SELLING ENGINEERED LUMBER: Do Dimension Lumber Labeling Concerns Apply to Structural Panel Products?

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In August 2014, Lowe’s agreed to pay a $1.6 million settlement in California as a result of a lawsuit brought by the district attorneys of several counties in the state. The lawsuit alleged that Lowe’s labeling of products was inaccurate and misled consumers as to the actual dimensions of lumber and other
building materials.

As part of the settlement, Lowe’s agreed to change its labeling of dimensional building materials in order to reflect both the common name of the product and the actual product dimensions. For instance, for the piece of lumber commonly called a 2×4, the label now reflects both that common name and the actual product dimensions (1.5″ x 3.5″).

The court decision is exclusive to the company. “On dimension lumber, with exception of Lowe’s stores in California, lumber dealers only have to put the nominal dimension size out there,” says Ken Dunham, executive director of the West Coast Lumber & Building Material Association.

And while the Lowe’s issue dealt primarily with dimension lumber, dealers are understandably cautious about labeling requirements for all of the building materials they sell, including wood structural panels such as structural plywood and OSB.

Whose Job is Measurement?
There is no need to head out with a tape measure to verify the size of every panel of plywood and OSB in the lumberyard. Dealers have no obligation to measure products nor to verify measurements given by suppliers. Suppliers are responsible for furnishing actual length and width dimension declarations for their
panel products. According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards written by the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM), average package components must meet these declared dimensions.

Performance-Category-vs-typical-Thickness-LabelFor thickness, there are two designations for structural plywood and OSB produced to U.S. Voluntary Product
Standards PS 1 and PS 2: “Performance Category” (abbreviated PERF CAT or just CAT) and “thickness label.” Both designations are printed on every panel as part of the APA trademark.

Performance Category
Performance Category is a designation for structural panels that is linked to the nominal panel thickness designations used in the International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC). Therefore, the Performance Category designates the panels’ technical capabilities within model building code applications.

Thickness Label
A second designation is the thickness label, which lists the panel thickness in thousandths of an inch. This label complies with national, regional, and local requirements for compliance with weights and measures regulations. The regulations require that all panels be within 3% of the labeled thickness, therefore the thickness labels are within 3% of the minimum thickness tolerance of PS 1 and PS 2.

Dana Ohler

Dana Ohler is a writer and web content developer for APA - The Engineered Wood Association.