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Why do we need to dry lumber?

Kildare Jose Molina

Kildare Jose Molina, digital analyst at Algorex

Working in the wood processing industry and, more specifically, in the lumber drying sector, you get immersed in a lot of technical concepts when monitoring the lumber drying process. Processes such as wet and dry bulb temperature, initial and final moisture content, over and under drying, wood drying time, among many others. But through this tumultuous process, one usually does not stop to think, why does the lumber need to be dried?

If most of the people involved in lumber drying are aware of why they are drying lumber, it’s not the case for the majority of the population.

To better answer this question, the reader needs to be aware of the uses of the kiln dried lumber. Dried lumber is used to build structures which are mainly houses and another large portion goes towards manufacturing high-quality mouldings, panelling, flooring, etc.

So, digging a little deeper, let’s see why it is so important to dry lumber. Among its benefits, we can mention:

  • It enables stability. Drying lumber becomes less prone to shrinking or expanding as the temperature or humidity fluctuates. In other words, drying the lumber minimizes these issues and improves its dimensional stability.
  • It improves the strength and hardness. Removing moisture from lumber makes it harder and strengthens because the fibre becomes denser.
  • Easier to work with. Dried lumber is a perfect choice for projects requiring precision. Cutting and drilling are relatively easier when it is used in different projects. Also, it is less prone to splitting, warping and other forms of distortion, maintaining more accurate and consistent dimensions.
  • Prevent mildew and insect infestation. Moisture on the lumber can be a perfect environment for the mildew and insects that feed on wood. Removing moisture and putting the lumber through “high” temperatures can kill biological organisms. It is also a requirement to export lumber in many countries.
  • Enhanced Finishing. The lower moisture levels of dried lumber allow finishes (stains, paints, or varnishes) to adhere better and provide a more consistent and desirable outcome.
  • Saves money in the long term. Dry lumber can also save you money in the long run because of its durability and wide range of applications. By choosing dried lumber, you can reduce the frequency of repairing or replacing wood construction as it is less prone to distortion or shrinkage.

Overall, the benefits of wood drying include increased stability, strength, workability, and resistance to mildew and insects. It improves the quality and utility of wood, making it suitable for a wide range of applications in construction, furniture making, flooring and other woodworking.

It is important to mention that there are several methods to dry wood, and depending on the species it comes from, specific conditions and variables will be established. But this is another topic to be addressed on another occasion.

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