Wood vs. Engineered Lumber: Which is Best for Your Build?

Posted by Brett McCutcheon on Mar 5, 2022 9:30:00 AM

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Historically, builders relied on solid wood for most of their builds. With advancements in technology, however, engineered lumber became a popular material for a lot of different applications—and over the past couple of decades especially, even more advancements have made it so that there is a plethora of engineered products for just about every application you can think of.

So that brings up the question: Which is best for your build? We’ll examine the answers, plus you’ll get to learn about BECK’s Jumbo SCRAIL® Fastener System, which offers extra-large fasteners designed for heavy-duty applications, including large scale engineered lumber projects.

Costs

The budget is the primary concern for most people—and this is one category in which lumber typically wins, although there are exceptions. For framework, there are engineered products available, like I-beams made with OSB and plywood, but when compared, lumber will do the same job and cost a lot less.

Where engineered products shine on a cost basis is in the finish work. For instance, if you want to create cabinetry with mahogany, finish-grade plywood with a mahogany veneer will cost you less than solid mahogany boards.

Workability

In terms of quality control, engineered products will usually come out on top. When you need to order building materials by the pallet, you’ll find that the lumber you order will generally contain a lot of culls—in other words, boards that are warped or splintered beyond usability that will end up on your scrap pile. Engineered products are manufactured to size, which means unless they arrive damaged, they’ll be ready for use—no warping or other defects.

The other argument to be made for workability is the weight of the material. Engineered products are usually weigh a lot more. That can make them harder to work with, especially when you need to haul building supplies up ladders. This also means it’s more difficult to drive fasteners into engineered products, so be sure to use a heavy-duty nailer like one of the FASCO® (a BECK member) Jumbo Nailers and Jumbo SCRAIL® fasteners.

Moisture Exposure

This one is a huge concern for lots of different kinds of builds. In fact, if it is likely that parts of your build will be exposed to moisture—like if you’re building a deck—avoid using engineered lumber on those parts. That’s because moisture can dissolve the glues that hold it all together, and engineered wood is also prone to rotting much faster than traditional lumber. In outdoor applications and elsewhere that moisture will be a concern, go with solid wood, which is capable of absorbing and releasing water without rotting.

Volatile Organic Compounds

With indoor applications, you’ll want to be careful about using engineered products. Many contain large amounts of adhesives—including formaldehyde, which is among the most common and dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) out there. Wherever possible, choose solid wood for interior applications, and where needed, look for products that meet TSCA Title VI standards. These standards set a limit on the amount of formaldehyde emissions that a product can safely produce.

Tools for Engineered Lumber

Engineered lumber is ideal for many projects—but you’ll need the right tools and fasteners in order to work with it properly. The Jumbo SCRAIL® system is a great choice when you’re working on large builds, like a home. These fasteners come in sizes between four to six inches, which is what you’ll need for the big framing jobs that require lots of length to hold large pieces of framework in place. For best results, use these fasteners with FASCO®'s F91AC RHN20-160 or F91ARHN20-130 Jumbo Nailers, which are heavy-duty nail guns designed to drive these larger fasteners. For more information, Download Jumbo SCRAIL Brochure 

Topics: Nailers, fasteners, engineered lumber, wood, jumbo scrail, scrail

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SCRAIL®, Fast like a Nail, Strong like a Screw, are incredibly versatile collated fasteners that can be driven with a pneumatic nailer at a rate twice as fast as collated screws and eight times faster than bulk screws. You can rely upon SCRAIL® fasteners to hold strong, without callbacks to fix a squeak or a nail pop.

Give SCRAIL® a try, and enjoy 10% off your first order.

  • Use SCRAIL® almost anywhere ordinary screws are used
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  • Twice as fast as collated screws, eight times faster than bulk screws
  • Easily adjusted, quickly removed
  • Dramatically increased holding power vs. nails
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