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I bought some treated 2x4's from Lowes, and it was fairly wet and heavy. I went ahead and built a firewood rack, but screwing into it releases a lot of water. It got me thinking, is it better to let the wood dry out a while before building with it?

This project is done, but if I was going to use treated wood in the future, should I buy some ahead of time and let is sit outside for a few weeks?

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On a side note. Always use coated, or stainless steel fasteners when working with pressure treated lumber. –  Tester101 Jan 25 '13 at 14:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Unless you have a kiln to dry wood in, drying wood in a standard environment takes a really long time (if you buy firewood, usually you want ~2yr old wood!). I don't know that leaving it out for a couple weeks would dry it if it were so saturated that there is visible water coming out of it. It is recommended to let wood used for hardwoods sit a couple weeks to get accustomed to the environment as far as humidity goes, but it is not being dried any further.

I would recommend that you find a better source of wood that is dried properly. You also want to carefully select your wood, it might be that you just got a bad piece some how.

For outdoor projects, instead of PT lumber you might opt to try a wood like cedar which naturally resists the elements pretty well.

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Redwood is also decay resistant, but if you care about American forests, avoid buying it unless you can verify it was sustainably grown and harvested. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, just pointing out there is an issue. Do what you want as long as it is an informed decision. –  bcworkz Jan 26 '13 at 0:52

Most likely you got wood that had sat out in the weather and been rained on. Since this is pressure-treated wood it will be fine.

Agreed on using only hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel fasteners and hardware; the less-toxic chemicals now used for pressure-treating wood are unfortunately more corrosive to metal. Something I've done under e.g. a gate latch that was only electro-galvanized and had rusted in contact with the previous PT gate wood is (1) wire-brushed and painted that side and (2) put a piece of tar paper between the metal and the wood to reduce corrosion. Preferable to avoid trapping moisture next to the metal though, maybe spacers next time.

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+1 on the stainless fasteners.

TheSean, you're actually working with that pressure-treated lumber in its IDEAL condition for working. After it dries, it'll become much much harder & more prone to splitting. Right now it's very resilient, and every fastener you drive into it "wet" will become tighter as the wood dries out.

Too, dried PT lumber will give you the most painful splinters you'll ever get from any wood. Wet, it's much less likely to give you splinters.

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Wet wood is common when considering the PT stuff. Although not as easy to find, but there is such a thing as KDAT wood (kiln dried after treatment). You should consider the project and for things that will be exposed to the weather or high humidity, wet wood is OK, just heavy to work with. Two years of drying would only be required if you are building fine furniture, and hopefully you're not using Pressure treated stuff for that. In building construction, there are times when you want to minimize the shrinkage (primarily in board width) so there are not excessive gaps. My personal experience is that a 2x6 may shrink 3/16" to 1/4" in width, leaving a considerable gap once dried. If the project under consideration will suffer with that kind of gap, store the wood for a couple of months on a level surface using "stickers" to allow air flow. I have weighted and clamped stacks of wood in attempt to keep the warping to a minimum.

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