IN DEPTH: Engineered Lumber

Code changes, potential shortages and other factors are causing builders to rethink their specifications, requiring dealers to work with customers to provide the best solutions.

Changes rolling through the engineered-lumber products (ELP) market have manufacturers and dealers staying attuned to market needs more closely than ever. Code restrictions, potential shortages, volatile pricing on dimensional products, labor shortages and other factors are creating challenges that are causing manufacturers to re-emphasize the benefits that made the products popular in the first place.

The biggest challenge comes from the fire-code changes in the 2012 IRC code, which mandate that I-joists in unfinished basements must offer the fire resistance of dimensional lumber. Due to the thinner profile, that means adding protection, either through one of several approved on-site applications or new products that add a coating. Many builders are still evaluating what option provides the best value.

LP-SolidStart-LSLLP SolidStart LSL offered engineered strength that is said to provide longer spans and greater design flexibility. Available in various sizes, it comes in 1.75E grade and can be used for floor beams, door and window headers, garage-door headers, roof and wall framing, rimboard, stair stringers and sill plates. Its consistent, low-moisture content helps resist twisting and warping

“Fire protection is the next important trend in the industry,” says Ben Midgette, EWP Engineer and Technical Services Manager for LP Building Products. “Builders are gravitating to solutions that offer a single product that meets those codes.” LP’s LSL product has gained popularity as a floor joist, he notes, and LP is developing a fire-resistant joist to be tested this year.

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“It’s causing a hiccup for builders right now,” says Mike McCollum, business director for engineered wood at Roseburg Forest Products. “ELP is retaining most of that business, as builders shifted to it in the first place for reasons beyond direct, initial costs. But the easy alternative if they don’t want to add steps is to shift back to dimensional lumber.”

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