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Building with Green Lumber

 
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Neighbors:

We have a few hundred mature Southern Yellow Pine trees. We are getting ready to build our forever house and want to use these trees. Time is of the essence and we're looking for information about milling the logs as soon as possible and start building when a sufficient quantity have been acquired.  Curing time would be in weeks not months.

Our understanding is that our ancestors used green lumber for their buildings.

Thanks
 
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Location: Tip of the Mitt, Michigan
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monies cooking building
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Hi,  mill the lumber as soon as you cut the tree and debark it.  Then stack the lumber and cook it. Don't cook it too fast as it will split.
 
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Back in the early 80s I lived in a county in MN that had just one building code ... no building with green lumber. If I was tempted to build with green lumber, I might look a little deeper.  I did visit a house that had been constructed with green lumber.  In year one I could walk through it.  In year 4, I ducked my head at each ceiling joist.  I never could figure out how the shrinkage impacted the studs like that. Then again, it may not have had stud walls....I really can’t remember. As I write this I am thinking it may have been a poorly constructed log home that had both the interior and exterior walls covered to prevent drafts.
 
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OK, so how do you 'cook' it?
 
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You are correct that people have used green lumber for building in the past. Unfortunately, so much knowledge has been lost to time. Making a modern house that is well-sealed with lots of metal and plastic and such, I would think is likely to develop many problems. Houses many years ago were quite different. Even as late as the 1960's I believe many people used rough-sawn lumber straight from the mill for building (at least in my area). I know my uncle built his two-story gambrel roofed house with it, and I recall him telling of how it was still so green that when a nail was driven, it would squeeze water out the surface!  It's lasted almost half a century now with no ill effects as far as I know. My grandparent's house was framed with rough-sawn red oak as well. Back then, oak was considered the "proper" wood for building a house. If you have ever driven nails in green oak, and in seasoned oak, you will understand one reason they used it green! I've also noticed nails driven in green wood slightly rust in place, and grip tenaciously.

You might look to timber framers for the best information today. They still use relatively green timbers, and would likely have the best info on the little tweaks that make things work, like how to prevent windows from cracking as the wood shrinks. Luckily, I believe yellow pine is one of the most stable woods as it dries, and that is why it is sought for timber framing. I would definitely try to find a builder who has definite experience with green wood building before doing any on something as important as a house.
 
Arthur Angaran
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Cooking lumber is kiln drying. If you're milling dimensional lumber you can dry 2in thick wood in 2-3 months. Seal the ends, put the lumber in a green house or dry barn, stack the lumber, have fans, a dehumidifier, maybe a heater running. This is the quick explanation. A house is a lot of lumber to dry. You might be able to exchange your lumber for some kiln dried lumber if you are in a hurry, but you will need to pay for any shortfall.

A timber frame or log home can be built semi green. Make sure you seal the ends to avoid checking.
 
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I suspect our ancestors used green lumber only for short term log cabins and used logs/lumber aged a bit longer for their more permanent structures.  But that's primarily a guess based on watching one youtube video.

What style of construction would you be pursuing?  Log cabin style?  Stick built?  

I do believe board and batten siding was designed to be used with green wood and it handles the shrinkage.  But that's just the exterior skin of the building...
 
John F Dean
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Hi Mike,

Good point. I have used green lumber for siding.  I just made sure there was plenty of overlap.
 
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green lumber should work fine for clapboard style siding, as long as there is only one line of nails per board, it will allow the board to shrink or expand (mainly shrink if it's green) without splitting, etc.

I think that for floor or roof joists (if you're just using long timbers) I would prefer seasoned timber to avoid sagging, the green timber just has more 'give' in it.  Also they are much more subject to warping.

An alternative would be to use the green timber to built floor joists (top rail, bottom rail, cross pieces in between).  I would build them a bit stouter than spec, because the green wood is more flexible.  Years ago I built and add on to my house manufacturing my own struts.  I made a jig on my garage floor so I could just lay in my top and bottom rails and my cross pieces and then used triangular pieces of scrap plywood to tie them together on the side facing up, then I flipped it and used plywood scraps to tie the other side together.  They were heavier than storebought joists, but I was using scrounges wood, so they were close to free.  Also,  for ease of manufacture and possible access I made them much taller than I would have bought (taller was more expensive for purchased joists, but fewer connection points for homemade) and because of that they were massively overbuilt as far as strength went.  The fact that they are tied together fairly often should also limit warping just like it will limit sagging.
 
Raymond Geezer
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Thanks, Neighbors I appreciate all of your comprehensive responses to my query.

We are in the planning stages of our forever house in Northern Appalachia. We've settled on a modified post and beam construction, with YWP (yellow white pine) timbers harvested from the site. I'm planning to buy a fully optioned Granberg chainsaw mill and a Husquarvana Rancher 455 dedicated to it to cut the timbers and top/bottom plates (or is it girt)

At this step I'm leaning toward a modified post and beam with truss roof clad in metal. Board and batten siding is a strong consideration. That will require a bandsaw mill for efficiency of time, and wood waste.  
After a good bit of research I'm leaning toward the Woodland Mills HM130MAX in order to cut our 30" inch plus trees.

Any and all comments are appreciated.

Raymond
 
pollinator
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I have large reservations for the saw you have chosen to run your mill. A Rancher 455 isn't designed for a duty cycle that full-on milling requires. It's a good saw, maybe the best all around "homeowner saw" but it will be sad if you run it all day for months, milling that much lumber.

Also, I have seen a few cool solar kiln builds on You Tube. One guy even claims his wood is dry and ready in 3 months, using no power outside of solar powered attic fans.

Finally, I have also heard that board and batten was designed to make it possible to side with green wood. Everything other than siding, I wouldn't use green wood. You might wake up trapped in your house when the door sticks shut!
 
Dan Fish
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OH, I'm dumb. Sorry I somehow missed the part about the other mill. Geez... Disregard all my nonsense.
 
Jordan Holland
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I saw a pretty good video on youtube the other day of a presentation titled something like, "Should you use green wood for timber framing?" He opened with answering, "No, you shouldn't. Do timber framers use green wood? Yes, they do." I thought that was a good way to put it, lol. Drying large timbers is costly. It was more common years ago, but according to this guy, it changed when the government started taxing inventory. It simply became too costly for lumber companies to hold on to large timbers long enough to properly dry them.
 
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