Is Kiln-Dried Or Air-Dried The Better Choice For Long-Lasting Decking?
Embarking on the exciting journey of choosing the perfect decking for your California home involves navigating through an array of choices, each with its unique nuances. One of the age-old debates you’ll encounter is between Kiln Dried VS Air Dried Wood decking.
Both methods come with their own set of advantages and considerations, but for the sun-soaked landscapes spanning San Diego & Orange County to Los Angeles & Santa Barbara, we highly recommend opting for kiln-dried (KD) tropical hardwoods—such as ipe, cumaru, and garapa—as the top choice for decking that’s not only long-lasting and low maintenance but also beautiful and a worthy investment.
In this blog, let’s delve into the intricacies of Kiln Dried VS Air Dried wood decking, shedding light on the specific benefits and drawbacks of each. Join us as we unravel the details that shape the perfect deck for the Californian lifestyle.
What is Kiln Dried VS Air Dried Wood?
As the names make clear, air-dried (AD) and kiln-dried (KD) represent two distinct methods of drying wood for decking, each with its own unique characteristics. AD decking involves the natural drying process achieved by exposure to open air, allowing the wood to acclimate gradually to local climate conditions. This can take anywhere from 8-16 months, and even more in some cases, depending on the thickness of the boards and the species.
Conversely, KD utilizes a controlled kiln environment for a faster and more precise drying process, ensuring a consistent and predictable outcome. It is a common myth that kiln-drying damages the wood, when in reality the balance of temperature, air circulation, and humidity is carefully controlled, as well as steam, is released to keep the wood from overdrying.
Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning it releases or absorbs moisture, based on its surrounding environment. When it releases or absorbs moisture, it shrinks or expands respectively. In decking, this is dangerous because it means your deck will lose its stability and need to be replaced more often.
Advantages of Kiln Dried VS Air Dried Wood Decking
When considering AD decking, one notable advantage is the natural acclimatization of the boards. AD boards adapt slowly to the surrounding climate and retain their natural colors better than KD wood.
On the other hand, KD decking offers a faster installation process, with boards ready for installation sooner than their AD counterparts. The controlled moisture content achieved through kiln-drying provides KD boards with predictability and consistency, meaning the wood lasts longer, is more stable, and is more resistant to warping.
Cons of Kiln Dried VS Air Dried Wood
As we previously mentioned, the most important thing to take into account is that moisture in wood is not a good thing. The moisture in wood will cause shrinkage and cupping, two things you don’t want to happen to your wood boards. What does this look like in decking? Boards warp or twist, joints becoming loose, boards split, adhesives fail, and many other aesthetic or structural issues that would take away from both the beauty and integrity of your project.
While AD decking has its merits, it comes with a longer installation time due to the slow drying process, requiring homeowners to exercise patience. AD boards also have a higher moisture content, making them more susceptible to mold growth, especially in humid environments. In the case of KD decking, a disadvantage is that it costs more up-front than AD decking. Also, if dried improperly, internal stresses can happen, similarly to AD boards.
What We Recommend for Decking in California:
If you can’t tell yet, we recommend KD for decking on the West Coast. The efficiency in installation is a key factor, allowing homeowners to enjoy their decks sooner. Moreover, the controlled moisture content achieved through the kiln-drying process makes KD decking well-suited for regions with lower humidity levels. KD is more resistant to warping, insects, moisture, and other environmental threats you don’t want ruining the look and functionality of your deck.
And, in the grand scheme of things, KD wood is actually a better investment than AD, which generally has a lower start-up cost. KD wood has a smaller chance of warping, so there are less maintenance costs in the long run that you may run into with AD wood.
Kiln-Dried decking not only provides efficiency in installation but also ensures that the reduced moisture content accelerates the readiness of the boards. Homeowners can expect a smoother and quicker installation process, allowing them to bask in the beauty of their deck sooner.
As a homeowner in California, it’s crucial to consider factors such as rapid climate changes and the desire for a low-maintenance deck. Brazilian Lumber’s Kiln-Dried decking addresses these concerns, offering resilience to the Californian climate and requiring minimal upkeep. The controlled moisture content and adaptability of KD decking make it a practical choice for those who value both efficiency and long-term durability.
When choosing where to buy your wood for your next decking project, inquire about the drying process used for their tropical hardwoods! Know ahead of time which drying process was used so you know what to expect and how best to install it.
At Brazilian Lumber, we carry KD tropical hardwoods, such as ipe, cumaru, and garapa. In our Los Angeles warehouse, we stock these hardwoods in all the dimensions and lengths you’d need for your outdoor projects. And, because we are direct importers, our pricing is unbeatable. As always, we are here to help you with your future projects, so don’t hesitate to reach out.