Moisture issues in antique lumber

Is salvaged wood from old barns dry enough to use as one would use kiln-dried lumber? August 23, 2000

My custom sawing business has taken some quirky but fun turns. I am now also salvaging old barns containing nice chestnut and oak lumber and timbers.

The materials so far seem to be bone dry. I am storing all stock in my garage and barn. I know I need a moisture meter. Is my assumption that this old lumber may not need additional drying off base? And if it does, are there special drying considerations for antique wood?

Are you going to make furniture or parts from this lumber that will wind up inside a home?

If so, you may have to do some additional drying. My guess is that that old lumber is going to be between 10 and 15 percent in moisture content (MC).

If this is the case, it's not quite ready for interior use, as it will wind up shrinking a bit.

There are special ways to handle this kind of lumber, i.e., getting it down to 6 to 8 percent MC in the kiln; doing so is fairly simple.

For about $200 you can get a good moisture meter. It is worth the small investment to assure the correct MC. (Cheaper models are not worth the money.) If the wood is accidentally too wet, will it cost more than $200 to fix it? Will you waste more than $200 of your time?

I agree that the present MC is probably between 10 to 12 percent in most cases. Plus, you might have some bugs in the lumber which would be killed when the material is kiln dried.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator