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Use of ungraded rough sawn lumber

Discussion in 'Residential Structural Codes' started by Richard Kimball CBO CFM, Mar 5, 2019.

  1. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    I am curious and trying to get a consensus from other code officials about the use of rough sawn, ungraded lumber from local sawmills for structural projects such as timber frame. I know the code restricts it's use to non structural applications such as paneling and siding but what if it is oversized by say, 20% to 30%, and considered as if it is utility grade lumber? Could it then be used for structural purposes? What about use in an owner builder project? We have a few sawmills that produce lumber locally from spruce/pine and we are in a remote location so to get a certified lumber grader out to each jobsite to grade each beam or board is extremely expensive and pretty much excludes these sawmills from providing lumber for local projects. Have any other officials taken an approach that would allow the use of this lumber? If so, what type of safety margins were put in place? Examples could be accepted engineering practice, over-sizing the lumber by a certain margin, retaining the right to reject any lumber that may have excessive moisture content, knots or checks, setting a standard consistent with certified lumber grading best practices or using the ICC-400 standard for log home construction. Thoughts, comments and feedback appreciated!
     
  2. my250r11

    my250r11 Sawhorse

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    That's a good question. Not sure how I would handle that. Personally seen lots of old structures with rough cut non graded lumber last and be stronger than what you can buy at the lumber yard. I'm sure someone will have a better answer.
     
  3. steveray

    steveray Sawhorse

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    Can you allow the sawmill to "grade" the lumber?
     
  4. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    Unfortunately the sawmill operators are not certified to do that so for now they supply lumber only for non-structural purposes, like furniture making, fences, siding, floor covering, trim, etc. One operator told me it would be in excess of $25K to get certified and of course, insured.
     
  5. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    I agree, especially from what I have seen over the last five years. It seems they have lowered grading standards, just by seeing what shows up on jobsites as #2. More knots and rough edges on milled lumber.
     
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  6. Pcinspector1

    Pcinspector1 Platinum Member

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    That's a slippery slope your considering. If a mill can't afford to be certified why are the other mills certified? They have expenses too!

    I've seen mill certified plywood, the mill couldn't guarantee the plywood was square but it was fine in a horse stall, that's there nitch. Providing lumber where it bypasses the requirement of the code. Trailer flooring, sheds under 200 sf etc.

    See IBC section 104.1 thur 104.12 and see if that's somewhere you want to go?

    I'm not even sure an engineer would touch that? There again maybe they would?
     
  7. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    Yes, you are correct in citing IBC 104 as far as I have the authority to approve alternate or used materials, however I would not want to do that without some sort of standard, third party testing, or other form of constraint for consistency. It's not just one sawmill operator that is not certified, there are several operators in this area, and none of them are nationally certified to grade lumber. They range from a couple of small commercial mills that log and sell lumber cut to order for projects just like you mention, livestock corrals and outbuildings (which are exempt from code, our local ordinance is even more restrictive, 120 s.f. or less), fencing, siding, paneling, etc. to owner operated portable sawmills (essentially chainsaws on tracks) . None of these mills have a kiln to dry the lumber but our climate is extremely dry, especially in summer. Approximately 40% of the residences here are high end custom solid log homes instead of stick framing. It's somewhat ironic to be surrounded by forests and have to import lumber from hundreds of miles away, especially when the local lumber is for the most part much clearer and of better quality than what gets shipped here from Home Depot. So far I have not approved any of the ungraded lumber for any structural purpose whatsoever.
     
  8. Pcinspector1

    Pcinspector1 Platinum Member

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    Richard, I haven't dealt with any log cabin homes, hows that regulated?

    Are logs used for homes certified?
     
  9. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    Yes, the logs in solid log homes are certified. Some come from Mills as far away as Canada as "Kit Homes" with documentation on the whole home, others use individually certified logs.
     
  10. Pcinspector1

    Pcinspector1 Platinum Member

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    Sorry had to log out for a minute, pun intended.

    The locals might look into hiring a certification inspector and COOP the cost for products they mill? Just thinking outside the box.
     
  11. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    Good thinking. Along that line I suggested to the largest mill that they stockpile the lumber until they had enough ready cut to make it worth while to bring in a third party lumber grader to grade several stacks but as you noted earlier their niche market is cut to order for non-structural, code exempt projects and they don't have a huge yard to work with for storage space.
     
  12. jwilly3879

    jwilly3879 Sawhorse

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    It is legal in NY

    From the code supplement:

    R802.1.1 to read as follows:
    Exception: Dimension lumber which is neither identified by a grade mark nor issued a certificate of inspection by a lumber grading or inspection agency may be used for load-bearing purposes under the following conditions when authorized by the authority having jurisdiction:
    1. The producing mill shall sell or provide the lumber directly to the ultimate consumer or the consumer’s contract builder for use in an approved structure.
    2. The producing mill shall certify in writing to the consumer or contract builder on a form to be produced by the authority having jurisdiction that the quality and safe working stresses of such lumber are equal to or exceed No. 2 grade of the species in accordance with the conditions set forth in DOC PS 20. Such certification shall be filed as part of the building permit application.
     
  13. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    We are under the 2012 IRC and 802.1.1 refers to blocking with utility grade lumber while 802.1 refers to identification and is the section that the lawyers would get ahold of:
    R802.1 Identification.
    Load-bearing dimension lumber for rafters, trusses and ceiling joists shall be identified by a grade mark of a lumber grading or inspection agency that has been approved by an accreditation body that complies with DOC PS 20. In lieu of a grade mark, a certificate of inspection issued by a lumber grading or inspection agency meeting the requirements of this section shall be accepted.
    Which I have been interpreting as structural lumber requires grading. This is helpful should I invoke R 104, powers of the AHJ. Thank you, this is the kind of parameters I am looking into. I like the fact the the lumber provider is bound to equal to or greater than #2 lumber, which is what I use as a basis for compliance in 99% of my plan reviews, and that there is an informational requirement to the end user. The lumber I have seen coming from these mills on non-structural projects appears to be every bit as good as #2 in terms of knots, cracks, checks and defects, probably not equal in moisture content to kiln dried lumber but equal in all other aspects.
    Thanks Willy.
     
  14. jeffc

    jeffc Bronze Member

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    I have a timber framed structure planned for a local volunteer project. To have 550' of rough sawn Douglas Fir 6" x 6" graded is about $400.00 to $450.00. The cost to have this material graded is not a big expense. Given that the timber was free and cost of milling was minimal, I'm still saving money by paying a grader to stop by.
     
  15. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    Thank you for the cost estimate on grading.
     
  16. Rick18071

    Rick18071 Sawhorse

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    It seams odd but PA automatically makes all certified building inspectors lumber graders without any training for it.
     
  17. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    We see ungraded lumber on a semi-regular basis. Mostly in detached garages, so it's not a big deal for me to look at the lumber and ensure it looks decent. We had a house done recently where it was all timber frame. They brought in an engineer to look at everything and signed off on it.

    If you haven't seen it, Still Mine (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2073086/) is a movie made about a man who milled his own lumber and build himself and his wife a home out of it. The true part of the story is that the building inspector cited them for use of ungraded lumber. So, the man's son, a registered engineer, performed the calculations and approved the use of the lumber. The building inspector rejected the calculations and took the man to court. The judge asked both parties to come to some type of compromise. The compromise was that the couple could live in the building until they passed away or moved into a long term care facility and the building must then be torn down.
     
  18. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    That's sad. And that's just the type of thing I want to avoid. I could see a competing mill challenging another's use of ungraded lumber on a project they lost the bid on. I have one off grid residence that was approved for the use of lumber logged on site by the previous building official (project was six years from start to finish). It was built from Beetlekill pine cut from standing trees onsite and hauled out of his own forest by the owner and his draft horses. Log sizes varied from a minimum of 14" dia. up to 24" dia on the lower courses. It was solid as a rock. The owner said he personally rejected about 40% of the logs he felled because they did not meet his standards, he was very picky about it and the home turned out beautiful when finished. He did hire an engineer to do the design and set some parameters on which logs could be used. He exceeded every standard the engineer set by at least 20%, treated all logs with an insecticide after stripping the bark, added an inch or two to the diameter specs, and every log was inspected at every cross cut to insure there was no hidden rot or hollows. Yes, I issued the C.O., the owners were so proud of their work they had the C.O. professionally framed and hung in the living room over the fireplace mantle.
    I'll have to look up that movie! Thanks.
     
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  19. Richard Kimball CBO CFM

    Richard Kimball CBO CFM Registered User

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    One would think there should be some form of minimal training or testing at least. Interesting.
     
  20. Pcinspector1

    Pcinspector1 Platinum Member

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    Quiz: What's a black X mean when grading a stud?
    a). Remove, out of plumb
    b). Remove, wrong grade per plans
    c). Remove, questionable bearing
    d). Remove, over cut

    I guess I'm a certified lumber grader and didn't know it.
     

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