Drying cedar boards

quandaryJuly 17, 2010

We just purchased rough hewn cedar boards to replace some lap siding on our house. There are 11 boards, and they are 8' x 12" wide.

We need to let them dry, and then plan to cut and stain them before installation.

It is hot and humid outside. Should we dry them outside in the sun? Because we only have a few, we could bring them inside the air conditioned house to dry. I assume they need to be separated as opposed to stacked. Should we lean them against the wall on the ends, or let them lay flat? How long do they need to dry?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

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They likely need to be stickered into a stack and covered with some
If they are dried to quickly they will warp, split, and check more.
In the sun is to fast.

You know it takes months to dry wet wood fresh from a tree to usable levels for any type of finishing.

Put a finish on wet wood and you can trap enough moisture to cause long term rot problems.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 4:14PM
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Hi, May years ago I built a fence and I didn't want the boards to shrink and leave gaps. I worked in a sawmill in northren ca so I got advice on drying lumber from experts. I weighed each board and wrote the wieght on the board then I layed them up against a wire fence turned the boards every couple of days. When I lost about 50% of the weight of the boards I built the fence. No gaps.
Good luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 7:29PM
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I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that boards need to dry for several months before being useable. While it seems obvious now, I didn't realize that warping is the result of drying too quickly. Gratefully, this forum is here to enlighten me.

We are having 100 degree sunny weather, so we have leaned the boards separately against the wall in our family room (only 11 boards).

Woodbutcher, that's an ingenious idea to weigh the boards to monitor the moisture loss. I only have a bathroom scale, so I may try holding each board and subtracting my weight to be somewhat accurate.

These boards were purchased at Home Depot and Lowes, so I have no way of knowing when the trees were actually cut. I looked online, and Lowe's sells a $30 digital moisture meter which might be handy to have for other uses, so I may get one of those.

Thanks for the advice. I hope these boards won't require months to dry, because that will really delay our project.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 3:39PM
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I hope you experts are still around. I purchased a moisture meter, and the rough hewn cedar boards range from 6.8 to 10.2. I measured the center of each board, but couldn't get the pins in very deep.

The instructions with my moisture meter indicate the 5-11.9 range to be low moisture, but it doesn't break it down by types of wood. I'm planning to leave the boards in the house for a few more days, but do you know what the moisture reading for cedar should be before cutting and staining for an outside siding installation?

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 12:27AM
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Non treated lumber even from the home inprovement stores is generally kiln dried and ready to use when purchased.

Bare wood will vary in moisture content with the humidity level.

By keeping the boards inside, you are actually changing the moisture level in the wrong way, since the boards will be used ouitside. Put the boards back outside for three or so days and then stain/cut/install.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:52AM
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Wow -- my instincts are really failing me. I was concerned about wet wood, so I reasoned that the boards would dry better in the air conditioned house which has a lower humidity than outside. I guess the boards don't actually need to dry, but rather should become acclimated to the environment of their ultimate installation. I'll move them outside.

We would like to stain them before we hire someone to cut and install them. We're replacing lap siding joined at a compound bevel, which I hope to replicate. Is it okay if the cuts are unstained? Should we stain the smooth side in addition to the rough hewn exposed side?

I really appreciate the advice.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 12:31PM
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Since you are using this as a siding vs. fencing, you should stain both sides including all cuts before install or stain the back side, cuts and then stain the face after install. I wouldn't leave the wood in direct sunlight, keep it shaded. I would also stack it as brickeye mentioned using stickers inbetween the boards and imo is going to need more than 3-4 days. You have 11 boards, lay three of them on top of some stickers on a flat area. The more stickers the better but every 24" should be more than enough. You want the stickers to be the same thickness to keep it all flat. On top of the first three, lay dowm more stickers, stack three more, repeat, with the last two on top again in a shaded area or loosely tarped if in the sun. Out here in the dry climate, you want to stack it all tight and wrap it tight with visquine to hold the moisture in. Your goal is to slowly relwease the moisture and let it dry slowly as well. That's why you might consider longer than 3-4 days although cedar has a pretty fast drying time as a species that releases moisture faster than most because of the natural oils that are in the wood dont allow for a higher moisture content to begin with.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 2:25PM
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hopefully I can get a good answer. I have some red cedar that I sawed up in August of 2011. I have it stickers overhead in my old barn. It has plenty of ventilation and no leaks in the roof. I live in southwest TN on the AL border. Would in someones professional opinion say that this wood would be dry enough to build hope chests out of?

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 2:53PM
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At least one year per inch of thickness.

Trees often have more than the weight of the wood in the water in them, so even 505 weight loss may not be adequate.

Wood moisture content is measured by weighting a piece, drying it out, then dividing the weight lost from water by the oven dry weight.

In many cases the result is over 100%, meaning there was more water lost than the final weight of the wood.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 5:19PM
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Thank you. I guess I'll be waiting a couple years before using any of it then.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 6:18PM
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