When it comes to communication in any arena, it’s helpful to define our terms – and make sure that when we use certain terms, we’re in agreement with what they mean. Failure to use certain terms consistently can lead to major miscommunications and frustrations. Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we prioritize open, clear, thorough communication with our customers and put an emphasis on education. But not every lumber supplier is as passionate about that kind of thing as we are.
In the lumber industry, there are certain terms that tend to cause confusion. In these articles, we aim to help demystify some of those terms for you, equipping you to be able to ask the right questions, helping ensure that you receive the lumber with the precise specifications you need. The first such lumber term is “kiln-dried lumber.”
Why Specifying Kiln-Dried Lumber Matters
Just about anyone who works in or around the lumber industry is pretty familiar with the term “kiln-dried lumber.” We know to ask for it, because we realize that lumber must be dried thoroughly before we can use it effectively to construct anything. However, not all kiln-dried lumber will have the same moisture content; and depending on your application, you will want to specify precisely that.
How To Differentiate Among Kiln-Dried Lumber
While moisture levels between 6 and 8 percent is the North American standard for kiln-dried lumber, that’s not the case across the globe. In wetter climates such as Europe, the typical range is, instead, 12 to 15 percent. For exterior applications, this distinction won’t be a significant one; however, in a climate-controlled environment, that difference could prove catastrophic.
But, you might be wondering, is it really an issue here in North America? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re sourcing exotic lumber, it certainly can be. Those mills are often run by European companies and, as a result, typically dry their lumber to European, rather than North American, standards. So anytime you’re sourcing African or European species, you want to ask specific questions about the moisture levels to which your lumber has been kiln-dried. These species include African Mahogany, European Beech, French Oak, Sapele, and Wenge.
What We Do Before Re-Drying Lumber
Because of this issue, here at J. Gibson McIlvain, when we receive these species, we actually re-dry them to North American standards; however, not every lumber supplier will take this extra step, and it may well explain some of the price discrepancies you will find. You should also know that this re-drying process isn’t exactly a no-brainer; in order to result in stable products, both the air-drying step and the additional kiln-drying step must be done carefully.
In Part 2, we’ll examine the details of our air-drying and kiln-drying process for exotic hardwood species that arrive in our lumber yard.