One of the first rules of business is to protect your investments. As a smart business owner, you automatically renew your insurance policies; you backup computer systems and lock the door when you leave. The building materials you stock and sell require a similar level of protection, not only to safeguard the material itself but to ensure its performance in the long-run.
Engineered wood products (EWPs) such as I-joists, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glulam beams offer consistent dimensions, reliable strength and predictable performance. They have an excellent track record for durability and long-term service. But like all wood products, they can be damaged by excessive exposure to weather or improper handling. Correct storage and handling will help you ensure that they consistently perform as promised and keep your team safe.
A quick glance around your yard will help you identify potential problem areas. Use this simple checklist to minimize product damage and protect your inventory:
• Keep EWPs wrapped and covered to protect them as much as possible from direct exposure to rain, ponding water and ground moisture.
• Apply end sealer after cutting a stock glulam beam to length, to protect the beam from checking.
• Periodically inspect the products. Leave protective wrappings intact, but cut a slit on the bottom side to allow for drainage of any entrapped water.
• Never store EWPs in direct contact with the ground. Utilize a rack storage system or place wrapped bundles on a flat, well-drained surface with supports (stickers) which raise the materials at least 6″ off the ground.
• Place the support stickers at each end of the product and every 8′ in between. Also use stickers between bundles to allow air circulation. “To maintain uniformity, we make sure our stickers line up if we’re stacking multiple units,” said John McGee, Engineered Wood and Components sales manager for 84 Lumber in Bessemer, Ala. “This avoids sagging in the middle, which causes water to pool.”
• Always be sure to keep I joists vertical; never transport or store them flat.
• Avoid stacking other materials on top of EWPs and store the longest product at the bottom.
“We manage our inventory to rotate stock as new product comes in, so nothing sits in the yard for more than one or two weeks,” added McGee. “Once we open a unit, we keep the loose pieces covered.”
At the Jobsite
Product protection is just as important at the jobsite, and many of the same procedures from the yard should be followed in the field.
• Keep EWPs wrapped and protected as long as possible.
• Avoid call-backs; don’t install badly weathered or damaged material.
• Don’t stack materials over unsheathed I-joists and don’t walk on I-joists until they are braced and fully fastened.
• Allow moisture content of installed glulams to stabilize gradually, without added heat, to reduce checking.
Best Practices to Ensure Safety
Since EWPs are engineered to meet loading and performance criteria, they require an extra level of protection.
“We do a lot to keep our employees and drivers safe, by providing training and personal protective equipment,” said Phil Duke, vice president at Lumberman’s Wholesale Distributors in Nashville, Tenn. “The way in which we train our staff to work with EWPs is just as important. Our goal is to keep both people and products safe.”
There are a number of rules tailored for safety both in the yard and on the jobsite:
• Don’t walk on wrapped bundles; they can be slippery.
• Keep products strapped together in bundles to keep them from tipping, sliding or rotating.
• Never lift I-joist bundles by the top flange.
• Use wide forks to handle long-length material.
• Always be sure to follow recognized forklift and crane safety procedures.
Protect the Bottom Line
Architects and engineers specify EWPs because they can be counted on to perform to particular specifications. Contractors like to work with EWPs because they are straight and true. But moisture and other types of damage can negatively impact both. Guard your engineered wood products with proper storage and handling to ensure long-term performance and protect your bottom line.
Additional details are available through APA – The Engineered Wood Association publications Proper Storage and Handling of I-Joists and LVL (Publication E705) and Keep Glulam Looking Its Best with Proper Storage and Handling (Builder Tip F455), downloadable online at apawood.org. A recorded training webinar, Best Practices for I-Joist, LVL, and LSL Handling and Storage, is also available on The Engineered Wood Association’s website, www.apawood.org/ewp-training-module-e.