Engineered Lumber vs. Dimensional Lumber: Pros and Cons

What are the advantages of using engineered lumber vs solid lumber?

Is dimensional lumber becoming a thing of the past? Opinions vary, but statistics show that, yes, with a tight building envelope, there are more pros than cons of working with engineered lumber vs solid lumber. Perhaps using dimensional lumber will become a thing of the past. There has certainly been a major uptick in the amount of engineered lumber usage in the past 10 years.

Recently I ripped down and  installed an off-sized, dimensional 2×6 that was purposely analyzed and deemed straight for a tile shower wall only to come back a few days later and see that it had twisted probably 20-30 degrees out of line.

Even though this is probably inexhaustible content, here are 3 primary reasons Crossroads Construction would like to use engineered lumber vs solid lumber in your new house.

engineered wood joists on a steel beam
  1. Dimensional stability. Since raw wood harvested from trees is always drying out from tree to end use, there is almost always going to be instability (warping, twisting, bowing, cracking, etc) and movement even, and sometimes especially, after installation in a house that becomes climate and humidity controlled. Much could be said about the relationship between humidity and wood because wood finds its EMC (equilibrium moisture content) relative to whatever environment its in. Therefore, because wood is often stored in higher humidity environments and has a higher capacity to retain moisture, once installed in a climate controlled environment, it will once again acclimate and dry out, causing down-the-road issues such as wall irregularities, drywall recalls, and cracked tile. Engineered lumber starts out with a lower original MC (moisture content) and greater dimensional stability because of the manufacturing process of resins, glues, and wood particles instead of raw wood. Engineered lumber also always comes straight and true ensuring that every piece can be used and there’s no waste of time or material sorting and analyzing the lumber like any good framer should do.
  2. Structural integrity. It seems strange and impossible that a vertical web of 1/2″ OSB sandwiched between dimensional, but sometimes engineered, webbing (aka I-Joist) provides greater strength, durability, less deflection under load, and longer spans than traditional lumber of the same size, yet that is exactly what the science and load testing consistently tells us.  Many tests have shown a 2-3 times increase of strength and integrity from dimensional lumber to certain engineered products of the same size such as an LVL (laminated veneer lumber).
  3. Resistance…to fire, insects, and mold. Some I-joists now come with their own code compliant fire resistance, and many, if not most, manufacturers are incorporating insect and mold resistance into their engineered lumber products.

For more great articles on using engineered lumber vs solid lumber, check out this link (external site – opens in new window)

or this list (external site – opens in new window) of 5 fundamental changes we’re experiencing as an industry and slowly acclimating to.

Till next time,

Build Tight, Ventilate Right

If you’re in the market for a high quality custom home builder who is educated in all the fine details that are involved in building a home, give us a call @ 570.412.1565  We’d love to talk to you about what it looks like to build a home that will withstand the elements for years to come.