GOOVD WOO(D tIIUSES AIPIE BUILT
01r DRIY LUMBIErI
No. R1613 i
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
FOREST PRODUCTS LABORATORY
In Cooperation with the University of Wisconsin
.1r ", 7 _& '.
GOOD WOOD HOUSES ARE BUILT OF DRY LU!EER
By L. V. :ELLESDALL, Engineer
Forest Products Laboratory,- Forest Service
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Wo need homes in this country, millions of them, nob only for our
GI's, but for untold numbers of families whose present housing accommoda-
tions are inadequate. The buyers of these houses expect them to be permanent
homes, well constructed and comparable to the type built in nre.':.Ar day .3.
They will not be eual, however, unless the manterials used are equal to those
used in the past. One inrortant difference is the lack of stocks of seasoned
lumber and the fact that green or unseasoned material may be used.
The tremendous de.-and for housing will require an enormous amount of
lumber. Because preser-t lunb-r stocks are practically exhausted the lumber
required must be produced from trees now standing in the forests. Freshly
cut lumber is green, that is, it contains a lot of moisture or sap. This
moisture should be removed before the material is suitable for use. The
sawmill ca-.acity of this country for ordinary peacetime needs in the past
has been somewhat greater than is req-ired to fill orders for lumber so that
stocks have accumulated at the sw.'nnmill and in wholesale and retail yards.
Time wvas thus allavied for stock to be adeq otely dried or seasoned before it
was finally sold to the consumer. During periods when the demand for stock
exceeds the capacity of the mills, however, the stock on hand becomes smaller
and smaller, the time allowed for seasoning decreases, and if the demand
Maintained at lMadison 5, 7Nis., in cooperation with the University of
Report No. R1613 -1-
becomes Creat enough the lumber may be sold as fast as it can be cut and
without time for seasoning. Such a condition of demand exceeding the pro-
duction began to develop before Pearl Harbor and has been with us ever since.
The backlog of yard stock was exhausted years ago, and it will be many years
in the future before stocks can be built up at sawmills and distributing
yards for seasoning.
It is immediately advantageous to both the lumber producers and the
distributors to sell the stock unseasoned since it means quick turnover of
capital invested, reduced labor costs for piling and handling, reduced in-
surance and carryi-nr charges, and no loss in rrade that may accompany sea-
soning. Tlevertheless, the responsible sa-.rmill operators and lur'ber dealers
understand the disadvantages of using unseasoned lumber and would prefer to
sell it seasoned. On the other hand, the current demand for lumber of any
kind is imr.crative and leaves them no choice but to sell it as fast as it
can be produced. The ultimate ho o-.cmers are, however, generally unaware
of the hazards they will encounter az a result of usirq the lumber unsea-
The GI in need of a place to live is naturally impatient in his
demand for a home but also expects that the materials used are of good
quality and suitable for the purpose. He will be bitterly disillusioned
when he finds through defects that develop in the structure, that unseasoned
material has been used. We have been building houses since our ancestors
first landed in this country and have learned how to build better houses
than they built,but we still have not learned how to build good houses of
,Joodsused for construction materials are of two classes: (1) those
used for beams, joists, studs, raftors, sheathing, and subflooring, commonly
Report No. Rl113 -2-
called framing or yard lumber; and (2) those used for flooring, finish, trim,
doors, and windows, called finishinr lumber or planing-mill products; Iost
items of framing lumber are customarily air-dried for several months at the
mill or distributing yard. At present, however, a large part of the framing
lumber is shipped as soon as cut, and the distributors take it direct from
the freight car to the building site. Hence, it is nearly as green when
delivered as when cut from the tree. Finishing lumber goes from the savrmill
to remanufacturing plants where it is kiln-dried before it is mad: up into
finished products. The larger, well-equipped planing mills cannot supply
the demand for windows, doors, and interior finish, and plants not equipped
with adequate kilns are producing these items from inadequately seasoned
When lumber dries, considerable shrinkage develops, and this shrinkage
should take place before rather than after the material is assembled in a
structure or finished article. Unequal shrinkage may cause the individual
pieces to warp or twist, to check and split. Good seasoning practice at the
mill minimizesthese defects,but there is no adequate means of controlling or
preventing such defects where unseasoned lumber is used in construction and
the seasoning takes place after erection.
Defects that can be expected to develop in conventional construction
resulting from the use of unseasoned framing lumber are principally the re-
sults of unequal shrinkage,which causes excessive and unsightly plaster
cracks, distortion of door and window openings, binding of moving parts,
doors that will not latch, openings and cracks that permit air infiltration,
and floors that are not level. Shrinkage around chimneys, fireplaces, and
plumbing pipes creates leaks and sometimes a fire hazard. Warping, twisting,
checks, and splits also weaken the structure, and in some cases/distortion
Report No. Rl613 -3-
of roof or walls; nails driven into unseasoned lumber loosen up later when the
lumber dries. Unzeasoned lur.ber also adds a decay hazard, particularl- over
basemantlesz structures. $Shrin,:;e of irnadequately seasoned finish lumber
causes open niter joints in door and -vindow' casings and similar finish, and
cases doors and panels to warp and twist. Shrinkage of flooring causes open
cracks bot-een floor boards, creaking and noisy floors and stair treads.
Blue stain resent in exterior finish causes paint discoloration.
The defects naturally result in greatly increased maintenance costs,
disfigurement that cannot be concealed, ani dissatisfaction on the part of
the over with his investment. It may be expected that o-wners will not take
pride in such homes, but will attempt to sell or dispose of them just as
soon as better houses are available.
In producing prefabricated houses of wood the same necessity for sea-
soned material is equally important. The parts must have practically no
shrinkage from the time they are nachined and assembled in shops until they
are erected on the site; otherwise the units will not fit together properly.
Unseasoned material does not have such stability. The covering- parts of
prefabricated floors and walls are generally glued to the framinr members,
and strong glue joints cannot be obtained with unseasoned material.
The influence of powv-rful agencies, both Gov.-rrnmcnrtal and private,
will be required to get properly seasoned lumber back on the market again.
It is to the interest of all agencies financing building construction to in-
sist that the materials used be suitable for the purpose, and such agencies
can play an important part in establishing suitable moisture content specifi-
cations and adequate policing to obtain complin.ncc. It will also be necessary
to establish economic incentives by which it will be to the interest of manu-
facturers and dealers to distribute seasoned stock.
Report :-o. PRl613 -4-
Pending the time when seasoned stock is again available the individual
builders can help themselves by certain oey.pe diets that can be emr-loyed to
obtain some degree of seasoning before the building is plastered. For ex-
ample: (1) Purchase framing lumber as far in auvw.nce of actual construction
as possible and have it piled on stickers according to good piling practice.
Sixty days for inch lumber and 90 days for 2-inch lumber will generally
provide fairly well-seasoned stock. (2) Halting the construction after the
building is framed, sheathed,and roofed and before it is lathed will result
in comparratively rapid seasoning. It may. take 60 days, however, to dry the
stock to a well air-dried condition, (3) Since the vertical shrinkage of
joists and plates is cumulative, there will be more evidence of shrinkage in
the second floor than in the first floor of an all-frame house. On this
basis, one-story houses will suffer less than two-story houses and owners
might consider one-story houses wv;hen these can be made to suit their needs.
(4) In some localities dry kilns can be found where the owners are willing
to kiln dry stock for a fee. In a suitable kiln, framinr- lumber up to 2
inches thick can be adequately dried in about 1 week. (5) Ordor interior
finish and trim from companies that are adequately equip ed with dry kilns
orthat are in a position to obtain properly seasoned material.
Time and money expended to get dry lumber or to dry it before the
house is enclosed will pay good dividends in reducing maintenance, increas-
/ing the value, and satisfaction of ownership of the completed structure./
ing the value, and satisfaction of ownership of the completed structure.
Report No. R1613
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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