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Can You Build with Green Lumber? Is It a Good Idea?

Chainsaw cutting log

Whether you’re building a home or something else, using fresh-cut timber is sometimes possible. However, it depends on the type of wood and your home’s style. Often, it isn’t possible, so you’ll need to use timber kiln-dried wood instead.

With that said, just because you can use green lumber doesn’t mean that it is a great idea. There are some differences between them, so you should be careful regarding which one you decide to use.

We’ll take a look at situations that make good use of green lumber in this article, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of this material. There is not a clear-cut answer of when you can use green lumber and when you can’t. It depends a lot on your personal preferences.

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What is Green-Wood?

stacks of lumbers
Image Credit: antmoreton, Pixabay

Greenwood is timber that has been fresh-cut. It has not been dried or seasoned. Therefore, it still has high moisture content and is “green.” It isn’t a reference to the wood’s color—it’s a reference to the wood’s moisture content.

In many cases, you can choose both green-wood and seasoned timber for many different projects. They have their advantages and disadvantages, so it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Advantages of Green Lumber

There are several advantages to green lumber, though there are also a few problems that tend to pop up.

Cheaper

The main draw of green lumber is that is it much cheaper than kiln-dried lumber. For the most part, this is because you don’t have to pay for drying. Because there are fewer steps involved, the lumber is decently cheaper. Therefore, you can save a lot of money by choosing green wood over seasoned lumber.

Easier to Work With

Green lumber is much easier to work with than some other types of lumber out there. It is green and has a high moisture content, which means that it is quite bendable. Therefore, if you need to bend the wood, then you may want to choose greenwood since it is far more bendable than dry wood.

Easier to Cut

Because green wood has a higher moisture content, it is also quite a bit easier to cut. This is a huge benefit if you are working with hand tools where power may be lacking. They will also require less muscle to manipulate, which is important for smaller projects.

For instance, spoons were often carved out of greenwood. In fact, most utensils were once carved out of greenwood.divider 1

Disadvantages of Green Lumber

lumber on shelves
Image credit: JueWorn, Shutterstock

However, there is a reason that green lumber is not used quite as much. These disadvantages simply make it unusable for some projects.

Bendy

First and foremost, green lumber is very flexible. For some projects, this is great. You can manipulate it easier and make cuts easier. However, in some projects, the last thing you want is bendy wood. For instance, a table made out of greenwood will bend and bow as you use it.

It’s is best to avoid greenwood when you are building furniture or anything that doesn’t need to move around.

Moves

Even if you aren’t actively using greenwood, it will bend, swell, and shrink. Typically, it will shrink overall as it dries out. However, because it hasn’t been dried, it may also move much more easily than you anticipate. If you need the wood to stand up to regular use or against the wind, then greenwood is probably not the best option.

Mold

Because of the high moisture content, mold is attracted to green lumber. For this reason, you have to be very careful when you install it. Even before you install the wood, it may begin to mold. Mold spores are in the air, so it doesn’t have to actually come in contact with mold to mold. For this reason, all greenwood tends to mold and there isn’t much that you can do to stop it.

Greenwood can attract insects and bacteria as well, though to a lesser degree.divider 1

Uses of Greenwood

There are just some projects that make better work of greenwood than others. Sometimes, the advantage of greenwood potentially outweighs the negatives, especially if you’re using it in a situation that doesn’t need particularly strong wood.

For instance, greenwood turns very easily which helps speed up the process for woodturners. If you’re making bowls or spindles, then greenwood is typically utilized.

However, any wood used for bowls will eventually dry and become more oval-shaped. Therefore, if the bowl’s long-term appearance is important it’s vital to use dry wood instead. Sometimes, woodturners will almost finish a project and then set it aside to finish it later. In this way, you can take advantage of the benefits without dealing with the potential downsides.

Often, furniture builders will use greenwood for stool and chair seats. Seasoned wood legs will then be placed into the seat of the chair. The seat will eventually shrink as the greenwood dries out, making the legs fit in tighter and more securely.

However, there is always a chance that the seat will split as it dries, which is obviously a huge defect.

Once upon a time, shipbuilders used greenwood to make boats. It could be bent easily to make hulls and can be shaped into position. Containers for wood storage often use greenwood as well, as it is easier to shape into a somewhat airtight container.

Sometimes, green timber is used for timber frames. Large planks and timbers for timber frames are quite expensive, so greenwood is the cheapest option. Plus, these frames are made to adjust with the seasons, so they are not harmed by the adjustment of the wood as it dries.

Carvers of all sorts utilize green timber, as it is easier to cut—both hand carvers and power carvers tend to use greenwood when possible.divider 1

Conclusion

Not all wood projects can utilize greenwood. In fact, greenwood is not commonly used in most projects, though it is still used in some niche crafts that require greenwood to work properly. For instance, spoon carvers often use greenwood, since it is easier to manipulate and cut.

Timber frames often use greenwood for a few different reasons. It is much cheaper than dry wood, and wood for timber frames is expensive enough, to begin with.

You need to be careful when choosing greenwood. While you can use it, it isn’t best for all projects, so be careful and utilize it in situations that call for it only.

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Featured Image Credit: Parilov, Shutterstock

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