Structural Composite Lumber: From Forest to Factory

 Credit: Hallie Busta

Credit: Hallie Busta

Over the past decade, architectural designs have become more complex in almost all structures. Larger, clear-span rooms, open floor plans, vaulted and two-story high ceilings have become mainstream. Many of the multi-residential projects of today are incorporating multi-floors of wood structure above multiple floors of concrete parking and retail space. To accomplish these changes the building industry has demanded more from its building materials. Of course, building material manufacturers have responded with a wide-range of derivative wood products over the years that have offered superior performance characteristics and design flexibility to meet new design criteria. One such practical alternative to solid sawn lumber materials is Structural Composite Lumber or SCL. This family of engineered wood products designed for structural use has stable and consistent performance while delivering higher structural design values. The most widely used SCL product is Laminated Veneer Lumber, better known by its acronym as LVL. Builders have been using LVL as headers, beams, hip & valley rafters, and rim board for years. Other members of the SCL family are growing in popularity, partly due to their ability to meet increasing design challenges and partly because the products satisfy builders and homeowners interest in using environmentally conscience materials. They include Parallel Strand Lumber (PSL), Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) and Oriented Strand Lumber (OSL). Each product has slightly different characteristics and potential usages but generally feature enhanced mechanical properties and dimensional stability while offering a broader range of product widths, depths, and lengths than conventional lumber.

If you are interested in learning more about how these products are produced, click here for an absorbing article and video produced by Hallie Busta and Lauren Honesty from Hanley-Wood, Inc. They track the manufacturing process of two SCL products, LVL and PSL, from the forest through the factory. Anyone associated with the construction industry should appreciate this seldom seen, behind-the-scenes look at this fascinating process.