Updated: Jun 23
Are you looking for information on how to air dry cedar lumber? Do you want to know how long to air dry cedar lumber or why this is necessary? Read this short guide to learn why cedar needs to be dry before use, the different methods of drying cedar, and how to go about air drying cedar lumber.
G&B Quality Cedar can meet all your cedar board needs. This blog is informational only and not a replacement for expert advice. Please consult a professional before starting any building project as your needs and specifications may vary and it may not reflect the most current building codes, regulations, or industry standards.
What Does it Mean to Air Dry Cedar Lumber?
Air drying is one of the ways to prepare cedar lumber for construction. Air drying is widespread because it can be cheaper than the alternatives. It also allows the wood to maintain its natural coloring, appearance, and beauty.
Why Does Cedar Lumber Need to be Dry Before Construction?
Cedar is a greenwood that contains 25% moisture when freshly cut. Before using it for any project, you want the moisture content to be at a maximum of 20%. However, the preferred moisture content is between 12 – 15%.
If your wood is too wet during construction, you may experience issues like warping or cracking. Even after installation, waiting another 90 days or more before sealing or staining is a good idea.
Although most people prefer the air drying method, understand that it can take many months to over a year, depending on the conditions the wood is drying in. However, those numbers are for a more natural process. By following a specific technique, it can take as little as 30 days. Another factor will be the thickness of the wood. An 18-inch (diameter) log could take up to 18 months, whereas a cut board may dry in 30 – 90 days.
Are There Other Ways to Dry Cedar Lumber?
There are two main ways to dry cedar lumber: air drying and kiln drying. Air drying is the more natural and cost-effective method. Kiln drying is a popular choice because it is quicker. Some people will choose kiln drying if they do not have the time to wait for the air drying process to complete.
Kiln drying (or using an oven to speed up the process) is faster and can remove more moisture than air-drying.
Although kiln drying and air drying cedar lumber are the most popular, another method uses fans and dehumidifiers. To use this method, you would have to be able to dry your wood indoors. You can use a fan, a dehumidifier, or a combination of both.
Why Air Drying is Superior
When looking at how to air dry cedar lumber, you may wonder if it is the preferred method. It is. Although the process can take longer and involve more planning, air drying is superior to using a kiln. You will have a more attractive result when you air dry your cedar.
One of the reasons that people choose cedar in the first place is because it is a light wood (weightwise) that can come in many different colors and shades. By air-drying, you are preserving its natural beauty. Using a kiln can change the overall look and appearance of the wood.
Since kiln drying is a faster process, there is a danger of significant shrinkage. This is a major reason why many people do not prefer the kiln method. Another issue with kiln drying is that it is much more expensive. In fact, not only is the process cost more than air-drying, the shrinkage during the process makes it so that the contractor or homeowner buying the lumber has to buy more for every project.
Finally, using a kiln is something that most people will have to hire an outside company to do for them. On the other hand, individuals and companies can learn how to air-dry cedar while saving money.
How Long to Air Dry Cedar Lumber
One of the things you need to consider when looking for how long to air dry cedar lumber is that the amount of time it takes to air dry depends on a few different factors. If you are drying logs instead of boards of cedar, it can take up to 18 months to dry them properly.
If you are using boards, they can dry in as little as 30 days.
The process you choose to use, as well as the conditions, can also change the timing. For instance, if you are air-drying cedar sheets in a garage with a high level of humidification, this could take longer than drying in a more controlled environment. Also, if you do more than just store them in a clean and dry environment, the process can be quicker.
If you are looking for a specific process, check out the next section, a step-by-step process you can learn and emulate.
How to Air Dry Cedar Lumber: Step by Step
Are you ready to learn the process of air drying cedar lumber? This standard process for air-drying can save you money (by not using a kiln or the electricity from running fans and dehumidifiers non-stop) while maintaining this unique wood's natural beauty.
Cut The Wood
The first step is to cut the tree trunks into sections. These sections should be measured for your project. If you are not cutting the wood yourself, make sure you order cedar that is the right size for what will be needed.
Ensure Your Have The Right Tools
If you are going to dry your cedar yourself, it is crucial to understand the moisture content. Although this is imperative at the end, you should also know the initial moisture content. This will help you understand how long this process will take. You can achieve this by owning a wood moisture meter.
Build a Simple Foundation – Also Called Stickering
You want to avoid placing the wood directly on the ground. In wood drying, this is called stickering. You will put already dry wood (called stickers) directly on the ground. These stickers should be placed evenly with at most 16 inches of space between each sticker to ensure there is no sagging that could cause the wood to bend. The reason you need some space in between the stickers is that you will want there to be airflow from the ground.
Build Your Cedar Stacks
The next step is to build your stacks. Lay the cedar wood perpendicular to the stickers. You will also want to put stickers between each layer of wood. Each sticker should have a height of at least 1 inch. This will allow optimal airflow. The better the airflow, the faster the wood will dry.
Weigh Down The Wood and Cover
Once you have built your stacks and stickers, you will want to weigh down the wood. Many people do this with either tension straps or concrete blocks placed on the top layer. You want to add the weight because it will help prevent warping during the drying process.
If drying outdoors, you must cover it with a tarp to protect it from the elements.
Check Your Moisture Levels
Remember to keep an eye on the moisture levels throughout the process. Understand the moisture level needs to be at most 20%. However, lower is better. Using your wood moisture meter, you can monitor the moisture levels. Although this is important throughout the process. It is imperative to check the moisture content at the end to ensure they are dry enough to use.
Looking for Pre-Dried & Cured Cedar Lumber?
Now you know how to air dry cedar lumber and how long to air dry cedar lumber, you’re probably realizing it makes more sense to order lumber pre-dried. And at G&B, that’s exactly what you’ll get! If you are shopping for a western red cedar lumber supplier, we’re here to help.
We carry many different cedar products that you can use for all of your projects or future products, including sound barrier fence, which helps with climate and traffic-related noise; cedar decking boards which are available in multiple sizes and styles; and cedar wood for sauna.
We sort and grade our lumber by hand ourselves to ensure the highest-quality products possible for our customers. If anything isn’t up to our standards, it’s sent to auction. And we’re so confident that our quality lumber will meet your expectations (or exceed them) that we offer a satisfaction guarantee - no matter what phase of construction you discover an issue in, we’ll make it right for you.
Final Thoughts on Air Drying Cedar Lumber
We hope you have a better understanding of how to air dry cedar lumber and why this is a necessary process. Air drying is essential as it will help ensure that your cedar does not shrink, bend or crack. It can also help you save money compared to the kiln or fan method.
If you are shopping for different types of western red cedar for your projects, G&B Quality Cedar Products can help you, regardless of what part of North America you are in!
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