If you’ve ever spent a few extra minutes at the produce section of your favorite grocery store and squeezed a bunch of tomatoes, searching through the pile for the right one? If you have, that’s the same feeling I get every time I select lumber from the lumber yard. It seems like the 2×4’s are always bent on top of the pile and I have to search through dozens of boards before finding a straight piece.
Engineered studs are designed to prevent that. Because so many trees in forests have been harvested unsustainably, the ones that do grow back are often spindly, warped and generally unusable for straight lumber.
To fix that dilemma, engineered lumber was created. LSL-AKA laminated strand lumber-is a type of engineered lumber that is free from bows and warps. Utilizing waste lumber, short stock and fast growing timber, LSL’s are created using a technique of orienting like strands of wood fibers into layers that are perpendicular to each other, then smashing them under high heat and pressure while injecting an adhesive.
Large billets of wood are then created and cut to length. The finished product is as straight as the machine cut it, impossible to get from conventional studs. Best of all, the product is stronger and more environmentally sound.
So what’s the down side of LSL’s? The price. It often costs about twice as much for a LSL stud than a conventional stud. But that really depends on your area and local sales. Many times prices dramatically fluctuate when materials are overstocked. I have found LSL’s cheaper than conventional studs from time to time.
The other downside of LSL’s are that the product is not finished. While a conventional stud is far from a finished product, with a little sanding and stain, a conventional stud can look great. On the other hand an LSL looks like a calico piece of junk and it must be covered with conventional materials. Even paint can’t hide the LSL’s distinct wood chipped calico pattern.
All in all, I like LSL’s more when rough framing and conventional studs for finish work. LSL’s are nice, but they can never fully replace conventional studs and lumber.