Storing Lumber: Unheated garage, or a shed outside?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by Dan Lyke posted 03-26-2008 01:34 AM 5625 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4326 days

03-26-2008 01:34 AM

I live just north of San Francisco, in northern California. My shop is in an unheated garage, shared with a washer and dryer. We have an open shed/awning in the back yard.

We’ve been trolling Craigslist for deals, and currently have a couple of hundred board feet of maple and birch in the shop, and a similar amount of mahogany stored above the rafters (which is quite a bit warmer), but we’d like a little more shop space and have been thinking about moving the wood out under the overhang.

My current thinking is 4” or so of underneath (just in case there’s water on the concrete, as sometimes happens in big storms), and then stickering it, probably 1/2” or 3/4” stickers. The maple has the ends coated, the others don’t.

We live in a temperate climate and don’t cool the house, or heat it much, so outside should be close to inside. In the summer we don’t get rain, we could store cardboard outside. If anything, the dryer in the unheated garage, even though it’s vented outside, would raise the humidity in the shop.

On the other hand, we also have a rainy season. We’re coming up on 7 or 8 months of dry, but we do have a few months of lots of rain.

Anyone got experience with this? We’d love to have a little more shop space, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of the wood.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

16 replies so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4190 days

#1 posted 03-26-2008 02:11 AM

Good question!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4076 days

#2 posted 03-26-2008 10:22 AM

I am storing a bunch of cedar in my unheated garage in Minnesota. I am sure moisture is the key, more so than temperature, so that is what you have to deal with.

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4501 days

#3 posted 03-26-2008 01:10 PM

If you do cover it with plastic, allow room for air movement on all sides, don’t seal it completely.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3989 days

#4 posted 03-27-2008 04:10 AM

Take a listen to one of the latest Matt’s Basement Workshop Podcasts. His latest interview with Hendrik Varju on wood movement goes into this topic a great deal. You may be surprised by how easy it will be to store the wood outside.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

View Narayan's profile


8 posts in 3925 days

#5 posted 03-27-2008 08:10 AM

I store wood outside and move it into the shop a few weeks before I’m going to build with it. I live in CA too, just south of SF, actually, and this works well.

What you want to do is allow air to pass around each board. Sticker the boards, seal the ends, etc. Keep it out of direct sunlight, but not under anything like plastic. Inside my shop, I have wood on those bracket elfa shelves, also stickered. That’s the stuff which gets used next. I try not to accumulate too much wood; it’s far too easy to do, and I don’t have a lot of space. I basically have on hand what I can use for the next project.

Can’t say I’ve had many problems…been doing it this way for 2 years.

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4232 days

#6 posted 03-27-2008 07:56 PM

Part of my stock of lumber is stored outside in a purpose built shelter (very dry- no water, lots of fresh air and not stickered). Some of the lumber was kiln dried (6%) – But now it is sitting at about 18%. It takes a few months to re-aclimatise its self (dependent upon conditions) back to the 6 – 8 % it originally was (the workshop is kept at 30 to 45% RH, ave temp 15°C [60°F]).

Whatever you decide:
  • Keep it DRY
  • Let it Breath
  • No direct SUNlight
  • Keep it flat
  • Keep it a minimum of 12” above the ground
  • Allow plenty of time for it to dry out again in the shop (Months, not weeks), depending on the MC of the wood.

Good Luck

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View Richard M. Petti's profile

Richard M. Petti

25 posts in 3914 days

#7 posted 03-27-2008 10:36 PM

Dan I have been in this woodwoking for a long time. I have had wood stored about everywhere you can think of. I live in westren New York. Everyday the weather may be diffrent.

Outside is good—use a cheap plywood for cover. Sticker and leave sides open. If it get wet it will dry back out. No hurt. Make sure you keep it off the ground no less then a foot.

Inside works well and depens on if you are heated or not. Sounds like you are not. I built racks high in the shop. Stays real good.
When you sticker use the same kind of wood to make your sticker out of, long term storge and getting moist or wet will leave black mark on the wood that will be deep and very hard to get off. You said you had maple, this is light color and will mark easy.
Good Luck hope it helps.
Enjoy the woodworking.

-- Just believe and God will take care of the rest

View Richard M. Petti's profile

Richard M. Petti

25 posts in 3914 days

#8 posted 03-27-2008 10:38 PM

Dan when you build the plywood roof leave 8’ to 10’ overhang.

-- Just believe and God will take care of the rest

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4326 days

#9 posted 03-28-2008 05:07 AM

Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement, everyone!

The current shed/patio awning structure has that sort of an overhang (sides and roof of corrugated metal and fiberglass), so, yeah, my thinking was to stack it well out of the way in the back of that. Clear of the weather (the cement it’s on doesn’t get wet that far back), so I don’t have to wrap it and risk rot. Not quite sure how I’m going to satisfy the suggestion that I get it at least 12” off the ground, but I’ll figure something out there, might even build some sort of rack if I can figure out how to get things in and out easily (We’re still waiting for the toy coffers to refill to get a bigger router for the router table, so a MIG or TIG welder is out of the question for now).

I was going to use pine or fir for the stickering, ‘cause it’s cheap, but I’ll test some of the maple with that first to see if it discolors any. I envy you New Yorkers your eastern hard maple, this is a softer western broadleaf, so it may discolor differently.

I guess I need to see what I can do rack wise and figure out how to get it good and high up, and move it out there!

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3938 days

#10 posted 03-28-2008 06:27 AM

Hi Dan, I live in the sacramento area. I bought around 12,000 Bf of figured Big Leaf Maple one time and stored it outside for around 2 years without any problems. I first put heavy black plastic on the ground and then put 2×10 beams on top very well leveled with each other. The largest planks, which were from 3” to 4” thick, went down first. Then the stickering followed. 3/4” was fine. I also agree that you should use the same species of wood for the stickers. I made stacks about 4’ high and 5’ to 6’ wide. After everything was done, they were covered with heavy black plastic and then a thick plastic tarp. I left the ends a bit open, but with enough overhang so as not to allow water to get in. None of the wood got damaged. I have since built a large detached 2 car garage to store what is left of this wood and other species as well. One thing I suggest you do is to buy those home pestiside cans and toss them in the pile once in a while. Keeps the black widows and mice and other unwanted guests out of the wood pile.
One other thing, you should be happy to have some big leaf maple. It is very nice to work with and takes a great finish. Also, it is not as hard on the tooling. Is the maple figured to some extent?

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4232 days

#11 posted 03-28-2008 03:07 PM

Dan – do not use Pine, it leaks resin, it is too soft and will compress if you stack it really high & heavy. Use a cheap hardwood, like Alder, Aspen, Birch. The Black marks mentioned above are probably mildew, because the moisture got trapped and did not have enough air circulation in order to keep it dry/dry it out.

When the MC is reduced to about 18% or less, you should not have a problem with Fungus’ or mildew.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View 8iowa's profile


1587 posts in 3963 days

#12 posted 03-28-2008 04:17 PM

If you must store wood outside, keep insect damage in mind. Sprinkle the boards with Borax. Stickers are a good idea, especially for wood that has not been kiln dried. Space the stickers about three feet apart and in vertical alignment.

Also, when beginning a project, bring the necessary amount of wood into the shop environment and let it stablize for at least three weeks. Otherwise, it may move and warp as you cut it on a day to day basis.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4326 days

#13 posted 03-28-2008 04:38 PM

John, yeah, it’s got some figuring. The guy who was getting rid of it makes rubber stamp handles and said he can’t use the sap/heartwood interface, but we love that look, so we think it’ll make great cabinet frames. Oddly, the birch he threw in is really gorgeous, we’ve got one piece of that we’re using along-side some really nicely textured heartwood cherry on the face of a vanity because it’s got such great lines.

Tony, thanks, I forget, pine has been my cheap go-to wood for years, and now that I’m trying to do better work I forget that it’s soft.

8iowa, any risks from the Borax on the wood? We’ve got diatomaceous earth around the house (and underneath), a layer of that on the concrete underneath is definitely in order.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4375 days

#14 posted 03-28-2008 05:26 PM

Diatomaceous: consisting of or containing diatoms or their fossil remains.

(My wife is the geologist, so I had to look it up on; thought I’d post that for anyone else who didn’t know what it was… I love woodworking forums. Yesterday I learned the meaning of “autodidactic”, which is a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. )

Out of curiosity, how does that fact increase the need for Borax?

-- Ethan,

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3938 days

#15 posted 03-28-2008 05:29 PM

Dan, Buy a bucket of a product called Timbor or Boracare.. You just mix it with water at the solution on the directions and spray it on the wood. Let it dry and then sticker it. It will not effect the wood and will kill any wood boring bugs and other types of bugs that eat cellulose. I use always when storing wood.
Try combining some nice dark figured walnut with the big leaf also.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

showing 1 through 15 of 16 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics