What is the purpose of using air-dried oak beams?

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What is the purpose of using air-dried oak beams?

Oak wood, akin to wine and whiskey, matures in quality over time. The longer oak wood undergoes open-air drying, the lower its moisture content becomes, leading to enhanced wood quality. Oak beams with reduced moisture content presents several advantages. It is less prone to deformation and is more readily workable.

What is the moisture percentage of freshly cut oak wood?

Freshly cut oak typically contains a high moisture content, around 30 to 50%. When used in construction, there is a significant risk that the beams will warp, shrink, and/or crack during the drying process.

How are the oak beams dried?

Oak wood achieves optimal drying in the open air and will naturally dry due to exposure to various weather conditions; the moisture percentage will decrease gradually through exposure to wind and sun. It is important that the beams or planks are placed such that all surfaces of the wood are directly exposed to open air.

Air-dried oak beams usually undergo a drying process of at least five years, and sometimes even up to ten years. The duration of this process depends on the section size of the beam. A larger sized oak beam requires more time to dry than a smaller, lighter variant.


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What are the advantages of air-dried oak wood?

The benefits of air-dried oak wood are numerous and make it a popular choice for various applications. Going through this drying process results in stable wood compared to fresh sawn oak. This makes it less susceptible to warping, cracking, and other shape changes that can occur when wood is still damp. This stability is crucial in preventing damage to, for example, facades and plasterwork after construction.

Additionally, the drying process reduces the likelihood of infestation by insects and molds, which is especially important when the wood is used outdoors or in humid environments.

Due to the reduced moisture content, air-dried oak is lighter than freshly sawn oak. This can be an advantage in constructions where weight is a factor.

Furthermore, dry oak is generally easier to work with than damp wood for woodworkers and carpenters. Whether it’s cutting, planing, or milling, the process is smoother and more precise.

The finishing of painted or stained work is significantly enhanced by using dried oak. Because the wood is more stable and drier, the finish will be more durable and stay beautiful for a longer period.

Last but not least, air-dried oak offers a distinctive appearance and color that is appreciated by many. The beams acquire a beautiful natural grayish tint due to the influence of the weather. This aesthetic aspect can be a significant reason to choose this type of wood.

large stock air dried oak beams frank pouwer

What is the price range of air-dried oak beams?

The price range of air-dried oak beams is generally higher than that of freshly sawn oak wood. A comparison can be drawn to a bottle of red wine from the Bordeaux region; a bottle from 2016 is typically more expensive than one from 2021. There are several logical reasons for this, as is the case with air-dried oak wood.

Firstly, certain oak beams or planks may warp or twist during the drying process, rendering them unsellable. Additionally, the costs of the property and its associated maintenance during years of storage incur additional expenses. Moreover, continuous monitoring of wood quality and careful stacking require special attention. This is crucial for an optimal drying process. In summary, the lengthy drying process initially demands significant financial investment, as well as time and care to ensure the process runs smoothly. This explains why air-dried oak typically commands a higher price range than freshly sawn oak wood.

The bottom line

Similar to wine and whiskey, air-dried oak improves in quality over time. Freshly sawn oak initially contains 30 to 50% moisture, which can lead to distortions in a project. In contrast to freshly cut oak wood, air-dried oak undergoes a minimum five to ten-year drying process, resulting in more stable wood and also lighter in weight. It is less susceptible to deformation and cracking, and provides better protection against insects and molds. Despite a higher price range compared to fresh oak, the benefits can justify the investment for those who prioritize quality.

If you would like to learn more about air-dried oak, please feel free to contact us.