For both burning and building, dried wood has many devotees. Left to its own devices, wood will absorb and release moisture in response to its surrounding climate and environment. Unfortunately, this wood—known as “green” wood— will shrink and expand inconsistently under this regime, making it difficult to use as a building component much less to feed a fire. While it is possible to use for certain custom-built homes and hand-crafted furniture, green wood is a difficult medium with which to work and the extra labor will doubtless figure into the price of the product.
The Drying Process
Air-drying is most commonly done for timber that has been sawn into planks or boards. Stacked and exposed to relatively cool and dry air, the boards are best placed to receive a constant and consistent flow of air. This method is perhaps less expensive than kiln drying and the quality of dried wood is first rate. At the same time, air-drying is extremely time-consuming, requiring months or even years for completion if the clime is not conducive to drying. Kiln-drying, on the other hand, is essentially oven-heating the wood to remove moisture. Energy sources for this task might be electricity, natural gas or even steam heat. Whatever the mode, the key element in kiln drying is control: humidity, temperature and movement are not subject to the elements, but instead to human decision. As with air-drying, timbers are stacked to allow optimal circulation, but in a confined and sealed space which is gradually heated to 170?F. Bi-directional fans move the air continuously while dehumidifiers expel its moisture, leaving the water content in the wood at less than 20 percent. This is why the vast majority of harvested timber is dried by kiln as opposed to air and solar power.
While the principles of kiln drying remain the same, the process for logs produces added results to those for sawn planks. Mold, fungi, insects, eggs and larvae are all killed under the intense heat of the kiln. This wards off decay and rotting. In the same manner, the intrinsic sap is crystallized, preventing seepage later on. Additionally, finishes can be applied to the wood immediately after drying, eliminating costly wait times. Furthermore, the kiln-dried logs rarely crack and are lighter in weight, giving them added advantage as building material.
Kiln-Dried Log Homes
Homes built with kiln dried logs pass muster in terms of conservation and sustainability. For one thing, it removes the carbon contained in the logs from the ecosystem for the entire life of the home. That life, moreover, is extended by kiln-drying, leaving owners with long-standing structures over many generations. Since solid logs both absorb and radiate energy, log homes provide natural heat in winter and cool temperatures during the summer, minimizing energy expenses considerably. Not only are they effective insulators against weather extremes, kiln dried log homes also powerfully block outside noise. Best of all, they add natural beauty to every landscape.