Tools & Resources For Contractors | Softwood Lumber

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Building To Code

For new softwood lumber projects, make sure you are building to code. Click here for links to residential and deck construction guides.

Appearance Lumber Grades + Patterns

Find details on softwood lumber's appearance applications, both for interior and exterior projects.

Structural Lumber Grades + Sizes

Using woods for residential framing and other structural applications can save time and money. Find helpful resources here.

Deck Safety and Annual Maintenance

Regular inspections and simple upkeep are vital to extend the life of a wood deck and to keep homeowners safe.

Span Tables + Calculators

A selection of third-party span tables for various wood species and projects.

Installation

Deck, siding, paneling and flooring instalation guides from third-party associations.

Treated Wood Use Categories

Learn more here about pressure-treated wood and how it protects from insects and decay.

Finishing

There are specific finishes, stains and coatings for each species of softwood lumber. Find out how to finish your next residential project here.

BUILDING TO CODE

When beginning a new project with softwood lumber, the first step is to make sure you are building to code. In the Explore More box you’ll find links to more details and information.

APPEARANCE LUMBER GRADES + PATTERNS

Lumber Grades

Understanding lumber grades will help ensure you meet design expectations. Structural framing products are graded for their strength and other physical properties, as opposed to appearance products, which are graded for their aesthetic properties.

Below are resources for species-specific appearance lumber grades.

Douglas Fir - WWPA

Douglas Fir Grading

Products Graded for Appearance: Douglas Fir

Eastern White Pine - NELMA

Standard Grading Guides for Northeastern Lumber

General Definitions and Instructions for Grading Eastern White Pine Boards

Interpreting a Grade Stamp

The 5 Grades of Eastern White Pine Grade – Photo Sheet

Hem Fir - WWPA

Characteristics & Best Uses

Grading

Appearance Products

Baseboards and Molding

Ponderosa Pine - WWPA

Grading

Characteristics

Paneling and Molding

Redwood - CRA

Redwood Lumber Grades and Uses

Behind the Grade Stamp

Redwood Fences

Special Purpose Structural Grades for Decks

Redwood Deck Construction

Southern Pine - SFPA

Grade Descriptions

Southern Pine Decks and Porches

Southern Pine Inspection Bureau: Standard Patterns

Western Red Cedar - WRCLA

Grades, Sizes, Grade Classifications and Specifications

Quick Facts

How to Specify Western Red Cedar

Western Wood Products Association

Grade Categories: Appearance

Interpreting the Grade Stamp

Specifying Finish and Siding Grades

Lumber Patterns

Every piece of wood is as unique as your fingerprint. Grain patterns and color vary, adding texture and personality while blending with any architectural style.

Discover the lumber patterns available for different applications and species, here.

West Coast Inspection Bureau: Standard Patterns for Softwood Lumber

Eastern White Pine - NELMA

Standard Patterns of Eastern White Pine

Redwood - CRA

Redwood Lumber Patterns

Certified Kiln Dried Siding Patterns and Applications

Southern Pine - SFPA

Southern Pine Patterns

Western Red Cedar - WRCLA

Standard Dry Patterns

Western Wood Products Association:

Profiles for Wood Paneling and Siding

Paneling and Siding

Ceiling and Partition

Decking and Flooring

STRUCTURAL LUMBER GRADES + SIZES

Lumber Sizes

In modern construction, the traditional lumber sizes are two-bys (2x4s, 2x6s, 2x10s, etc.), which detail a board’s thickness in inches. These are the basic building blocks for residential construction.

Every piece of lumber has a nominal dimension and a finished dimension, as the nominal dimension depicts the size of the green (not dried), rough (unfinished) piece of lumber.

Find more information below on lumber sizes for residential projects.

National Institute of Standards and Technology: American Softwood Lumber Standard

Lumber Grades

Understanding lumber grades will help ensure you meet design expectations. Lumber grades are divided into three basic categories: structural framing products, appearance products and industrial products.

Structural framing products are graded for their strength and other physical properties, as opposed to appearance products, which are graded for their aesthetic properties. Industrial products include a combination of both structural and non-structural properties.

The American Lumber Standard Committee lumber program, operating under the Board of Review, currently has 31 accredited independent third-party agencies headquartered throughout the United States and Canada. Each of these agencies operates under one or more of the seven sets of grading rules certified by the Board of Review as conforming to the American Softwood Lumber Standard PS 20.

Learn more about structural lumber grades with the resources on the right.

SPAN TABLES + CALCULATORS

A span is the distance between two intermediate supports for a structure. Span tables are used to size joists and rafters. Proper use of a span table is an important step in quality construction.

Span varies by species, size, quality of material and application. When determining span, pay attention to these three elements: lumber grade, lumber size and species type.

On the right, we list a selection of span tables for various species and projects. When using these span tables, be sure to always check plans to determine design conditions, as well as codes for allowable loads. There are specific span tables available for joists and rafters, and headers and beams.

INSTALLATION

Deck Construction

Before you begin construction of a deck, the first step should always be to make sure you’re building to code. No matter what kind of deck you’re building, the top priority is to ensure a safe deck. A good place to start is the DCA-6 Prescriptive Residential Deck Construction Guide from the American Wood Council, which is a great general resource and includes guidance on the International Residential Code (IRC).

Learn more about proper deck construction from these additional resources.

American Wood Council: Connection Calculator

California Redwood Association:

Redwood Deck Construction

Get Real. Redwood v. Composite LCA

Redwood Decking Environmental Product Declaration

Redwood Decking Meets Wildland Fire Standards

Southern Forest Products Association:

Southern Pine Decks and Porches

LCA Report: Treated Lumber vs. Composite Decking

 Western Red Cedar:

Preparation

Installation

Wood You Like to Know? Videos: Deck Maintenance and Repair

 

Siding, Paneling and Flooring

Learn about siding, paneling and flooring installation techniques for various softwood lumber species here.

Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association: Eastern White Pine Siding

Southern Forest Products Association: Southern Pine Flooring

Western Red Cedar Lumber Association:

Real Cedar Projects for Around Your Home

Installing Cedar Siding

Western Wood Products Association:

Installation Guide for Wood Siding

Installation Guide for Wood Paneling

TREATED WOOD USE CATEGORIES

Pressure-treated wood is wood that has been treated with preservatives. This protects wood from insects and decay and is ideal for projects where wood is exposed to the elements or excessive moisture. Wood preservatives are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for their safe use.

Learn why wood is the go-to choice for your outdoor oasis.

Pressure-treated softwood lumber species include Southern Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas fir and Hem-fir.

- EXPLORE MORE -

Southern Forest Products Association:

Pressure-Treated Southern Pine

Western Wood Preservers Institute:

Wood Use Categories Infographic

Western Wood Products Association:

Treated Products: Douglas Fir

Treated Products: Hem Fir

Treated Products: Ponderosa Pine 

FINISHING

To preserve wood’s beauty in residential applications, finishing is often used to protect the surface from decay and weather exposure. A surface coat is often recommended to extend the life of the wood.

Due to wood’s unique properties, though, there are specific finishes, stains and coatings for each species of softwood lumber. Similarly, there are specific requirements depending on your project. For example, outdoor decks may require finishes that are formulated to withstand foot traffic.

Find out how to finish your next residential project here.

DECK MAINTENANCE

Regular inspections and simple upkeep are vital to extend the life of a wood deck and to keep homeowners safe. As a contractor, you can provide these prevention services to your customers each year. Below are tips for deck safety check-ups and annual maintenance.