Air Drying vs. Kiln Drying: What’s the Best Way to Dry Hardwood?

By Ben Nystrom, 05/04/12

As you begin to explore your options with regard to exotic hardwood decking or hardwood flooring, you may begin to hear about two types of wood treating methods: air drying and kiln drying.

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Here’s a quick guide to this sometimes-confusing issue.

All wood that’s intended for a building application — whether it’s an exotic hardwood decking material like Ipe or a humble pine 2x4 — needs to be dried between the time it’s harvested and the time it’s surfaced and shaped into its final dimensions.

There’s a reason for this: fresh-cut wood is still full of the moisture of the living tree, and wood changes shape as it loses (or gains) moisture. If you milled the wood straight after harvest, the boards would warp as they dried. In air-drying, as you might imagine, the wood simply dries in the open air. With kiln-drying, the drying process is accelerated by placing the wood in a hot, oven-like kiln.

As to which is better, it depends very much on the species and the application. Some exotic hardwood decking materials, notably Cumaru, respond better to kiln-drying. Other exotic hardwood flooring species, like Ipe, perform at their best when air-dried.

In either case, it’s as important to keep the wood from getting too dry as it to make sure it’s not too wet. Your hardwood flooring, or indeed any wood, will hold its shape best when it’s dried to a moisture level that matches the ambient humidity of your geographic region.

Your friendly and knowledgeable Nova USA Wood representative can tell you more about this tricky, but important, process. Contact your Nova representative today to learn more.

By Ben Nystrom, 05/04/12

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