Engineered Lumber: A Promising Alternative to Traditional Building Materials

Engineered Lumber: A Promising Alternative to Traditional Building Materials

Lumber frequently dominated discussions among construction professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortages of the material – and its high price when available – sent contractors, buyers, and other industry participants looking for alternative building materials. Among the products increasingly considered was engineered lumber – lumber materials manufactured in specific ways to provide enhanced strength or other desired performance properties. Though somewhat more costly than traditional softwood lumber, many feel that the superior performance properties of engineered lumber more than make up for the additional expense.

Demand for Stronger Buildings to Spur Adaption

Indeed, for many in the construction industry, the superior strength of engineered lumber is a key reason for using the material. Multiple outbreaks of severe weather over the past decade have caused building code officials across the US (especially in the South) to implement changes in codes calling for homes and other buildings to be constructed in such a way to better resist damages caused by high winds, impacts, and prolonged exposure to moisture. Engineered lumber materials can be used to meet these new and higher standards for construction. For instance:

  • I-joists can support heavier loads compared to those made from softwood lumber.
  • The stiffness and strength of glulam makes it ideal for both roof and floor trusses, especially in areas where moisture is a concern.
  • Laminated veneer lumber can be used to create trusses and other supports for structures where softwood lumber would not be suitable, such as larger buildings or a home with a two-story foyer.

Increasing Use of Prefabricated Components to Also Spur Growth

The surge in demand for housing has caused builders to find ways to accelerate the pace of construction. The use of prefabricated components – such as roof, wall, and floor trusses – has been increasingly embraced by the new housing industry as a way to build homes more quickly. These components – built off-site and shipped to the lot as needed – can greatly reduce the amount it takes to build a home. More importantly for the engineered lumber industry, producers of these components frequently use engineered lumber products during assembly. Manufacturers prefer to use engineered lumber to create products with superior strength and durability – important not only at the jobsite, but ensuring that products withstand rough handling on the trip to the worksite. Additionally, producers of prefabricated components can benefit by signing supply contracts to regularly obtain materials as needed, a far more economical solution compared to buying softwood lumber on the open market.

For more information about the size and growth of the US engineered lumber market, check out The Freedonia Group’s Engineered Lumber study.

About the Author:

Matt Zielenski is a Senior Analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he covers trends in the use of building materials and related construction products in the US market.