The American Lumber Standard Committee’s (ALSC) Board of Review approved including the so-called "dense" grade of wood as part of the Southern pine design value changes set to take effect on June 1. The committee, a quasi-governmental agency that sets grading and quality standards for all lumber used in residential construction, made the decision during its March 9 meeting.

The issue of including dense and non-dense wood became a point of contention following the ALSC’s approval on Jan. 11 of the design value changes proposed by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB), which is responsible for all grading standards involving Southern pine. SPIB refined the specifics of its reductions on Jan. 23 and submitted the request to include dense wood, which it originally was going to lumber under the “unclassified” category. The approval does not apply to mixed Southern pine.

The design value changes will affect visually-graded Southern pine 2x4s graded No. 2 or lower. It will not change values for machine-graded lumber or larger cuts.

"There has been a historic recognition by the Board and by other respected authorities that density of lumber contributes to its strength," ALSC meeting minutes report. "The derivation of the dense and non-dense values in the SPIB submission followed or improved on procedures that have been used in previous submissions to the Board and in the derivation of the original in-grade values."

The change is the latest in a slew of modifications, cyclically proposed and amended during the last three months. Their potential consequences have ignited dialogue and complaints within the LBM community. Some have argued that the changes potentially could delay or kill construction projects, force redesign of planned projects, devalue lumberyard inventories, and put a damper on wood use at a time when industry organizations and the federal government are pushing it to compete with its engineered alternatives.

Proponents argue, however, that the changes are justified results of an all-around weaker product harvested from younger trees, an increasing trend in recent decades.

Much of the grumbling subsided after ALSC set a June 1 implementation date. There had been fears that ALSC would permit the changes to take effect within weeks of when they were proposed.