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MEMO OF TRANSMITTAL

To:
From:
Date:
Subject:

Joel Garcia, Garcia Bros Construction


Diego Rivera
November 27, 2016
Dimensional Lumber vs. Laminated Veneer Lumber: Selecting the Most Efficient Wood
Product for Structural Framing

Attached is the requested recommendation report concerning which wood product is the best
overall product for use in structural framing. The purpose of this report is to analyze two possible
solutions to this problem and determine which is the better option.
Recommendations
I evaluated two possible solutions in this report:
1) Dimensional lumber
2) Laminated veneer lumber
Methods
In order to make the most educated and objective decision, I sought information from various
sources regarding general information and the manufacturing processes of each possible solution.
My primary sources are the following:

Personal Interview with Joel Garcia

My secondary sources are the following:

Product description of laminated veneer lumber


Online article from Civil + Structural Engineer Magazine
Online Encyclopedia entry about dimensional lumber
Online article from Real Estate Management Industry News

Findings
The information I discovered from the methods listed above are discussed in detail in the Results
section of this report. This information is then analyzed in the Conclusions section.
Final Recommendation
The solution I ultimately recommend is the increased use of laminated veneer lumber wherever
possible in a project.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this report. I appreciate the opportunity to assist you
and improve your business. Please contact me if you have any further questions.

Dimensional Lumber vs. Laminated Veneer Lumber:


Selecting the Most Efficient Wood Product for
Structural Framing

Prepared for: Joel Garcia


Garcia Bros Construction
Prepared by: Diego Rivera
Date submitted: November 27, 2016

Table of Contents
Introduction. 4
Purpose
4
Background
4
Organization
6
Methods. 6
Primary Sources
6
Interview
6
Secondary Sources
6
Product Description
6
Online Magazine Article
7
Online Encyclopedia Entry
7
Online News Article
7
Results... 7
Primary Sources
7
Interview
7
Secondary Sources
8
Product Description
8
Online Magazine Article
8
Online Encyclopedia Entry
8
Online News Article
9
Conclusions. 9
Cost
9
Maintenance
10
Strength
10
Environmental Impact
11
Applicability
11
Final Analysis
11
Recommendation... 11
Glossary.. 12
References.... 13
Figures Referenced... 14

List of Tables and Figures


Figure 1.. 5
Framework of a two-story house.
Figure 2.. 5
Dimensional lumber.
Figure 3.. 6
LVL veneer assembly.
Figure 4.. 6
Finished LVL member.
Table 1.... 9
Summary of each solutions performance with respect to Garcias criteria.
Table 2.... 9
Price comparison between dimensional lumber and engineered lumber.
Table 3. 10
Strength comparison between dimensional lumber and LVL.

Introduction
Purpose
In this report, I will analyze the advantages and disadvantages of using dimensional lumber versus
laminated veneer lumber as a wood structural framing product. There are numerous factors that go
into deciding which material is better to usecost, load, span, durability, workability, aesthetics,
etc.so the purpose of this report is to seek the best overall wood product to use for structural
framing.
This topic is important because as a population, we are constantly taking steps toward being more
efficient, and engineered lumber is supposed to be exactly thata construction material that is
more efficient and valuable than its predecessor. On top of maximizing strength and costefficiency, however, we are also taking steps toward being more environmentally efficient
developing products that will be less harmful for our environment. In the case of lumber, a product
that can minimize the consumption of our shrinking source of trees is invaluable.
My client is Joel Garcia, a general contractor and owner of Garcia Bros Construction in Los Osos,
California. I will be searching for a solution to the following problem: which is the best overall
wood product to use for structural framing? After interviewing him to better understand his
perspective on the problem and his criteria for a solution, I have narrowed the options down to
dimensional lumber and laminated veneer lumber [1].
Background
Dimensional lumber has always been a prominent material in construction. Like in any field,
though, there is always room for advancement. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) was first
developed in the 1970s as a stronger, more efficient wood product for structural framing [2].
Although it was not as popular when it was originally introduced, laminated veneer lumber has
gained tremendous popularity as a framing product within the past several years [1]. The
emergence of this new engineered lumber product has challenged engineers and contractors to
reconsider which wood product is actually better. As mentioned above, though, there are many
factors that an engineer or contractor must consider when choosing a structural framing product.
The importance of these factorscost, load, span, durability, workability, aesthetics, etc.varies
between engineers and contractors but often make deciding which wood product is better much
more difficult. For example, Garcia explained that laminated veneer lumber is considerably
stronger than dimensional lumber [1]. LVL is also much straighter and usually does not deform
over time. Dimensional lumber, on the other hand, is significantly cheaper, is usually easier to
work with, and performs much better in fires and moist environments [1]. Often, neither wood
product clearly stands out as the best overall product to use in structural framing.
Span is a term that describes the horizontal distance between certain structural supports.
Structural framing, or simply framing, in construction is the assembly of members that give
structural support to a project. Projects can range from a simple outdoor deck to more complex
multi-story homes like the one shown in Figure 1 below. The framework of a project can be
compared to the skeleton of a human body.

Figure 1: Framework of a two-story house [6].

Dimensional lumber is traditional sawn lumber and is the most common wood structural product.
It is cut directly from a log and does not undergo any additional manufacturing processes.
However, if intended for use outdoors or in moist environments, it can be pressure treated to add
preservative qualities [3]. An example of dimensional lumber is shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Dimensional lumber [7].

Engineered lumber is a general term that describes many different types of fabricated composite
lumber. Laminated veneer lumber is a type of engineered lumber that is made by using an
adhesive to glue together thin, dried wood veneers. Veneers are thin plies of wood that are
typically 1/8 thick. The veneers are glued together so that the grains of each veneer are oriented
in the same direction. Gluing together multiple wood veneers in this manner randomizes
irregularities in an LVL member, making it stronger, straighter, and more uniform [2], [3]. Figure
3 provides a simple explanation as to how LVL is assembled. Figure 4 shows a finished LVL
member.

Figure 3: LVL veneer assembly [2].

Figure 4: Finished LVL member [8].

Organization
The remainder of this report is divided into the following sections: methods, results, conclusions,
and recommendation. In the methods section, I will discuss the primary and secondary sources I
used for this report. In the results section, I will discuss what I learned from each source listed in
the methods section. In the conclusions section, I will analyze the information from each source
listed in the methods section and use it to compare each solution to the problem that this report
addresses. The conclusions section will address the following criteria determined by Joel Garcia:
cost, maintenance, strength, environmental impact, and applicably. Finally, in the recommendation
section, I will state which solution I think is the best solution to the posed problem.

Methods
I conducted extensive research to learn more about dimensional lumber and laminated veneer
lumberwhat they are and their respective advantages and disadvantages. I sought information
from a professional in the construction field, online trade magazines, and technical articles.
Primary Methods
Interview

I interviewed Joel Garcia, the owner of Garcia Bros Construction in Los Osos, CA, to learn more
about his work and problems relating to his work. He has been a general contractor for more than
17 years, and he specializes in framing, siding, and concrete work.
Secondary Methods
Product Description

I will take information from a page on WoodSolutions.com last updated in 2013. It is titled
Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and provides an in-depth product description for laminated
veneer lumber.

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Online Magazine Article

I will take information from the online magazine Civil + Structural Engineer. The article I used is
titled Dimensional and Engineered Wood Framing and was written by Matthew Johnson and
Ariane Fund in 2014. This article provides a brief description and comparison of dimensional
lumber and different types of engineered lumber.
Online Encyclopedia Entry

I will take information from an entry from the online encyclopedia Encyclopedia.com. The entry
I used is titled Lumber and was last updated in 2016. This entry provides information on the
history and manufacturing process of making dimensional lumber.
Online News Article

I will take information from an online article from Real Estate Management Industry News. The
article is titled The Benefits of Engineered Wood and was written by Peter Moonen in 2014.
This article describes the benefits of using engineered lumber.

Results
The information I gathered through my research clarified for me exactly what laminated veneer
lumber is and how it compares to dimensional lumber.
Primary Methods
Interview

During my interview with Joel Garcia, we discussed the most common wood products used in
structural framing and the advantages and disadvantages of each product. Our conversation
centered around two of the most common products Garcia works with: dimensional lumber and
laminated veneer lumber (LVL). (Although we also discussed Trus Joist I-Joists (TJIs), Garcia
explained that, in his experience, TJIs are used almost exclusively for floor joisting, so I will not
include them in my research for which is the best overall wood product for structural framing.)
As a result, I decided to focus on analyzing these two products as the two possible solutions to his
problem.
We compared dimensional lumber and LVL in categories such as strength, cost, durability,
potential health risks, maintenance, convenience, etc. He explained that LVL is much stronger than
dimensional lumber. LVL is much straighter and usually does not deform over time. Dimensional
lumber is cheaper, however, and tends to be easier to work with. Dimensional lumber is also more
durable when exposed to the elements. Garcia explained that LVL loses its structural integrity and
deteriorates much quicker when exposed to water or fire, which is why dimensional lumber is
more often used for walls, roofs, and outdoor decks. Dimensional lumber is usually easier to obtain
along with its appropriate connectors (because of its consistent dimensions). Garcia also
mentioned that LVL is more efficient regarding resource consumption. He brought up the idea that
more LVL members can be made from a single log than dimensional lumber members can.
In the end, Garcia reiterated that neither dimensional lumber nor LVL emerges as the clear best
wood product to use in structural framing. Each material is better in different categories, which is
why his problem is difficult to address. After further discussion, we decided that the solution to

his problem should be based on the following criteria: cost, maintenance, strength, environmental
impact, and applicability [1].
Secondary Methods
Product Description

This webpage is a page devoted to laminated veneer lumber and provides an abundance of
information about it including but not limited to the following:

Overall description
Sizes, grades, and regulations
Properties such as fire and termite resistance
Variations and sub-types of laminated veneer lumber
How LVL is manufactured (including wood, adhesives, treatments, finishes, etc.)
Examples of successful projects that used LVL

This webpage provided me an in-depth look at the qualities and applications of laminated veneer
lumber [2].
Online Magazine Article

This article provides a brief description and a short comparison of dimensional lumber and the
most common types of engineered lumber. Dimensional lumber is traditional sawn lumber. It is
the most common structural wood product and is used for virtually everything in framingfloor
joists, rafters, studs, headers, etc. Dimensional lumber is cost-efficient and is the simplest material
to use when spans are small. Engineered lumber is a general term that describes many different
types of fabricated lumber, including laminated veneer lumber, which is the type of engineered
lumber I will focus on in this report. Laminated veneer lumber is made by using an adhesive to
glue together thin, dried wood veneers. Gluing together multiple thin sheets of wood randomize s
irregularities, strengthening the member and making it straighter and more uniform. Laminated
veneer lumber tends to be used for often when spans are very large.
This article also provides tables that compare typical prices, strengths, and other qualities of each
type of lumber. I will utilize two of these tables in the conclusions section of this report [3].
Online Encyclopedia Article

This encyclopedia entry outlines the history and manufacturing process of sawn lumber and
provides foresight for the future of the lumber industry. For this report, I focused on this entrys
manufacturing process information to learn exactly how usable sticks of dimensional lumber are
produced. First, trees are cut down and sent to a mill. Then, the trees are bucked, or cut into logs
of predetermined length. Next, the logs are debarked and prepared for sawing. The sawing process
is the process that turns the large logs into recognizable sticks of lumber with typical nominal
dimensions. After the logs are sawn into sticks, the sticks are air-dried or kiln-dried to remove the
moisture from within them. Once dried, the sticks are then planed, or smoothed on each side and
rounded on the edges. When looking at the future of the lumber industry, this entry briefly
discusses the consumption of our older trees. Older trees tend to be stronger and more uniform
than young trees but are shrinking in availability due to our active lumber industry. We are starting
to be forced to use younger trees, which are far less dimensionally stable than older trees [4].

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Online News Article

This article gives a brief description as to how laminated veneer lumber is made and describes a
few of its benefits to the environment. LVL is made from a composition of rearranged of wood
veneers, making the overall LVL member much straighter, stronger, and more uniform. Already,
wood is a renewable resource and a sequester of carbon. This article goes further to examine
another environmental benefit of LVL, though, which is resource efficiency. Because LVL does
not have to be cut whole out of a lograther it is made from thin plies of woodit is much more
resource efficient to produce. In other words, a single LVL member requires less of a tree to
produce compared to a similar sized stick of dimensional lumber [5].

Conclusions
As a general contractor and structural framer, Joel Garcia has posed the question: which is the best
overall wood product for structural framing? After discussing with him the scope of his work, the
materials he uses most often, and his criteria for choosing the best framing product, I narrowed the
possible solutions down to the following: dimensional lumber and laminated veneer lumber. Table
1 below summarizes my analysis of the two wood framing products with respect to cost,
maintenance, strength, environmental impact, and applicability. Following Table 1, I will discuss
how each product performs in each category in more detail.

Cost
Maintenance
Strength
Environmental Impact
Applicability

Dimensional Lumber
Relatively cheap
Needed more often
Relatively weak
Relatively wasteful

Laminated Veneer Lumber


Relatively expensive
Needed less often
Relatively strong
Can utilize virtually the entire
log
Can be used anywhere in the Limited to use indoors and in
project
dry environments

Table 1: Summary of each solutions performance with respect to Garcias criteria.

Cost
When asked about purchase price, Garcia explained that LVL can sometimes cost up to four
times as much as dimensional lumber [1], and Table 2 to the right supports his claim. The sizes
and quantities of lumber in Table 2 represent those required for a typical floor assembly with the
given span. Note that dimensional lumber is significantly cheaper than LVL in each scenario.
Although LVL appears to cost less for the 30-foot span, note that the price shown reflects six
sticks of dimensional lumber versus only one stick of LVL. Per linear foot, dimensional lumber
is clearly much less expensive than laminated veneer lumber.

10

Table 2: Price comparison between dimensional lumber and


engineered lumber [3].

Maintenance
Garcia made sure to mention maintenance cost during our discussion. He explained that although
dimensional lumber costs much less initially, it may not be cheaper to maintain. Dimensional
lumber often continues to dry even after it is installed. This further drying can cause shrinkage,
crowning, or warping, which in turn can cause problems such as creaky floors or even a less stable
structural frame, each of which are problems that require repair [1]. Laminated veneer lumber, on
the other hand, stays much straighter and holds its original shape far better than dimensional
lumber does [1], [2]. As a result, LVL usually requires less repairs, which in turn, saves money.
Garcia further explained, though, that maintenance costs are difficult to determine and vary
between projects, so although LVL certainly does cost less to maintain, it is unclear by exactly
how much [1].
Strength
When examining the strength of a structural framing product, we focus on two main calculations:
allowable bending stress and allowable shear stress. Bending stress is the compressive or tensile
stress that a point on a member experiences when the member bends. Shear stress is the stress
that causes layers or fibers of a
member to slide against each other
when the member bends. A strong
framing member will have a high
allowable bending stress and a high
allowable shear stress. Those high
allowable stress values would indicate
that the member can tolerate higher
loads before it fails. Table 3 to the
right summarizes
the strength
Table 3: Strength comparison between dimensional lumber and
LVL [3].
limitations of dimensional lumber and

11

laminated veneer lumber. As seen in Table 3, LVLs allowable bending stress is nearly three times
as much as dimensional lumbers. LVLs allowable shear stress is more than twice as much as
dimensional lumbers. This implies that laminated veneer lumber can handle much higher loads
than dimensional lumber can. Clearly, LVL is the stronger wood product.
Environmental Impact
Although this criterion does not deal with the performance or cost of a wood product, a wood
product with a smaller environmental impact provides peace of mind and satisfaction in knowing
that our own Earths resources are being used more efficiently. On its own, wood is a renewable
resource. However, as our supply of fully-developed trees shrinks, a more resource-efficient wood
product becomes more desirable. According to Garcia, the production of dimensional lumber is
not a very resource-efficient process. Because dimensional lumber must be cut whole out of a log,
the entire log cannot be used for dimensional lumberonly a certain amount of rectangular sticks
can be cut from a round log [1]. The portion of the log that cannot be used for dimensional lumber
is either used wasted or used for other purposes [4]. Because laminated veneer lumber, on the other
hand, is not cut whole out of a lograther it is made from thin plies of woodmore of a log can
be utilized for producing LVL [5]. If more sticks of LVL can be produced from a smaller amount
of wood, then LVL is a more resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly product.
Applicability
During my discussion with Garcia, I learned that there are some instances in which laminated
veneer lumber simply should not be used. Although LVL is much stronger in terms of load-bearing
and allowable stresses, the fact that is made from a composition of thin sheets of wood makes it
more susceptible to fire and water damage [1]. Dimensional lumber, on the other hand, can be
pressure treated, granting it more preservative qualities and making it better suited for use outdoors
or in moist environments [1], [3]. For these reasons, dimensional lumber is used more commonly
than LVL in walls, decks, and other areas in direct contact with the elements [1].
Final Analysis
Although there are some areas where the use of laminated veneer lumber is impractical such as
outdoors or other moist environmentslaminated veneer lumber proves to be the better overall
wood product for structural framing. It is significantly stronger, much straighter, and more
resource-efficient than dimensional lumber. Although LVL is notably more expensive than
dimensional lumber, LVL is a higher-quality framing material. Frankly, a stronger, more uniform
framing product that costs less to maintain and provides satisfaction in knowing that our
environment is being used efficiently is worth a higher purchase price. Laminated veneer lumber
is the superior wood framing product.

Recommendation
Based on thorough research and analysis, I recommend that Joel Garcia implement the use of
laminated veneer lumber wherever possible in the structural framing process. The next step we
should take is informing engineers and architects that Garcia works with about the benefits of
using laminated veneer lumber so that they can all make a joint effort to incorporate more the use
of LVL in their projects.

12

Glossary
bending stress: the compressive or tensile stress that a point on a member experiences when the
member bends
dimensional lumber: traditional sawn lumber that is cut directly from a log and does not undergo
any additional manufacturing processes
engineered lumber: wood products that are fabricated from the composition of strands, particles,
fibers, or veneers of wood and different forms of adhesives
framing: see structural framing
laminated veneer lumber (LVL): a type of engineered lumber that is made by using an adhesive
to glue together thin, dried wood veneers so that the grains of each veneer are oriented in
the same direction
shear stress: the stress that causes layers or fibers of a member to slide against each other when
the member bends
span: horizontal distance between structural supports
structural framing: the assembly of members that give structural support to a project
veneers: thin plies of wood

13

References
[1] J. Garcia, General Contractor, Garcia Bros Construction. Interview. Los Osos, CA. 13 Nov
2016.
[2] D. Gurvich, "Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)", Woodsolutions.com.au, 2013. [Online].
Available: http://www.woodsolutions.com.au/Wood-Product-Categories/LaminatedVeneer-Lumber-LVL. [Accessed: 14- Nov- 2016].
[3] M. Johnson and A. Fund, "Dimensional and Engineered Wood Framing", C+S Engineer, 2014.
[Online]. Available: http://csengineermag.com/article/dimensional-and-engineeredwood-framing/. [Accessed: 13- Nov- 2016].
[4] "Lumber", Encyclopedia.com, 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.encyclopedia.com/
science-and-technology/technology/technology-terms-and-concepts/lumber. [Accessed:
26- Nov- 2016].
[5] P. Moonen, "The Benefits of Engineered Wood", REMINET, 2014. [Online]. Available:
https://www.reminetwork.com/articles/the-benefits-of-engineered-wood/.
[Accessed:
14- Nov- 2016].

14

Figures Referenced
[6] Figure 1: Framework of a two-story house. "Structural Frame Design Services",
Strandsystems.com, 2016. [Online]. Available: http://www.strandsystems.com/Services/
StructuralFrameDesignServices/tab id/68/Default.aspx. [Accessed: 24- Nov- 2016].
[7] Figure 2: Dimensional lumber. "Dimensional Lumber - Lumber Products | Carter Lumber",
Carterlumber.com, 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.carterlumber.com/products/
lumber. [Accessed: 24- Nov- 2016].
[2] Figure 3: LVL veneer assembly. D. Gurvich, "Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL)",
Woodsolutions.com.au, 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.woodsolutions.com.au/
Wood-Product-Categories/Laminated-Veneer-Lumber-LVL. [Accessed: 14- Nov2016].
[8] Figure 4: Finished LVL member. "U.S. Glu-Lam - Products - LVL Beams and Headers",
Usglulam.com, 2016. [Online]. Available: http://usglulam.com/products/lvlbeams/.
[Accessed: 24- Nov- 2016].
[3] Table 2: Price comparison between dimensional lumber and engineered lumber. M. Johnson
and A. Fund, "Dimensional and Engineered Wood Framing", C+S Engineer, 2014.
[Online]. Available: http://csengineermag.com/article/dimensional-and-engineeredwood-framing/. [Accessed: 13- Nov- 2016].
[3] Table 3: Strength comparison between dimensional lumber and LVL. M. Johnson and A.
Fund, "Dimensional and Engineered Wood Framing", C+S Engineer, 2014. [Online].
Available:
http://csengineermag.com/article/dimensional-and-engineered-woodframing/. [Accessed: 13- Nov- 2016].