IN DEPTH: Lumber and Structural Panels

By / March 8, 2016
Adding features to help builders resolve challenges helps move these products away from the commodity category and puts more focus on suppliers’ services and support.

Adding features to help builders resolve challenges helps move these products away from the commodity category and puts more focus on suppliers’ services and support.

With housing starts growing in both single-family and multifamily categories, lumber suppliers are looking to advance their product lines beyond the commodity mindset to help builders resolve more challenges. They also point to the many intangibles provided by suppliers that provide values beyond the initial price when considering options for dimensional lumber, OSB, plywood and structural panels.

“The trend we’re seeing with OSB panels is a move to enhance products in different ways,” says George Hendry, market development manager at Weyerhaeuser. “Builders are struggling with reduced levels of skilled labor, so they’re looking at enhanced panels to help them find ways to make products easier and faster to install. They want attributes that will enhance performance in the field.”

Adds Ray Peters, vice president of marketing at RoyOMartin, “Our new products are aimed at finding ways to decommoditize OSB and excel at all three factors that drive purchase decisions: price, quality and delivery. We want to stand out in that equation.”

Reducing processes and steps for installation has become a priority as builders face new challenges. “One headwind we face today is the shortage of skilled labor in many markets,” says Mary Jo Nyblad, commodity sales and marketing director at Boise Cascade. “Finding, training and retaining qualified employees at all levels of our industry will continue to be a challenge. We as an industry have done a poor job of marketing ourselves. We’re a well-kept secret, especially for young people. It’s a big blind spot.”

A prime focus for adding value has been protecting panels against moisture during the construction process and afterward, helping overcome issues with less efficient crews and eliminating the need for adding housewrap in a separate step. “Products that provide wet-weather protection are popular, as are those that need less sanding and prep time for framers and floor installers,” notes Weyerhaeuser’s Hendry.

In January, Georgia-Pacific introduced a new integrated air- and water-barrier system called ForceField. “No unrolling, fastening, taping or calling in multiple crews to install housewrap leads to time saved on the job,” explains Jeff Key, marketing manager. Roseburg Forest Products offers a plywood underlayment with a wax undercoat. “Builders like it, but it hasn’t gotten much traction yet in volume due to limited exposure to the market,” says Steve Killgore, vice president of sales and marketing.

Weyerhaeuser-Edge-oriented-strand-boardWeyerhaeuser Edge oriented strand board (OSB), known for its green edge, is said to help keep costs down by providing panels that are strong, stiff, and stable. They are manufactured to install and stay flat and are engineered to precise specifications to resist cupping, warping, and sagging. Self-gapping tongue-and-groove edges help to make installation go quickly.
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Craig A Shutt

Craig A. Shutt, senior contributing editor of LBM Journal, has more than 35 years of experience covering the LBM industry.