How to Store Lumber Outside: Expert Tips for Keeping it Dry and Protected

To store lumber outside, it is important to keep it flat, straight, and dry. Avoid storing dry lumber outdoors as the outside elements can include water and drastic changes in temperature, which can damage the lumber.

However, storing green lumber outside is okay. Use stickers between each course of lumber to help it dry. If storing lumber outside in the winter, consider an unheated garage space or cover the lumber with a tarp, while still allowing for air circulation.

Avoid storing lumber in direct contact with the ground and elevate it on stringers to prevent absorption of ground moisture. Additionally, covering lumber stored in an open area can provide protection from the elements.

Site Selection

Consider the location and climate

When selecting a site for storing lumber outside, it’s crucial to consider the location and climate. Different regions have varying weather conditions that can affect the quality and longevity of the lumber. For example, in areas with high humidity or frequent rainfall, the lumber is more prone to moisture damage. Similarly, extreme temperatures can cause warping or cracking in the lumber. Therefore, it is advisable to choose a site that minimizes exposure to direct sunlight, rain, and extreme temperature fluctuations.

Choose a flat and stable surface for storage

A flat and stable surface is essential for storing lumber outside. Uneven ground or surfaces can lead to instability, which can compromise the integrity of the lumber stacks. To ensure the stability of the storage area, it is recommended to use materials like gravel, concrete, or asphalt. These materials provide a solid foundation for stacking the lumber and help prevent any movement or shifting.

Select an area with proper drainage

Proper drainage is crucial when it comes to storing lumber outside. Without adequate drainage, water can accumulate around the lumber, leading to moisture damage and decay. To prevent this, choose an area that is sloped or has a system in place to direct water away from the storage site. Additionally, avoid storing lumber in low-lying areas prone to flooding or areas where water tends to pool.

By considering the location and climate, choosing a flat and stable surface, and selecting an area with proper drainage, you can ensure the longevity and quality of your lumber when storing it outside.

Protecting The Lumber

When it comes to storing lumber outside, protecting the wood from the elements is crucial to maintaining its quality and longevity. The outdoor environment exposes lumber to water, temperature changes, and other factors that can lead to rot, warping, and other forms of damage. To ensure that your lumber remains in optimal condition, there are several measures you can take to protect it.

Use stickers to separate each course of lumber

  • Using stickers, or thin strips of wood, between each layer of lumber helps to promote air circulation and prevent moisture buildup.
  • Place one sticker on each end of the lumber, and additional stickers in between for larger pieces.
  • Make sure the stickers are evenly spaced to provide adequate support.
  • This method helps the lumber to dry uniformly and minimizes the risk of warping or mold growth.

Apply a weather-proof coating or sealant to the lumber

  • Applying a weather-proof coating or sealant to the exposed surfaces of the lumber can provide an additional layer of protection against moisture and UV rays.
  • Choose a coating or sealant specifically designed for outdoor use and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.
  • Ensure that all sides of the lumber are covered, paying special attention to the end grain.
  • Regularly inspect the coating or sealant for any signs of wear or damage, and reapply as needed.

Cover the lumber with a waterproof tarp or plastic sheet

  • Using a waterproof tarp or plastic sheet to cover the lumber provides an additional barrier against rain, snow, and other forms of moisture.
  • Ensure that the tarp or sheet is large enough to fully cover the lumber stack and extend down the sides.
  • Secure the tarp or sheet tightly to prevent it from being blown away by strong winds.
  • Regularly check for any rips, tears, or other damage in the cover and repair or replace it as necessary.

By using stickers to separate each course of lumber, applying a weather-proof coating or sealant, and covering the lumber with a waterproof tarp or plastic sheet, you can effectively protect your lumber from the outdoor elements. These measures not only help to maintain the quality of the wood but also ensure its durability for future use.

Stacking And Layout

Stack lumber in a stable and secure manner

When it comes to storing lumber outside, it is important to stack it in a stable and secure manner. This will help prevent any accidents or damage that may occur from an unstable stack. One way to achieve this is by using sturdy wooden blocks or pallets as a base for the stack. These will provide a solid foundation and ensure that the lumber is not sitting directly on the ground, which can lead to moisture absorption and rot.

Additionally, make sure to stack the lumber evenly and avoid any overhangs or protrusions that may cause instability. It is recommended to stack the lumber in multiple layers, with the heaviest and largest pieces at the bottom and the lighter ones on top. This will help distribute the weight evenly and prevent any potential collapses. Secure the stack with lumber straps or rope to keep it in place, especially in areas where strong winds are common.

Leave space between the stacks for air circulation

In order to prevent moisture buildup and promote air circulation, it is crucial to leave spaces between the lumber stacks. This will allow air to flow freely and help the lumber dry out properly. Without adequate airflow, the lumber can become susceptible to mold, rot, and warping.

When positioning the stacks, ensure that there is enough space between them to facilitate proper ventilation. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least one foot of space between the stacks. This will depend on the size and quantity of your lumber, so adjust accordingly to allow for optimal airflow.

Ensure the lumber is stacked straight and level

To maintain the integrity of the lumber and make it easier to work with in the future, it is important to stack it straight and level. This will help prevent any warping or twisting that may occur if the lumber is placed unevenly.

When stacking the lumber, take the time to align each piece properly, making sure they are parallel and touching each other evenly. Check the levelness of the stack periodically, adjusting as necessary to ensure it remains straight and stable. Using a level or a string line can be helpful in achieving this.

By following these tips for stacking and layout, you can effectively store your lumber outside while minimizing the risk of damage and deterioration. Remember to regularly inspect the lumber and make any necessary adjustments to ensure its continued stability and quality.

Preventing Insects And Pests

When storing lumber outside, it is crucial to take preventive measures against insects and pests. These wood-damaging creatures can cause significant damage if left unchecked. Regular inspection, the use of insect repellents or deterrents, and proper storage techniques are essential to protect your lumber.

Regularly inspect the lumber for signs of infestation

Insects and pests can silently make their way into your lumber stacks, causing damage that may go unnoticed until it’s too late. To prevent this, make sure to regularly inspect the lumber for signs of infestation. Look out for small holes, sawdust, or the presence of larvae or adult insects. If you notice any signs, take immediate action to eradicate the pests and prevent further damage.

Use insect repellents or deterrents

In addition to regular inspections, it’s advisable to use insect repellents or deterrents to keep the pests at bay. Apply an appropriate insecticide or repellent to the lumber, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. This will create a barrier that deters insects from infesting your lumber. Be sure to choose a product that is safe for use on wood and does not harm the environment.

Store the lumber away from direct contact with the ground

Another crucial step in preventing insects and pests is to store the lumber away from direct contact with the ground. Elevate the lumber on stringers or pallets to prevent absorption of ground moisture and promote airflow. This helps to discourage pests that may come from the soil or damp areas. Additionally, be sure to cover the lumber stored in an open area with a material that offers protection from the elements, such as a tarp or plastic wrap.

By following these preventive measures, you can ensure that your lumber remains insect and pest-free, preserving its quality and usability. Regular inspections, the use of repellents, and proper storage away from the ground are essential steps to protect your investment and prevent costly damage.

Winter Storage Considerations

Store lumber in a dry and insulated space, such as an unheated garage

When it comes to winter storage considerations for lumber, it is essential to find a dry and insulated space to store it. An unheated garage is often a suitable option for this purpose. These garages usually have moisture-permeable concrete floors, which help prevent moisture absorption and allow for proper ventilation.

Use moisture-permeable concrete floors or stickers for ventilation

In order to ensure proper ventilation and prevent moisture accumulation, it is important to either store the lumber on moisture-permeable concrete floors or use stickers between each course of lumber. These stickers create space for air circulation, allowing the lumber to dry evenly and minimizing the risk of mold or rot.

Cover the lumber with a tarp and check regularly for moisture accumulation

When storing lumber outside, it is crucial to protect it from the elements. One effective way to do this is by covering the lumber with a tarp. The tarp helps shield the lumber from rain, snow, and excessive moisture. However, it is important to regularly check the lumber for any signs of moisture accumulation. This allows you to take necessary steps to dry the lumber or make adjustments to the storage conditions if needed.

Additional Tips For Long-Term Storage

Avoid storing lumber directly on the ground

When it comes to long-term storage of lumber outside, one of the most important tips to follow is to avoid storing the lumber directly on the ground. Storing lumber on the ground can expose it to moisture, leading to rotting, warping, and other damage. To prevent this, it is essential to elevate the lumber on stringers or other supports to prevent direct contact with the ground. This allows for proper airflow and helps to keep the lumber dry and in good condition.

Maintain proper ventilation and airflow around the lumber

Maintaining proper ventilation and airflow around the lumber is crucial for preventing moisture buildup and mold growth. When storing lumber outside, ensure that the storage area has adequate ventilation to allow air to circulate freely. This can be achieved by leaving enough space between each stack of lumber and allowing for gaps between the boards. Additionally, it is important to avoid tightly covering or wrapping the lumber, as this can restrict airflow and trap moisture inside. Periodically inspect the storage area to ensure that airflow is not being blocked by debris or obstructions.

Regularly inspect and maintain the storage area for any potential issues

Regular inspection and maintenance of the storage area are essential for ensuring the long-term storage of lumber. Inspect the storage area for any signs of damage, such as leaks, cracks, or pest infestations. Address these issues promptly to prevent further damage to the lumber. Additionally, regularly check for any changes in the storage area’s environment, such as shifts in temperature or humidity levels, and make necessary adjustments to maintain optimal conditions for the lumber. By conducting regular inspections and performing necessary maintenance, you can ensure that the storage area remains in good condition and the lumber is protected from any potential issues.

Frequently Asked Questions On How To Store Lumber Outside

Is It Okay To Store Lumber Outside?

Storing dry lumber outdoors is not recommended due to exposure to water and temperature fluctuations. However, it is acceptable to store green lumber outside. To ensure proper drying, use stickers between each course of lumber.

How Long Can Lumber Be Stored Outside?

Lumber should be stored inside or at least under shelter to avoid damage from water and temperature changes. It is best to avoid storing dry lumber outdoors. However, green lumber can be stored outside with stickers between each course to aid in drying.

How Do You Store Lumber Outside In The Winter?

To store lumber outside in the winter, it is best to avoid storing dry lumber outdoors as the elements can cause damage. If necessary, store the lumber in an unheated garage space or cover it with a tarp, ensuring it is stickered.

Check on the lumber regularly and avoid direct contact with the ground.

Can You Store Wood Outside Under A Tarp?

Yes, you can store wood outside under a tarp. However, it is not the best solution as the tarp may not provide sufficient protection from the elements. Using alternatives such as metal sheets or sturdy wooden boards is recommended for better storage.


Properly storing lumber outside is essential to maintain its quality and prolong its lifespan. Avoid storing dry lumber outdoors, as it is susceptible to water damage and temperature fluctuations. However, green lumber can be stored outside with the help of stickers between each course to facilitate drying.

If storing lumber in the winter, consider an unheated garage space and use a tarp or cover to protect it. Always check on the lumber regularly to ensure its safety. Following these guidelines will help you keep your lumber flat, straight, and dry, ready for your next project.

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