill and kiln were to air dry 1 month. The kiln would take another month. It was all 4/4

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Well, for sure a month is too short and 3 years is too long, so you have it bracketed.  These are both (wildly divergent) estimates and your moisture meter will tell you when you'e done.  I've taken green (Doug Fir 14 inch, 24 inch girth, but later split) logs from 50% moisture to under 12%, outdoors in the Idaho mountains in less than a year.  I think you want your boards under 10%, maybe 7%.  I've seen boards stickered and stacked under a tarp but with sides open to the air, somewhat like others have mentioned.  I vote for that.  (top cover, sides open is also the typical firewood drying method.)

 

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2 hours ago, curlyoak said:

Many years ago I processed a full flatbed truck of black walnut. Instructions from both the mill and kiln were to air dry 1 month. The kiln would take another month. It was all 4/4

I'm jealous.

 

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Mick, I spent several days in NM.  Loved it.  Got hit by a raindrop.  The EMT had to toss a bucket of sand in my face so I could regain consciousness.

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15 hours ago, Pondhockey said:

Well, for sure a month is too short and 3 years is too long, so you have it bracketed.  These are both (wildly divergent) estimates and your moisture meter will tell you when you'e done.  I've taken green (Doug Fir 14 inch, 24 inch girth, but later split) logs from 50% moisture to under 12%, outdoors in the Idaho mountains in less than a year.  I think you want your boards under 10%, maybe 7%.  I've seen boards stickered and stacked under a tarp but with sides open to the air, somewhat like others have mentioned.  I vote for that.  (top cover, sides open is also the typical firewood drying method.)

 

Although I don't think that 3 years air drying is too long, a month is definitely too short.

I have in the past cut and dried my own lumber. I've got a dwindeling pile of walnut and a bit of ash currently on stacks drying.

I dry outside on cinder blocks on the North East side of my house that receives sunlight most of the day and a constant breeze. I have stickers ever 20 inches or so and always one within inches of the fresh sealed ends.  I do my very best when stacking to do it right the first time. I have a piece of plywood I glued a cut of tarp to for the top of the stack that overhangs about 6 inches on each side.  Once it's stacked, I normally downstack and rearrange ever 4 or 5 months(the true purpose of this is usually to clear out mice nests that have been tucked in and driving the dogs crazy.)  I take this opportunity to get the bottom guys on top and top boards more down the stack. 

With this setup, I've both had success and failures. I built my bench from ass that dried in a little over a year, and I've still got some walnut at 6/4 that just isn't ready yet. It's definitely not a fast process and pushing it will only lead to headaches. 

Feel free to pm if you have any questions.

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