Using Air Dried Lumber

ask WWGOA text with man posing

“I have a barn full of red oak, some black walnut and some white oak; it was sawn by my Dad 7 to 9 years ago. It seems to be very dry and ready to be used. The material is off of our farm and I would like to use the material for tongue and groove flooring, wainscoting and cabinet fronts. I have been told by a couple of people not to use this material because it is not kiln dried. Can I use this wonderful lumber for these projects without experiencing cracking or shrinking down the road?”

Submitted by: bwmartin

WWGOA Editor Response:

As a rule, air drying brings wood down to 12-14% moisture content, maybe slightly lower. The mill I talked to here in Wisconsin would like to see material come in at 6-8% if they’re going to make it into flooring. Same applies for most cabinet and furniture making projects, as well as wainscoting.

I recommend that you purchase a moisture meter and check your stack. For tongue and groove flooring, try to hit 6-8% mc.You may have to send the material to a local kiln for ‘finishing.’ If, by cabinet fronts, you mean face frames, you’ll be fine using the material at an air dried mc level. You could use air dried lumber for raised panels in doors, but you’ll need to allow a little more room for movement than you would on a kiln dried panel.

In addition to a moisture meter, another good investment would be theĀ Lee Valley Wood Movement Reference Guide. You can use it to determine just how much a piece of wood will move, specie by specie, depending on initial moisture content.

George Vondriska

Managing Editor

Got a woodworking question you need answered? Comment or Email us at

Related Videos:

Air Drying Freshly Cut Lumber

Solar Kiln Basics

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

Make a comment:
characters remaining

2 Responses to “Using Air Dried Lumber”

  1. Randy Baldwin

    I bought some cherry planks (2.25X17) that have been air-drying for about 1 1/2 years. They check about 13%MC How long can I expect it to take to reach 8-10% MC ? Want to make a dining room table

  2. FRANK

    Doesn't wood that comes out of a kiln at 6-8% moisture content pick up moisture from the air, and end up in the 10-12% moisture content that air-dried wood is at? In other words, why put wood into a kiln after it has air dried, if it's only going to pick up moisture after it comes out and return to the moisture level it had before it went in to the kiln?