Why Use Laminated Strand Lumber

Manufactured wood uses soft trees, excess scrap for strong, eco-friendly construction.

Posted by Steve Graham | Oct 15, 2009
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Laminated strand lumber has a lot to offer. As a widely available engineered wood product, it is good for builders and healthy for the environment, both at the same time. Find out more about this durable, convenient and green home improvement material.

What is Laminated Strand Lumber?

Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL) is a type of engineered wood. Manufacturers press together strips of wood that once would have been considered too weak, small, or misshapen to use. This process transforms the scrap wood into solid joists and studs. Think of it as the construction-world equivalent of making a big White House Christmas tree out of little twigs from Charlie Brown Christmas trees. LSL lumber is most commonly shaped into framing boards for floor joists and support beams. It can also be used for door cores, sill plates, and other applications.

Why is LSL Lumber Environmentally Friendly? 

Laminated strand lumber is good for the environment and builders alike. LSL factories typically use soft, fast-growing wood in place of slow-growth hardwoods. They cut pine, aspen, and other soft woods into strands less than one foot long, then pressure-bond them using a waterproof adhesive.

LSL production can use every part of the tree, thus generating less forest waste in creating strong framing lumber. The adhesive also is normally formaldehyde-free and less toxic than the glues used for fiberboards and other manufactured wood products.

Additional Advantages of LSL Lumber

The LSL lumber is designed for weather resistance and pre-dried. Thus, it is less likely than traditionally cut lumber to warp or split. It is also manufactured into uniform shapes, avoiding the hassle and waste of bent or twisted boards.

LSL Lumber Disadvantages 

For building and remodeling, LSL has two main drawbacks. First, it is more expensive than most alternative products. Second, oddly enough it may also actually be too strong, wreaking havoc on standard router bits and other tools. However, this second disadvantage is easily overcome with sturdier (albeit more expensive) tools.

Three Widely Available LSL Options 

  1. Louisiana Pacific

Louisiana Pacific sells LSL boards up to 64 feet long. They are 1 ½ to 3 ½ inches thick and as much as 16 inches wide. The company claims the resin is formaldehyde-free and creates negligible VOC emissions. The lumber is available at Menards home improvement stores throughout the Midwest. 

  1. Weyerhauser

Wood and paper giant Weyerhauser owns more soft wood forest land worldwide than any other private company. The company produces some hardwood lumber, but it can also use many of its smaller trees and softer wood for LSL boards. In addition to planks and boards up to 30 feet long, Weyerhauser manufactures fire-rated door cores and pressure-treated sill plates. Most of the wood comes from an Ontario forest that meets Canadian and international sustainability standards. The products are widely available at building supply stores. 

  1. Universal Forest Products

Universal Forest Products utilizes the TimberStrand laminated strand lumber to manufacture home improvement supplies such as double-hinge plates for roofing trusses, concrete-forming boards and forms, and other products. The company has 80 distribution centers across 30 states and provinces in the United States and Canada.

Are you interested in learning more about laminated strand lumber? Consult your remodeler, builder, or roofer.

Photo credit: Structuremag.org.

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