Just because reductions in some design values for visually graded Southern pine #2 2x4s don't take effect until June 1 doesn't mean the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) thinks you can ignore them until then.

In fact, ALSC–the quasi-governmental agency that approves grading standards for lumber–went so far as to bold-face and underline some of the text in its Jan. 11 decision regarding the changes proposed by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB).

Tom Searles, president of the ALSC, told ProSales the text (which we've set below in bold) was marked that way to make extra sure readers noticed. He didn't elaborate.

"The values in the SPIB proposal represent approximately a 25%-30% reduction," ALSC's decision says. "Many of the critics of the proposal acknowledged that some reductions were in order, albeit the magnitude of those reductions were disputed. All design professionals are advised in the strongest terms by the Board to evaluate this information in formulating their designs in the interim period."

It continues: "Although given the facts, circumstances, and controlling authority of this particular matter, the Board did not approve design values for the other sizes and grades and has recommended a future effective date, it cautions all interested parties to take note of all available information in making design decisions in the interim."

ALSC's decision marks a milestone in the three-month battle over how strong visually graded Southern pine is. Officially set design values certify the wood's strength limits in terms of qualities like compression and bend. Builders rely on those values when they use the pine in products like trusses, rafters, and floor joists.

SPIB originally proposed lowering design values changes for the whole Southern pine species, but ALSC noted that SPIB based its recommendation on tests that only involved #2 2x4s. ALSC said it couldn't legally approve changes for other sizes and grades until after they're tested, so its Jan. 11 decision affects only #2 2x4s and lower grades that size.

Industry trade groups such as the Structural Building Components Association (SBCA) and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association had blasted SPIB's recommendation, saying it would affect thousands of construction projects and devalue dealers' and distributors' Southern pine inventories. SBCA took small consolation after the decision's release, saying "the narrow ruling on the part of ALSC and the reasonable implementation date will allow for Southern pine specifiers and users to effectively plan for a reasonable marketplace transition."

The Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA), a trade group representing Southern pine interests, is telling its members they can finish current projects before worrying about implementing the changes.

"People can use whatever [design values] they are given; they just need to know what they are," says Cathy Kaake, SFPA's senior director of engineered and framing markets. "The effective date announcement was big" because there had been fears ALSC would order an immediate change, she says.

Forest Economic Advisors (FEA), a consulting group, expects the reduction in design values will cause prices for visually graded versions of Southern pine to drop and prices for machine-rated versions (which are exempt from the change) to rise. The impact on component makers will vary by the type of component being made, FEA says.