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American Wood Council

Recently, there has been concern raised on how lumber is being labeled for retail sale. All states have laws and regulations describing how this must be done to protect consumers and for this many states follow the Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities, otherwise known as NIST Handbook 130. To assist industry manufacturers understand the requirements of the NIST Handbook 130 as applied to lumber, we have prepared the information below for your guidance. However, given the potential variation among individual state requirements, manufacturers are strongly encouraged to consult with their own counsel and advisors regarding labeling of their products.

Guidelines
  • Litigation has been filed alleging that dimensional lumber described in nominal terms constitute mislabeled products. The litigation asserts products labelled, for example, "2x4" are not really 2" by 4" and the use of nominal sizes in representations to consumers constitutes fraud and violates state consumer protection laws.
  • All states have laws and regulations regarding weights and measures. The majority of states have incorporated into their laws a uniform standard published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or "NIST," a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, referred to as the Uniform Regulation for the Method of Sale of Commodities - Handbook 130. These rules are legally enforceable regulations in each state that has adopted them and at last count that was about 46 states. Even those states where the handbook is not part of the law typically rely on the handbook to standardize sales requirements.
  • This uniform regulation includes nominal dimensions and corresponding minimum dressed sizes from P.S. 20, the "American Softwood Lumber Standard," also promulgated by NIST.
  • These rules allow lumber to be labeled with its nominal size, but only if
    • The term "nominal" or "nom" is used; and
    • The actual or minimum surfaced sizes are prominently displayed to the customer either by means of a table or label with the same size font as the nominal dimension.
  • Although the use of actual sizes is permissible, it is not recommended due to manufacturing variability and the variance that can occur with moisture content change.
  • So, for example, a "2x4" can be labeled a "2x4," but only if the label or other displays notes that 2x4 is the nominal size and prominently features the actual or minimum measurements.
  • The uniform rules were developed for retail sales, but if a manufacturer adds labels that are designed to be seen by the retail customer, such labels should comply.
  • According to the P.S. 20 Standard, sellers should show on invoices by actual sizes for standard sized lumber and dressed sizes for nonstandard sized lumber.
  • The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act applies to labels on commodities and requires that SI metric measures be used as well. See 16 CFR 500.8(c)
  • Compliance with these standards/regulations does not mean you cannot get sued, but in many states it may provide a defense to claims of fraud or misrepresentation.
  • An example of a suggested label is below:
  • Manufacturers are encouraged to consult with their own attorney regarding the labeling of their products
 
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