I was having lunch with Derek Best of Best Custom Homes back in August of 2017. We had run into each other previously at a Christmas party years earlier and then an architect I was speaking with told me I should contact him. I was just there to introduce our company and see if we could help him with any timber framing he had coming up. He asked me if I could do white oak stair treads for him. He said everyone he talked to told him that they could laminate up some white oak to make the treads but he wanted solid timbers. I have built trusses out of white oak in the past.

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Project Information:


So we came up with a plan. We (Ted and I) decided since we needed 8 treads we would order 11 timbers for the treads. That way if a few went “South” we had some back-ups. Also, we ordered them oversized. The finished treads would be 3-1/2″ by 12-3/4″. We ordered 5-1/2″ by 15″ rough sawn. Our hope was that if there was any twisting or cupping we could cut it out of the oversized timbers. We also asked for free of heart center (FOHC) timbers but the mill told us they couldn’t guarantee it. FOHC is less apt to check, twist and warp. I like to say that FOHC is to a timber framer what quarter sawn is to a cabinet maker.

Comparison of boxed heart timber and free of heart timber

Comparison of boxed heart timber and free of heart timber

The timbers arrived on a pallet. I unbundled them and restacked them with blocks to allow air to circulate all around. I also sealed the ends with end grain sealer.


Now we wait. In a perfect world, we would wait I would guess 6-9 months maybe longer. 9-11% is about the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) for our area. Check out this link for more info on EMC.   I never even took a measurement of the moisture content because it didn’t really matter. We only had about 6 weeks before Derek needed the treads on-site. We weren’t going to get to EMC in that time period. As long as we kept the timber ends sealed and slowed down the drying process we should be OK. It turns out that (3) of the timbers had pretty good checks in them. It was a good thing we ordered (11).

Here are the final shop drawings. You can see we had to modify one tread at the top.

In the end, it all worked out great. After letting them dry we sawed them to size and planed them on the 4 sided planer. They were cut to length, the end details were cut,  and Derek picked them up.

Customer getting white oak stair treads loaded in his truck.


Here are a few photos of them installed.

White oak stair treads installedClose up of white oak stair treads with steel wedges