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What is kiln dried lumber and how is it used when building a home?

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


November 1, 2018 - Karl Yeh

When buying a new construction home, you may have heard of kiln dried lumber. It's probably the wood used for your house. In this episode, we discuss what it is and how it is used in the home construction process. We debunk some myths, types of wood used and the importance of moisture. 

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Hi, everyone, I'm Karl Yeh. Welcome to another Homebuyer's School video, a channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics and tips from home buying experts.

And remember, if this is your first time on this channel and you wanna get the latest strategies from the experts, hit the subscription button below, hit the little notification bell so you don't miss anything [00:00:30].

So, today I'm joined by Kurt Gibson, Director of Field Operations with Brookfield Residential. And the question we're gonna answer today is:

What is kiln dried lumber and how is it part of a new home?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Well, kiln dried lumber is a process you go through to bring lumber from the forest to a job site. You often, remember, you've got a tree and you gotta cut it down, then you gotta mill it and then put it into a process.

And essentially what happens is, they basically put in a large [00:01:00] oven and then it basically gets moisture content removed out of it for most kinds.

Karl Yeh:                           Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                    

And the normal range for moisture content is they wanna try and get it down between 13 and say 18, 19%, again depending on the climate we're in, it'll go up or it'll go down depending on where it's at.

But the idea is is to get kiln dried lumber so that you have it usable on the work site. I think there's some real myths to that.

Some of the myths are that people think there is never any twisting [00:01:30] and warping that can occur. I will say that it's very common that that can happen, but it is to help reduce that. If you took obviously material right out of the forest, you'd have tremendous warping and twisting.

So it's trying to help reduce that in a lot of cases.

Karl Yeh:    So is it any type of lumber?

So when you're talking about kiln dried lumber, so it can be any type of tree that could be used?

Kurt Gibson:                    


Yeah, I mean obviously that there's gonna be a lot more thorough process for if you're using wood on kitchen cabinet doors, or you've gotta use it for hardwood flooring.

Typically on a hardwood [00:02:00] floor or cabinet doors, it would probably as low as 6%, sometimes relatively.And so you're getting that down a lot more because it's more of a finished product.

It makes a substantial difference on that, and you don't wanna mention that the 13 to 19%, that is mostly lumber. If you have hardwood, like I said, finishing material or cabinets, it's gonna be a lot lower than that.

Moisture content of kiln dried lumber

Karl Yeh:                          

So when you talk about 13 to 19%, what does that mean?

Kurt Gibson:                    

It's basically the amount of moisture content, or probably the easiest way to say it is the water content that you have in the product.

So they're really trying to reduce it.

I mean obviously, [00:02:30] like a lot of us, like human beings, we have a lot of water, and those trees have a lot of water in them, and they're trying to reduce it down.

In a Calgary climate, it'll be very dry and you'll see a lot-

Karl Yeh:                           You wanna reduce it a little bit lower.

Kurt Gibson:                    

You will. But, you know, sometimes people want like if you've got hardwood floors,

you wanna have a certain level of moisture 'cause it's again, it's a living organism even though it's dry and it's been taken out of the tree.You still wanna have a moisture content in there to give it to its best health.

Karl Yeh:                          

Okay, okay. So let's say for example if the [00:03:00] lumber's going to, let's say Vancouver, somewhere it's a little bit more wet, I guess the water content would be a little higher?

Kurt Gibson:                    

It can be, yeah, it can designed for that for sure. Because obviously, it's like anything else.

Wood is like any product. You wanna be able to make sure it's comfortable in its surroundings, and it'll adapt and that sort of thing. And when you're building a house and you putting it all together, it does take a while for it to adapt, but you're right, it depends on the climate.

There are certain products, like a hardwood floor, in Calgary you'd [00:03:30] never want to probably put a bamboo floor in Calgary, because it requires such a high moisture content and what's gonna happen is you're gonna get cupping, or you're gonna get shrinkage and cracking in that material.

Karl Yeh:                           Oh, okay, yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                    

And so it's not a great product of putting in Calgary, where regular hardwood floor, maple floor is much better because it's a harder product.

Karl Yeh:                           And I think the big question here is,

Does this type of lumber actually absorb moisture?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Every wood still absorbs moisture, [00:04:00] it always does. It's trying to find the right balance so that it performs in the right way.

That's always the key that they're trying to get to by having that click kiln drawn number that they're trying to achieve, whether it's a finished product or whether it's raw lumber is what they're trying to do to make sure it performs in the right way.

There's always air content or water content in the air, so.

Karl Yeh:                          

So one last question. I know we, in previous videos we talked about engineered hardwood.

Does that have anything to do with the kiln dried lumber?

Kurt Gibson:                    

Engineered [00:04:30] hardwood, typically there's a small top layer that still has a wood. It's not as like ... The old hardwood is typically three-quarter inches, at three-quarter inch thick.

And the engineered hardwood is a small top layer, so it can still be affected by it.

Karl Yeh:                           Yeah.

Kurt Gibson:                    

But it's generally not as conducive to the moisture issues because it also has a manufactured substrate so that it stops it from warping and cracking and stuff, too.

Karl Yeh:                          

Perfect. Do you have anything else to add?

Kurt Gibson:                    No, I don't.

Karl Yeh:                          

Awesome. Well, thank you very [00:05:00] much for joining us and we'll catch you next time.


Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional home buying questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

Homebuyer's School publishes new content weekly so subscribe or check back regularly for the latest information, strategies and tips from homebuying experts. 

About Kurt Gibson:

Before starting his work career, Kurt Gibson, received Diploma’s from SAIT in Architectural Technology and Building Development Technology. Several years ago Kurt completed the Business Essentials “Mini MBA” from U of C Haskayne School of Business. Kurt has over 30+ years of experience in the Home Building Industry in Calgary and has work for several Builders over that time in all capacities from Sales, Design, Estimating, Construction and Customer Care. He prides himself in having strong leadership skills with coaching backgrounds in both sports and the business world.


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