How Long Does Wood Take To Dry After Rain?

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We know that wet wood should not be worked with until it becomes dry wood.  Wet wood will eventually shrink as the moisture content leaves it, and any joints we’ve created with wet wood will lose their strength and stability.  

Drying time varies for a number of reasons, addressed later in this article.  There are also steps you can take either to keep your wood dry or to speed up the drying process.

Key Points:

  • Wood type plays a part in knowing how long wood will take to dry after rain.  Softer woods will dry faster than hardwoods, too.  Figure a few days to several weeks for it to dry.
  • If the rain storms were heavy and prolonged, and the wood became saturated, it will take a long time to dry.  Stacking in layers can speed the drying process along, and covering, in case there is additional rain, are good ideas.
  • Humid conditions might slow the process down a little, but covered and stacked in layers to allow for good air circulation can overcome that.

Whether it is lumber for a woodworking project, green wood, or firewood, the steps are the same.

We’ll address all of them in this article, including the various factors in wood that has been rained on and what to do before you use the wood.

How Long Does It Take For Wood To Dry, Whether Lumber For the Shop or Logs For the Fire?

The time it takes wood to dry after rain can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of wood, the size and thickness of the wood, the weather conditions, and the way the wood is stored.

In general, and from a few days to several weeks for wood to dry completely after being exposed to rain, there are variables that will determine the actual length. The following factors will affect the drying time:

  • The wood type: Some wood species, such as pine, are more porous than others and will therefore dry more quickly.
  • Size and thickness: This is kind of obvious – larger the pieces of wood will take longer to dry than smaller and thinner pieces. Wood size does matter. 
  • Weather conditions: Wood will dry more quickly in dry, windy conditions than in humid, rainy conditions.  A wet climate compels proper storage, stacking, and other means to facilitate drying. Humidity levels obviously impact the process.
  • Storage method: Wood that is stored in a covered, well-ventilated area will dry more quickly than wood that is stored in a closed, humid environment.

Here are some tips to help speed up the drying process:

  • Stack the wood in a single layer with plenty of space between the pieces to allow for airflow.
  • Cover the wood with a tarp or other breathable material to protect it from the rain.
  • Place the wood in a sunny, dry location.
  • Turn the wood over occasionally to help the moisture evaporate evenly.

If you are in a hurry to dry the wood, you can use a kiln or a solar dryer. However, these methods can be expensive and may not be necessary if you are patient.

Are There Woods That Dry Faster Than Others?

Wet Wood

Softwoods typically dry faster than hardwoods. This is because softwoods have a lower density and a higher moisture content than hardwoods. The following are some of the wood species that dry the fastest:

  • Pine: Pine is one of the fastest-drying woods. It is a light, soft wood that is commonly used for construction and woodworking.
  • Spruce: Spruce is another fast-drying wood. It is a strong, lightweight wood that is often used for making musical instruments.
  • Fir: Fir is a soft, lightweight wood that is often used for making furniture and other objects.
  • Hemlock: Hemlock is a soft, strong wood that is often used for making posts and beams.
  • Larch: Larch is a soft, durable wood that is often used for making shingles and other outdoor products.

Hardwoods, on the other hand, typically take longer to dry. This is because these wood species have a higher density and a lower moisture content than softwoods. The following are some of the wood species that dry the slowest:

  • Oak: Oak is a strong, heavy wood that is often used for making furniture and flooring.
  • Mahogany: Mahogany is a dense, durable wood that is often used for making furniture and musical instruments.
  • Walnut: Walnut is a strong, beautiful wood that is often used for making furniture and gunstocks.
  • Cherry: Cherry is a strong, colorful wood that is often used for making furniture and flooring.
  • Teak: Teak is a dense, durable wood that is often used for making furniture and outdoor products.

It is important to note that the drying time of wood can also be affected by the way the wood is stored. Wood that is stored in a covered, well-ventilated area will dry more quickly than wood that is stored in a closed, humid environment.

Speeding Up The Wood’s Drying Process

There are a few things you can do to speed up the drying time of wet wood:

  • Stack the wood in a single layer with plenty of space between the pieces to allow for air circulation. This will help the moisture evaporate more quickly. Split wood dries more quickly than logs.
  • Cover the wood with a tarp or other breathable material to protect it from the rain. This will help to keep the moisture in the wood and prevent it from drying too quickly.
  • Place the wood in a sunny, dry location. Direct sunlight will help to evaporate the moisture, and the dry air will help to prevent the wood from absorbing moisture from the air.
  • Turn the wood over occasionally to help the moisture evaporate evenly. This is especially important if you are stacking the wood in a single layer.
  • Use a fan to help circulate the air around the wood. This will help to speed up the drying process.
  • If you are in a hurry, you can use a kiln or a solar dryer. However, these methods can be expensive and may not be necessary if you are patient.

Of course, if you have access to one, kiln-dried wood is always safe to build with so long as it has not been rained upon.  Proper stacking to allow for air circulation, something overhead, whether a roof or a tarp, 

Here are some additional tips to help you dry wet wood safely and effectively:

  • Do not use a heat gun or other direct heat source to dry wood. This can cause the wood to crack or warp.
  • Do not store wet wood in a closed, humid environment. This will trap the moisture in the wood and prevent it from drying properly.
  • Do not stack wet wood directly on the ground. This will allow the ground moisture to wick up into the wood. The wood stack should be elevated.  The wood stack should also be spaced between layers to allow for the air to circulate.  An unstacked wood pile will take a year, at least, to dry.
  • Inspect the wood regularly for signs of drying defects. These defects can include cracks, warping, and staining.

By following these tips, you can help to speed up the drying time of wet wood and prevent drying defects.

How To Measure The Wetness Of Wood

There are two main ways to measure the wetness of wood:

  • Oven dry testing: This is the most accurate method for measuring moisture content. The wood sample is dried in an oven until it reaches a constant weight. The difference between the initial weight and the final weight is the moisture content.  This is a kind of silly way, though, since there are such things as meters to measure moisture level.
  • Moisture meter: This is a faster and more convenient method for measuring moisture content. The moisture meter uses electrical resistance to measure the moisture content of the wood.

Here are the steps on how to measure the wetness of wood using a moisture meter:

  1. Choose a moisture meter that is appropriate for the type of wood you are measuring.
  2. Clean the surface of the wood where you will be taking the measurement.
  3. Press the moisture meter firmly against the wood.
  4. Read the measurement on the moisture meter.

The moisture content of wood is typically expressed as a percentage. The standard moisture content of wood is between 8% and 25% by weight.

Here are some tips for measuring the wetness of wood using a moisture meter:

  • Make sure the moisture meter is calibrated before using it.
  • Take multiple measurements at different points on the wood to get an accurate reading.
  • If the wood is very wet, you may need to wait a few minutes before taking the measurement.

In short, do not rely on the feel of the wood surfaces to determine if it is wet.  Go the extra steps because it’s the moisture in the wood, not on the wood that will matter. Even if the wood surface feels dry, the wood may still very well be wet inside.  This is where the moisture meter comes in.

What Is A Moisture Meter?

Wood Moisture Meter

A moisture meter is a device that is used to measure the percentage of water in a given substance. This information can be used to determine if the material is ready for use, unexpectedly wet or dry, or otherwise in need of further inspection.

Moisture meters work by measuring the electrical resistance of the material. The resistance of a material is inversely proportional to the amount of water in the material. This means that the more water in the material, the lower the resistance.

We have two main types of meters: pin-type meters and pinless meters. With pin-type meters, two metal pins are inserted into the material. The resistance of the material is measured between the two pins.

Pinless moisture meters do not have any pins. They use a high-frequency signal to measure the resistance of the material.

Moisture meters are used in a variety of industries, including construction, woodworking, and manufacturing. They are also used by homeowners to check the moisture content of their homes.

Here are some of the uses of moisture meters:

  • To determine the moisture content of wood: This is important for ensuring that wood is dry enough to be used in construction or woodworking projects.
  • To detect moisture problems in buildings: Moisture can cause mold, mildew, and other problems in buildings. Moisture meters can be used to identify areas of moisture problems so that they can be repaired.
  • To check the moisture content of food: Moisture content is important for food safety. Moisture meters can be used to check the moisture content of food to ensure that it is safe to eat.
  • To measure the moisture content of soil: Moisture content is important for plant growth. Moisture meters can be used to measure the moisture content of soil to ensure that plants are getting enough water.

Here is a good one on Amazon:

Klein Tools ET140 Pinless Moisture Meter for Non-Destructive Moisture Detection…
  • WATER LEAK DETECTOR detects moisture content from leaks and flooding
  • PINLESS MOISTURE METER measures moisture content in building materials
  • NONDESRUCTIVE DETECTION up to 3/4-Inch deep using Electromagnetic field (EMF) technology

Why Shouldn’t You Build With Wet Wood?

There are several reasons why you should not build with wet wood.

  • Wet wood is more likely to warp and crack. Wood swells when wet. As the wood dries, it will shrink, and this can cause it to warp or crack. This can make the wood unstable and weak, and it can also make it difficult to work with.
  • Wet wood is more likely to rot and decay. Moisture provides a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other fungi. These organisms can cause the wood to rot and decay, which can weaken the wood and make it unsafe.
  • Wet wood is more likely to attract insects. Insects, such as termites and carpenter ants, are attracted to moisture. They can bore into wet wood and damage it.
  • Wet wood can catch fire. Wet wood is less flammable than dry wood, but it can still catch fire. If wet wood is exposed to a fire, it will burn more slowly, but it will also produce more smoke and toxic fumes.

For these reasons, it is important to dry wood before using it in construction or woodworking projects. The ideal moisture content for most wood species is between 8% and 12%. You can use a moisture meter to check the moisture content of wood.

Don’t Burn Wet Firewood

There are several reasons why you don’t want to burn wet firewood.

  • Wet firewood produces more smoke. The moisture in the wood has to be boiled off before the wood can burn efficiently. This process produces smoke, which can be harmful to your health and can also cause creosote buildup in your chimney.  
  • Wet firewood produces less heat. The moisture in the wood absorbs heat, which means that less heat is actually released into the room. This can make it difficult to stay warm, especially in cold weather.
  • Wet firewood is more likely to smolder. If wet firewood is not properly ignited, it can smolder for a long time. This can be a fire hazard, as the smoldering wood can easily ignite other materials.
  • Wet firewood is more likely to produce creosote. Creosote is a black, tar-like substance that can build up in your chimney. If creosote buildup is not properly removed, it can catch fire and cause a chimney fire.

For these reasons, it is important to dry firewood before burning it. The ideal moisture level for firewood is between 15% and 20%. You can use a moisture meter to check the moisture content of firewood.

Seasoned firewood is always your best choice, as seasoned firewood does not carry the potential for the dangers

If you are burning wet firewood, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of problems.

  • Start with a small fire. This will help to prevent the wood from smoldering.
  • Add dry firewood as the fire burns. This will help to keep the fire going and prevent it from going out.
  • Be careful not to overload your fireplace or stove. This can cause the fire to get too hot and produce more smoke.
  • Clean your chimney regularly. This will help to remove creosote buildup and prevent chimney fires.

While it may seem pretty obvious why you shouldn’t try to burn wet wood, it is potentially dangerous, as you can see.  Seasoned wood is always your best bet for the fireplace or wood stove. 

Seasoned wood will be a while in coming after the wood is cut.  Splitting it before stacking will speed up that drying process.  Again the wood species will determine the drying time, too.  Softer, less dense wood will dry faster, while denser wood will take much longer. Again, the wood species will have a lot to say about it.

Kiln-dried firewood, of course, would be a luxury, with a faster and easier drying time.

But proper planning, like buying or cutting next season’s firewood this season, and stacking/storing it well, eliminates the need for the kiln.  The idea of kiln-dried firewood here in the Berkshire Mountains seems like a waste of the kiln.

A few days to a few weeks is the answer.  What you do in stacking and storing will impact where in that range your drying time will be.  Plan well, stack and store well, and you’ll be closer to the few days end of that time.

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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