20 Aug 2014

Wood Guaranteed Against Warp - Is that Possible?

So two studs go into a bar, . . . and a beautiful woman walks up to them and says "Hey big studs, I'm looking for somewood who will be straight and true, for I am only interested in a long-term relationship." Both studs look good, of course, from the outside, but how does she know what's inside? Did they grow up in a nurturing environment? Do they have character flaws hidden beneath their surface? Do they have a heart? Do they come with a guarantee?

To Weyerhaeuser, one of the leading forest products companies in North America, such a scene is no laughing matter. Last month the Davis-Hawn team traveled to Northern Louisiana for an introduction to their new Framer Series Lumber, along with a tour of the Dodson sawmill and surrounding pine timberlands. As you may know, Southern Yellow Pine lumber is valued for its strength (for floors, headers, ceilings and roof rafters), economical price, and close proximity from East Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana forests.

The Problems. Southern Pine timber that is grown for volume, harvested early, and visually graded as sawn lumber has a tendency to warp. New lumber is kiln-dried at the sawmill to 19% moisture content (MC), but it still takes about 120 days for the lumber to dry down to an "equilibrium MC" of 7-10%. As it dries, some of that lumber will warp, bow or cup. Such lumber moving in your home can bow walls, ripple roofs, bind up doors and windows, creak floors, crack drywall, and basically be a homeowner's headache and builder's warranty expense.

Another issue with Southern Pine lumber is that effective June 2013, the species was re-evaluated for its engineering properties and design values. It was basically downgraded, and the span charts that engineers, architects, builders and framers use were revised and the allowable spans reduced. For example, a 2x8 #2 SYP ceiling joist (16” o.c., 20 psf live load at L/240) used to span 17’5”, but under the new span charts it only spans 15’3”.

Framer Series Solution. Weyerhaeuser is tackling these problems head-on with its Framer Series Lumber. The key is computerized grading at the sawmill that has identified a predictable pattern to the defects, densities and grain structure that cause warp. As a result, they can now identify lumber that is "warp stable" - less propensity to warp as it dries. As you can tell from the photos, the wood looks great and is mostly FOHC (free of heart center), which contributes greatly to its stability.

Weyerhaeuser is so confident in this process (used in Carolina for 9 years with great success), they offer a 2-year limited warranty against warp, covering both material and labor. Equally important, instead of the old visual grade stamp of #2, the mechanically graded Framer Series Lumber is graded M-12, which for that same 2x8 ceiling joist increases the span from 15’3” (for ordinary #2) to 18’6”! This is simply a much better stick – stronger, more stable and consistent than ordinary lumber.

Weyerhaeuser Product

Is it Worth It? You will pay more for the Framer Series (they are pricing it monthly against other species and estimate a 10-15% higher price than #2 SYP), but according to Weyerhaeuser reps, "the value is there." In addition to the warranty, each board comes with its crown edge clearly marked (saving time in the field), and is treated with a factory-applied mold inhibitor. The above right photo (showing the crown arrow both ways) indicates that there is no detectible crown on those boards.

We are encouraged by Weyerhaeuser's strong move toward quality and are taking a hard look at offering the Framer Series Lumber here at Davis-Hawn. For the quality-conscious or high-end builder and remodeler, it has the promise of taking them back to the quality lumber of decades ago - allowing them to build their reputation with better, more stable and durable homes.

We like it, but are our customers willing to pay more for that extra value? Unfortunately, in Dallas, initial price often reigns supreme, for this is a market that routinely uses cheap #3 grade lumber in million dollar homes. "Why pay more?" the short-term logic goes, "it's all gonna be quickly covered up by drywall (and my warranty period is just a year!)”.

Great Investment. Well, we believe that high quality framing lumber is a great value and investment every time - since every visual and expensive part of the home hangs on the structural integrity of that frame. If short-cuts are taken in the framing, it will eventually show through . . . sooner or later. Can your reputation as a good builder take that risk?

Please let us know what you think. Are Framer Series Lumber, KD Douglas Fir and other high quality framing materials right for you? If so, we are the lumberyard you've been looking for!

Build to Last,


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