IN DEPTH: Lumber and Structural Panels

LP’s FlameBlock OSB features a fiberglass- reinforced Pyrotite treatment that provides flame-spread resistance and burn-through resistance to meet 15-minute thermal barrier protection requirements and 30-minute Class A flame spread ratings. According to the company, because the structural design values are not reduced, the panels carry load/span and shear design values equivalent to an untreated wood structural panel in the same thickness category, providing for design flexibility.

Weyeheuser Diamond PanelsEdge Diamond is the newest, and most robust, of Weyerhaeuser’s line of premium subflooring panels. The panel is engineered for unmatched durability to resist inclement weather. It features a fully sanded face, includes Down Pore self-draining technology, and carries a 500-day no-sand guarantee.

“More and more are we seeing lumber and panel treatment methodologies moving away from traditional pressure treatment methods of yesteryear toward high-tech coatings, nanotechnology, and other means of providing long-lasting protection in line with building code requirements,” says Nathaniel Bruce, business development and marketing manager for distributor Sherwood Lumber, whose product offerings include LP FlameBlock OSB.

Georgia-Pacific recently joined Huber Engineered Woods in the market for panels that integrate a weather-resistive barrier into the sheathing. GP’s ForceField and Huber’s ZIP System eliminate a step in the installation process. RoyOMartin’s Eclipse wall sheathing incorporates a reflective foil that also eliminates the need for a separate housewrap. It’s a sister product to Eclipse radiant barrier roof sheathing; LP also offers a radiant roof panel, TechShield, which the company says blocks up to 97% of radiant heat and can reduce attic temperatures by up to 30 degrees F.

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CMPC PlywoodCMPC’s Selex plywood is a high-quality knot-free visual panel, so it is ideal for use in furniture and flooring. It comes in seven thicknesses to meet most needs.

In subflooring, Huber’s AdvanTech panels have been a leader in moisture- resistant subflooring, but other manufacturers are starting to come on strong with their own innovations that are resistant to absorption and edge swell.

Weyerhaeuser launched its new Edge Diamond at the International Builders’ Show this year. The top-ofthe- line, full-MDI flooring panel, a step above the company’s Edge Gold product, offers superior wet weather performance with a 500-day no-sand guarantee. The panel also includes the Down Pore self-draining notch-andgroove system to channel water away from the end of the panel.

LP SingledetailLP FlameBlock OSB provides 15-minute thermal barrier protection and a 30-minute Class A flame spread rating. According to the company, because the structural design values are not reduced, the panels carry load/span and shear design values equivalent to an untreated wood structural panel in the same thickness category, providing for design flexibility.

For dealers, the best advice for selling premium panel categories is education and awareness of product properties and benefits, says Jeremy Mauck, marketing communications manager for Weyerhaeuser OSB. “Builders have started asking for upper-level products. Recognizing that and playing with stock to meet demand for upper-level flooring products is something dealers can definitely do.”

Staying Ahead of Codes

Education is key for helping builders understand not just the differences between products, but the benefits and applications of wood structural panels overall.

“Some builders may try to save money by not fully sheathing the structure,” says Haney. “But when you fully sheathe the building, there are a lot of benefits in terms of shear performance, energy efficiency, and more. Double-sheathed plywood portal frames can replace more expensive steel frames, for example. It’s easier for the builder. You don’t have expensive steel frames coming from somewhere else.”

APA continues to serve as an advocate for the industry on the issue of energy codes to ensure wood structural panels remain a key and accepted element of efficient wall systems. In the latest round of balloting for the next version of the International Energy Conservation Code, APA’s Coalition for Fair Energy Codes supported two successful proposals that provide flexibility to permit wood structural panels in all U.S. climate zones.

APA Trus DetailAPA’s System Report 103 provides instructions on how to create a raised-heel truss using wood structural panels. The technique simplifies attic ventilation and provides more room for insulation.

The scenario gives builders flexibility and multiple paths to follow to meet certain energy levels. “The opportunity to use tradeoffs gives builders some more options in terms of the types of materials and assemblies they can use to achieve the desired energy performance,” says Thompson.

Along with advocating for the use of wood structural panels in energy-efficient structures, APA has developed several systems that use structural panels to create more efficient structures, resources savvy dealers can share with customers to increase awareness and nurture product loyalty. One method is the raised heel truss, a heel above the truss plate that creates more space between the top plate and the bottom of the truss that is easier to insulate.

“It’s fairly easy to incorporate into a home’s design,” Thompson says, “and it’s something specific that can boost the energy performance of the home.”

APA provides instructions, including easy-to-follow diagrams, as part of its educational publications. The association also addresses a number of other building techniques for wood structural panels. For example, in its Builder Tips series, featuring quickand- easy reminders, it addresses wood panel topics including proper panel spacing to prevent buckling. APA also offers videos that dealers can access on YouTube or even share to their own sites and social media.

“Because there has been a lot of turnover in the construction labor workforce, dealers need to be reminded that there are a lot of people who still need education on basic construction techniques,” Thompson says. “Sometimes those basic details can really make a big difference in the performance of the home. Things like squeaky floors, and buckling in the panels, and good nail patterns, and connection details. A lot of that seems really basic, but it’s important. The dealers play a really important role in getting that information out to the builders…. Dealers can really help with the education and recognizing that there are a lot of framers who need the assistance and the quick tips for construction.”

Dealers also should understand and communicate the details of the panel’s grade stamp, says RoyOMartin’s Byrd. “Typically, structural panel manufacturers have multiple span ratings and multiple grade stamps on the panels for more than one use. Manufacturing operations tend to not be as nimble with their production as distributors are or can be with their inflow of products, which can be a challenge as housing starts increase. A clear appreciation for what is in inventory and what the products’ end uses can—and cannot—be is critical, especially as the production-versus-consumption ratios begin to tighten.”

Lumber Innovations

Like wood structural panels, lumber manufacturers are continuing to innovate and add value to their product lines, giving dealers an opportunity to upsell to higher-quality products.

“I see more lumberyards leaning toward an appearance-grade for shorter-length lumber in 2×4 and 2×6 especially,” says Sherwood Lumber’s Bruce. “Wane on lumber is a red flag; even though generally it doesn’t affect the structural integrity, it often leads to callbacks on jobs and cull piles in the yards.”

Weyerhaeuser Treater SeriesThe lumber for Weyerhaeuser Treater Series is graded with a computerized system to ensure straightness. The lumber is a consistent and predictable appearance-grade sort, the company says, that provides for reduced inventory loss and cull rates, minimized bargain-bin piles, and reduced sorting of warped boards.

Weyerhaeuser offers Framer Series, which is performance tested with a computerized grading system to ensure every piece starts straight and stays straight, eliminating guesswork and callbacks. “We’ve got a great customer base for that product line,” says Neal Shunk, strategic product manager. “We continue to expand manufacturing capabilities to support growing market needs. To that end, we continue to add to our production footprint and have also launched a companion product line, Treater Series Lumber, an appearance- grade, warp-stable product ideal for exterior applications.”

“We spent a lot of time with builders to understand the problems they face. Whether product culls, build times, or callbacks,” says Shunk. “So products like Framer Series are meeting the needs of those builders directly. That creates a better relationship with the dealer by offering them that solution. And then ultimately there are fewer downstream challenges with the builder because there’s no picking up stray pieces…there’s a lot less care and handling because the customer is more satisfied.”

Sherwood ForkliftSherwood Lumber Corp. offers both structural and appearance-grade lumber in its line of wood products. Its distribution centers serve more than 1,800 lumberyards and manufacturers coast to coast, and its “Quick Ship” program delivers products within 48 hours. Strategic locations provide the flexibility to assist in longterm management of inventory needs.

Shunk recommends dealers take a similar approach. “Peeling the onion back to understand [customers’] issues with lumber leads to a better relationship with builders when you’re able to listen to those needs and connect them with a product that can solve that problem,” he explains. “We’ve got a lot of good solutions that can fit, but it starts with asking the builder what issues they’re facing.”

Canadian Lumber in Limbo

Finally, lumber manufacturers and dealers are keeping an eye on the Softwood Lumber Agreement between the U.S. and Canada. The agreement reached in 2006 expired in October 2015, with a no-grievance period through October 2016. A new agreement has not been enacted, and the International Trade Commission made a preliminary inquiry on Jan. 6, which could lead to new fines for Canadian mills down the road. But it’s an issue that could rage in the courts for years.

What’s more, the new presidential administration brings its own set of unknowns on trade issues.

The industry is definitely divided on the issue; builders are generally against the agreement, as no fees on Canadian imports mean lower prices. For dealers, the current situation creates volatility and uncertainty.

According to Ben Gann, vice president of legislative and political affairs for NLBMDA, last year Canada accounted for about 28% of softwood lumber sales in the U.S.

If a new agreement is reached, prices will stabilize as there will be set quotas and duties imposed when different quotas are reached, says Jeff Keller, director of legislative affairs for the NRLA. However, absence of an agreement can bring instability. “We are hearing that the International Trade Commission will issue the countervailing duties in May, but they will be retroactive to February 1,” Keller notes. “So, we are seeing prices increase now as they prepare and anticipate what the actual duties will be. Without an agreement, we are not sure how Canadian manufacturers will respond and how the issue of countervailing duties and tariffs will affect price volatility as well as availability of products.”

There is a lot of speculation as to how it will shake out. “Certainly, it will lead to some market volatility,” says Weyerhaeuser’s Shunk. “We anticipate both supplier and customer reactions to it.”

Dealers will need to stay tuned to see how things shake out, as well as to keep their customers informed and ensure product can remain in supply.

To learn more about these companies’ products, visit their websites.

Companies with blue links participated in this article.

Allweather Wood:

Belco Forest Products:

Boise Cascade:


Coastal Plywood:


Idaho Forest Group:


LP Building Products:

Manufacturers Reserve Supply:

Mid-State Lumber:




Sherwood Lumber:

Stimson Lumber:

Swanson Group:

Universal Forest Products:



APA-The Engineered Wood:

Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers

North American Wholesale Lumber

Southern Forest Products Association:

Western Wood Products Association:

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