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In Depth: Engineered Lumber

Labor savers

Engineered lumber’s position in the current market is particularly strong in the sense of the tight labor market. Builders are strapped for talent, and engineered lumber products offer efficient installation opportunities.

Harmon is seeing high-production builders turning to panelization for roof trusses, wall panels, and, in some areas of the country, for floors. “When you’re talking about panelization and labor shortage, it’s one way those builders can keep churning out the homes.”

Packaged framing also can make the process even easier and straightforward.

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Boise reports its SawTek EWP processing system continues to expand to new dealers. The company has been upgrading existing systems with new software and preventative maintenance, and the SawTek machines are connected to a data collection system that helps anticipate wear or breakage before it happens.

Weyerhaeuser offers NextPhase Site Solutions, which combines structural wood products, services, software, fabrication, and marketing support, to provide pre-cut, labeled, ready-to-assemble framing packages. LP has a system for its distribution partners, as well. “It’s a very effective way to utilize engineered lumber as well as speed up the jobsite,” Harmon notes.

Harmon says LSL is ideal for dealers offering panels, as it avoids the culling that dimension lumber is prone to.

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Beyond such systems, dealers can support their customers through their own product knowledge and by providing educational tools to assist both designers and installers.

As always, APA offers a treasure trove of resources, including training videos and webinars, technical updates, and printed guides.

“We’re always interested in installation education,” says Thompson, “and the dealers play a pivotal role in making sure builders are getting good, simple tips and instructing them on how to properly install the materials.”

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This includes “back to basics” builder tips that educate new installers on things like proper panel spacing and installing squeak-free floors.

Recently, APA published a guide and a video on the use of sheathing as a nail base for siding, a technique that has strength benefits and can help with proper siding attachment versus installation without sheathing.

They also continually monitor wind storms and use damage assessments to provide recommendations and education on installation techniques, as well as offer input into building codes.

“In the world we’re currently in, with a skilled labor gap and inexperienced workers on framing crews and on jobsites, the emphasis on training and installation education is very important,” Thompson says. “It’s critical for the successful use of any building material.”

Rosboro’s Smith says that his company’s BigBeam DF is ideal in a tight labor market, as it can be used in place of jobsite-assembled products. The company hosts product knowledge training sessions, offers lunch-and-learns for the design community, and hosts CEU courses for designers and engineers.

LP says ride-alongs with its dealers are helpful in educating builders about the benefits of using LSL. “[Dealers] know their customers, and their customers will usually trust them, so if they bring to them a good product, a great proposition, they’re going to allow the contractor salesperson to put it on their next home,” says Harmon.

The manufacturer also leverages customer events, CEU classes, and lunch-and-learns.

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