Wood is a versatile and delicate construction material that’s best stored indoors. However, if you have limited storage space indoors, here’s a guide on how to store lumber outside and keep them from warping.

Water and moisture are the wood’s primary enemies. If wood warping, mold, and eventual decay are your concerns with storing lumber outside, read this blog post to the end to find out how to prevent their occurrence.

Let’s dive right in!

How to Store Lumber Outside

  1. Start by building a lumber rack or placing scrap wood on a flat concrete pad.
  2. Unload lumber close to your storage area and inspect them for defects.
  3. Unload lumber close to your storage area and inspect them for defects.
  4. Stack lumber on the rack and place ½” spacers between each board to promote air circulation.
  5. Finally, cover your lumber with a water and weather-proof material to keep the wood dry and in tip-top shape.

A Guide on How to Store Lumber Outside

Follow these steps to guide you through the process of storing lumber outside.

Step 1: Build an elevated lumber rack

If you’re storing lumber for a few months or an extended period, you need to build a simple lumber rack –if you don’t already have one. Build the rack in a dry area and close to your job site. 

Elevate the lumber rack stringers off the ground. This is to ensure the stored wooden boards aren’t in direct contact with the ground and prevent absorption of ground moisture. 

You can also opt to stack your lumber on scrap wood on a concrete pad or a patio. Also, plan to cover the rack with an overhead roof and a plastic tarp on the sides to keep the wood dry.

Step 2: Unload and Inspect lumber

Unload lumber away from wet or muddy areas, close to your outdoor storage space. Inspect individual wood for any damage, including splinters, mold, and bugs.

If any, separate the affected boards for specialized treatment and storage.

Step 3: Stack lumber on the lumber rack

Start stacking the lumber boards with the longest and widest going first. Then, keep layering the boards and use ½” spacers after every board to ensure proper airflow. Load up your lumber boards on the rack but don’t stack them higher than 12 “.

You can store Lumber wrapped in paper packages or those coated with weather protective coating for about 3- 6 months. But if the paper wrapping is damaged, store the lumber in a covered area.

Step 4: Cover the lumber with a vapor barrier material

Once all the wood is stacked up nicely, cover every inch of it with water and vapor-proof material to ensure the wood stays dry against external elements and condensation on the inside.

Causes of wood Warping

Warping happens when the wood has different moisture levels on various parts, which results in uneven drying and shrinkage speed.

The Five Types and Characteristics of Warping

Bow: This type occurs when the wood bends upwards on both ends yet remains flat on the face.

Cup: With this type, you will notice that both ends of wood curve inwards towards each other, meeting in the middle of the wood.

Twist: With this type, you’ll notice that the wood turns inward at both ends, resembling a twisted shape.

Crook: This type results from exposure to moisture on one edge of the lumber board, forming a C-shape.

Kink: This type of warping resembles an arm bent at the elbow because the wood bends upward on one end while the other remains flat.

Prevent Wood from Warping

Now that you know the various shapes your stored lumber can transform into let’s look at how to store them and prevent warping.

Ensure a clean and dry Storage area

Ensure the storage area is clean and dry throughout the storage period. Also, space the wood to allow for sufficient air circulation. Finally, remember to cover your wood with a vapor barrier material to keep the wood dry in wet and humid places to prevent warping.

Monitor the moisture content in the storage area

Ensuring the space is physically dry, and there aren’t leaks in the storage area is essential. Depending on how the weather behaves, monitor the moisture content in every storage space using a hygrometer.

Measure the moisture content of Wood

You should also check and monitor the wood moisture content before storage. In this case, you should use a prong meter to measure the wood’s surface and interior moisture levels. Both readings matter because they vary throughout the wood.

Ensure proper wood curing

Whenever possible, store dry lumber outside; they present minimal risk of deformation. But if you’re handling green lumber, ensure it dries and cures at a steady pace. While the lumber dries, keep them away from exposure to humidity or moisture.

Five Benefits of Storing Lumber Outside.

Here are Some of the Benefits You’ll Get While Storing Lumber Outside:

It prevents rot

If you’re planning on long-term storage, your best bet is to store lumber outside in an area free from moisture and constant dampness. An outdoor storage area has plenty of air circulation, and any damp spots would dry out fast, leaving no room for wood to rot.

Balance wood’s moisture levels

Wood tends to expand in heat and contract in the cold in response to the relative humidity in the atmosphere. This movement is an attempt for wood to balance its internal moisture content with its surrounding. This means your lumber boards will be alright in summer and winter.

Prevent wood from cracking and warping

Wood can warp or crack because of contact with moisture or uneven drying. Lumber stored outside is covered with a tarp that maintains the humidity levels in the wood.

Steady wood moisture and humidity levels throughout the year mean the wood will retain its shape and size without warping or cracking.

Keep away bugs and dirt

Freshly milled wood, firewood, particleboard, and plywood are likely dusty with sawdust or other contaminants. Storing wood outside will ensure the dust and dirt falls off the wood. Clean and dry wood discourages insect infestation, keeping away wood bugs.

Ease of access

You can easily draw lumber from an external storage area without worrying about boards rolling on the floor space. Also, it’s more convenient to store lumber near your job site or where you can easily access boards when needed.

Factors to Consider Before Storing Lumber Outside

Here’s what to keep in mind before and during the period you’re storing lumber outdoors.

Protect lumber from the elements

The outside environment presents the sun, rain, and snow, which can discolor, twist, or warp wood from prolonged exposure. Therefore, ensure you protect the lumber from the effects of elements using weather-proof plastic.

Check your tarp

Check your tarp regularly if you’ve used it to cover lumber stored outside. Since they are supposed to weather the elements and protect the seasoned lumber, ensure it’s not sagging or torn. If the tarp is worn out, replace it ASAP!

Keep lumber off the ground if you’re storing them over an extended period

It’s always a bad idea to leave lumber on the ground, even for a couple of days. If you’re not using the lumber within the day, store them on elevated surfaces to avoid contact and absorption of ground moisture.

Avoid damage to board ends

Avoid floating or snapping wood as a form of cutting: they’ll form chisel pieces that damage other board ends. Instead, cut the boards without splintering using a saw.

Keep wood away from moisture

The most important part of storing wood outside is to ensure the stored wood is free of moisture and dampness. Therefore, we advocate that you store lumber off the ground and away from wet areas. Also, ensure sufficient air circulation between the boards to avoid harboring moisture.

Is It Better To Store Wood Horizontally Or Vertically?

Depending on the amount of storage space at your disposal, you can store lumber vertically or horizontally. The most popular way of storing wood is stacking them up horizontally.

This method is easier and with minimal risk of accidents like lumber boards rolling off the stack and cracking. Although safer, storing wood horizontally takes up lots of space, especially if you have long wooden boards.

On the other hand, storing wood vertically resolves the issue of limited storage space; because it requires a significantly smaller storage space. Again, like storing wood horizontally, ensure the wood isn’t in direct contact with the ground.

While storing wood vertically, pay extra attention to securing the boards at the base and top to prevent accidental falls or wood bowing from imbalance.

Can You Store Lumber In The Garage?

Yes, you can store lumber in the garage. However, ensure the garage roof and the outside wall is leak-proof to prevent water from softening and ruining the stored lumber.

For instance, kiln-dried lumber is best stored inside a weather-proof garage. That’s because kiln-dried wood is seasoned and cured to last a long time.

Therefore they need to be stored away from elements and wet environments that may raise their moisture content and affect their lifespan.

FAQs

Can I store Lumber in a Lumber rack?

Absolutely! You can store lumber on a lumber rack or in the garage or whichever dry room in the house. However, ensure they are stacked well and are easily accessible without getting in the way of free movement.

How long can I leave wood outside?

You can leave wood outside for as long as 3 to 4 years without experiencing any damage. However, this duration varies depending on the storage conditions and the intended function of the stored wood. 

What is the best way to store lumber outside?

It is best to store lumber outside in a dry shed away from wet or muddy areas. Unload and stack lumber on elevated stringers to promote air circulation. By all means, ensure the lumber boards aren’t in direct contact with the ground. You can also cover lumber with a vapor barrier plastic to protect the wood from warping.

Is it okay to store lumber outside?

It is okay to store lumber outside, provided it’s in a space away from wet or muddy areas. In addition, ensure the lumber is elevated from the ground and covered against water and moisture damage.

Can I store untreated wood outside?

You can store and even use untreated wood outside, although it would be best to store them indoors. In any case, apply a weather protective coating to the end grain of the untreated lumber. In addition, cover lumber with a plastic tarp to prevent water damage.

How do you store construction lumber outside?

Unload lumber and stack them on a dry shed outdoors, preferably close to the job site. Avoid storing them in direct contact with the ground; instead, elevate lumber on stringers. This will prevent the absorption of ground moisture and promote air circulation.

Can pressure-treated wood be stored outside?

Yes, you can store pressure-treated wood outside. However, ensure that the pressure-treated lumber is stored in a shed with a roof or covered with a tarp to keep the wood from exposure to sunlight and rain. Also, keep them from direct contact with the ground; prolonged contact may trigger pressure-treated wood rot.

Can kiln-dried wood be stored outside?

Yes, you can store kiln-dried wood outside. However, storing kiln-dried lumber outside exposes it to unpredictable weather elements. For instance, a heavy rainstorm or little snow could raise the wood’s moisture content, beating the purpose of kiln drying them in the first place. 

Conclusion

Internal storage space is ideal for lumber, especially over an extended period. Still, knowing how to store lumber outside will spare you the headache when you don’t have as much space indoors.

Storing lumber outside is easy; elevate the lumber from the ground, ensure sufficient airflow between the boards, and no part is exposed to the fluctuating weather elements.

We hope you found this information insightful. See you in the next one.

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