Editor's Note: Please see the updated story on this issue.
One of the district attorney's offices involved in the widely-criticized $1.6 million Lowe's 2x4 settlement said it's "not misleading" to call 2x4 a 2x4, provided you meet existing nominal standards set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST defines a 2x4 as measuring 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches.
“If it’s a softwood product like 2x4 lumber and it actually meets the NIST standards, then they don’t need to [include] the actual dimensions," said Marin County Deputy District Attorney Andy Perez in an interview with PROSALES. Meet that 1.5-inch by 3.5-inch standard, explained Perez, and you're free to call it a 2x4.
Perez said the problem arose when California inspectors found that Lowe's advertised dimensional building products under nominal descriptions when they didn't actually fit the standards set forth by the NIST. Some of those descriptions, stated the Marin County district attorney's office, were provided to Lowe's by the manufacturers or other suppliers of the lumber.
When can't you call it a 2x4? Perez explained that if a dimensional building product fails to meet the NIST nominal standards, or lacks a nominal dimension standard—as is the case with composite wood—you must include actual dimensions in the advertisement.
Since the story was posted to PROSALES and REMODELING on Sept. 4, it has ignited a blaze of criticism. "Of all the issues in this country now, this is what they choose to spend their time on?" wrote one commenter. "I sure hope Lowe's and other major building supply companies team together and appeal this crazy ruling. This could change the whole building industry." wrote another.
“We received a lot of complaints about people saying, ‘well, everyone knows a 2x4 is not a 2x4,’ and that’s fine," says Perez. He said the criticism is more of a misunderstanding of the judgement than anything else. "It’s not misleading unless it’s not a 2x4 by the industry standards."