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This study analyzes US demand for engineered lumber by product type, market (new residential, residential repair and remodeling, commercial, and nonbuilding), and application.
Historical data (2010, 2015, and 2020) and forecasts for 2025 and 2030 are presented for engineered lumber demand in board feet and current US dollars (including inflation). Demand in value terms is measured at the manufacturers’ level and excludes distributor and retailer markups.
The major product segments are:
- laminated veneer lumber (LVL)
- glulam (or glued laminated timber)
- other engineered lumber products such as:
- cross-laminated timbers (CLTs)
- rim board
- structural composite lumber (SCL), which comprises parallel strand lumber (PSL), laminated strand lumber (LSL), and oriented strand lumber (OSL)
Applications include structural and framing and outdoor and nonbuilding. Structural and framing consists of:
- structural floors and foundations
- structural roofing
- structural walls
Outdoor and nonbuilding includes:
- structures such as gazebos and sheds
Excluded from the scope of the study are engineered wood products such as particleboard, plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), high-density fiberboard (HDF), hardboard, and oriented strand board (OSB) (plywood and OSB are included when they are used as part of I-joists). These wood products differ from engineered lumber in that engineered wood products consist of reformulated wood materials – sawdust, wood shavings, shells, and other materials – where engineered lumber is only made with solid wood lumber.
Also analyzed are engineered lumber shipments, imports, and exports, and demand by major US region.
Supply & Demand
US demand for engineered lumber is projected to climb 1.6% annually through 2025 to 2.5 billion board feet, valued at $2.2 billion. The pace of growth will moderate from the 2015-2020 period, principally due to a decline in new housing starts following a 2021 cyclical peak. New housing accounts for nearly three-quarters of all engineered lumber demand. Gains will be supported by the:
- greater strength and dimensional stability of engineered lumber over softwood lumber
- adoption of stricter building codes that call for structures to better withstand the effects of severe weather, with the use of more durable engineered lumber materials being one way to accomplish this
However, demand for engineered lumber demand will remain much lower than that for solid wood lumber due to:
- high level of builder familiarity with solid wood lumber – construction professionals are often leery of using new or less-familiar products
- the fact that in most cases, softwood lumber can provide the needed performance properties for a particular application
Shipments of engineered lumber are forecast to advance at a 2.3% annual rate through 2025 to 2.3 billion board feet, outpacing demand. Generally favorable market conditions will spur lumber mills and other suppliers to boost production. Furthermore, these materials can be sold at higher price points than most standard softwood lumber products because of their superior performance properties – a key consideration for firms looking to boost margins in a product category traditionally seen as a commodity with modest growth prospects.
The US is a net importer of engineered lumber products, with Canada accounting for virtually all of these imports. Like the US, Canada has an extensive network of sawmills with the capacity to make large quantities of lumber. Many of these firms have moved into the production of engineered lumber. Not only is this a naturally complementary product for them, but the proximity to the US means there is a ready market for their engineered lumber product offerings. However, exports from the US to Canada are expected to rise as production capacity increases and domestic market growth slows, leading to a narrowing of the US trade deficit through 2025.
Structural & Framing
Structural and framing demand for engineered lumber is projected to climb 1.6% annually to 2.5 billion board feet in 2025, slowing noticeably from the 2015-2020 period. Engineered lumber suppliers will benefit from favorable outlooks for new home additions and commercial construction, but overall sales growth through 2025 will be negatively affected by a decline in new housing activity following a 2021 cyclical peak.
Use of engineered lumber in structural floors and foundations will account for most gains through 2025, although competitive building materials – which include solid wood lumber, engineered wood, concrete, and steel – will continue to account for a larger share of demand.
Demand by Product
I-joists are the most commonly used engineered lumber product, responsible for 47% of the 2020 market total. I-joist demand is supported by its relatively low cost and superior structural strength.
LVL is the second most popular product, accounting for just over one-third of all engineered lumber demand. It will account for the largest absolute gains due to its high durability, which makes it good for use in both wall and floor applications. Other products that account for engineered lumber demand are glulam (10%), structural composite lumber (6%), rim board (2%), and cross-laminated timbers (less than 1%).