Take Care of Your Wood – How to Store Your Lumber
Particularly in northern climates, your options for storing valuable lumber on a job site can drop when the temperature does. The extremely dry air of a cold spell often follows humid and wet conditions. These cycles can ruin good wood. So, whether you have a climate-controlled workshop or must store lumber in an unheated building or outside, there are several things to note to keep lumber clean, dry and ready to use.
When to Store Lumber Indoors
Ideally, you store lumber in conditions similar to where the final work will be located to avoid a number of problems. According to WoodZone.com, lumber absorbs and releases moisture even if it has been kiln dried. The swelling and shrinking can warp and twist lumber. In finished work, this process can cause wood joints to come apart, cabinetry drawers and doors to bind, and panels to crack.
If you’re building furniture or working on a small job, store wood on short shelves. For bigger supplies of wood and longer boards, stack them horizontally on the floor, placing thin strips of wood called stickers every 12 inches along their length and between every fourth or fifth layer. Place plywood sheets vertically against a wall. Store large amounts of plywood flat, with several 2X4s between the floor and the sheets. Woodworking expert Dan Pattison also wrote about indoor lumber and woodshop storage in a recent BTP article.
If you’re bringing lumber in from outside, acclimate it to the indoor environment for several weeks or months, depending on the climate difference. Participants in a finewoodworking.com forum advise that if lumber is wet, stack and sticker it. Then use a box fan placed nearby, powered for 30 minutes a day with a timer, to move air around the wood to gradually dry it. Weight the top layer to prevent warping. To know exactly how dry your wood is, use a moisture meter. If the moisture content is higher than 15 percent, seal the ends of each board with wax to prevent checking (cracks that open up along the grain at the ends of boards) while the pile dries. You can also read more about wood and lumber storage, misc. woodworking tips and tricks and saving wood scraps on our Pro Forum. Also, you can read more on general tool, jobsite or workshop storage and organization on our forum.
Store Lumber in Unheated Indoor and Outdoor Spaces
Unheated garages, barns and partially finished structures are common places to store wood in winter. They often have moisture-permeable concrete floors, so be sure to sticker lumber stacks to prevent the moisture from transmitting to your wood. Stickers can cause discoloration where they rest against your lumber, but the stain should be easily worked out by planing or sanding, if desired.
Use scrap lumber or medium-density fiberboard to make stickers. The key is to use the same size stickers between rows of lumber and enough of them to prevent bowing. If you plan on keeping lumber stacked for long periods of time, rotate the supply so that bottom boards get used.
Outdoor Lumber Storage
If you must store lumber outside in the winter, stickering it from the ground up is critical. Cover the stack with plastic or a tarp to keep snow and rain off, and check the pile periodically for nesting animals and insects. Pine will turn gray and weathered-looking after extended exposure, so bring it inside before that happens. Finally, consider building a ventilated shed for lumber storage to free up space in your workshop or job site. It will help keep your wood dry and mold-free.
Stored properly, lumber will keep outdoors during the winter just fine – and even for a number of years. For more tips on how to store lumber and protect wood from the elements with stickering, watch this video from home renovator George Allen.
How about you? How do you store your wood and lumber if you live in colder climates? Share your experiences or questions in our comments section.