How to Stack and Dry Large Beams

Advice on stacking, stickering, and banding large-dimension Oak timbers for air drying. January 18, 2012

Iím having some white oak beams cut for a timber cabin I will be building and I'm having some trouble finding information on how to properly stack large beams. I had planned on sitting the beams on cinder blocks, placing 2x8 stickers every two feet horizontally then setting 2x2 stickers vertically in the pile. I then planned on using a ratcheting tool and some 1/2" steel strapping with clamps and binding the entire pile together to prevent any movement. Last I would place some corrugated metal roofing on the pile and let it stand for a year before turning it into a cabin. Has anyone tried binding a pile like this to keep movement down? Do I need more spacing between the beams than a 2x2?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor X:
You don't want to use 2 x 8's for the sleepers the pile will be too close to the ground. You don't want to use them vertically obviously it will not be stable. Sleepers ought to be 6 x 8 or 8 x 8 etc. Landscape timbers make excellent sleepers.

Build you stack over gravel, concrete, or some other area where the weeds won't grow up to the pile. 2 x 2 stickers is overkill. 3/4 or 1" square is fine even for timbers. Center them above the sleepers which for large timbers (18" to 24") is fine. 12" is overkill for large timbers I believe.

Sleepers should be dry and treated and stickers should also be dry. Don't use dark colored stickers. I hope your timbers are white oak and not red. Nothing wrong with red it's just that they aren't nearly as resistant to moisture and bugs as white.

Cover the stack well so that the sides don't get rain or direct sunlight either. Make sure they get some airflow but not too much airflow as in stacking the pile on top of a naked hill. Banding will help but you will need to re-tighten the stack at least once within a week or two. Check it daily or else the banding effort will have been a waste.

Your idea - "I plan to band to prevent any movement" - get that out of your head. You cannot completely restrict movement in large timbers. Banding and weighting will help most timbers to some degree but not eliminate, and there are some timbers that will do what they want no matter what you do.

From contributor X:
I did not mean to say "landscape timbers". I meant to say RR ties. Do not use landscape timbers, although they would be better than 2 x 8ís but old RR ties are cheap and well suited for the application.

From the original questioner:
I was planning on using concrete blocks for direct contact on the ground and setting the base beams on top of that for the first course. Then use 2x8 stickers, centered over the concrete blocks for spacing between each row of beam. The only reason I wanted to use 2x8 stickers is they will be cut with the beams but will be green as well. I guess that is a no go since youíre saying they need to be dry stickers.

Questions: Will concrete block work for the bottom sleepers? How does one tightly band beams together without some sort of vertical sticker to allow for spacing between the beams and air flow? Seems this would allows air to flow on all sides on the beam not just the top and bottom.

Can you stack the beams side by side with no spacing between them and band each row? Although this would be the easiest it seems stacking beams side by side over 6' thick would encourage mold and reduce air flow drastically.

From contributor T:
Some band and others don't. I see the pros and cons they've spoken of on other threads. If going the banded route definitely vertical spacer, from what Iíve gathered before some still vertical sticker even if not banding. Notching and jointing are easier "greener". The project(s) I've done I've always cut and used soon so my evaluation is null and void as to the long term storage.

From contributor A:
Put the cinder blocks sideways so that the holes are open to airflow. If you turn them otherwise termites can crawl up the inside and it cuts down on air flow.

Do not bother banding the pile. If a timber wants to move it will move and it is best to know now and not in the wall. You need a gap between the sides of each timber and you need to make "H" stickers of 1x4's and 2x2's. This allows you to be able to stack and remove each run with a loader and forks. The tin is a great idea.

If possible oversaw by an inch or two to dress up after drying. Put your 2x8 on top of the blocks and then put a "H" sticker on top of it. Keep your stacks to no wider than six feet and make sure the bottom is stable. Old carpet makes a good ground cover to keep weeds down and if you put 6 mil plastic under it will keep the moisture low under the pile.

From contributor G:
Banding may discolor the oak where it makes contact.