Misleading Common Building Product Names
Lowe’s Home Centers Fined 1.6 Million over 2 by 4s !
Last month a Marin Superior Court Judge ordered Lowe’s to pay a 1.6 million dollar fine for misleading advertising. What shady practice did the building supply giant engage in? Lowe’s had a Statewide sale of 2 by 4s in California and advertised this fact. The problem: 2 by 4s, the same 2 by 4s you would be directed to at any lumber yard in the United States, actually measure 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches. 2 by 4 is a common building term that has had a standard 3.5 by 1.5 measurement for around 50 years. Earlier times the actual measurement of a 2 by 4 was all over the map, just not 2 inches by 4 inches. Years ago Northern White Pine 2 by 4s were one measurement while the stronger Southern Yellow Pine was slightly smaller. Today two by fours are a uniform 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches.
While this trivia about lumber may be new to some of you, it is as basic as can be to anyone in Dallas who has ever swung a hammer. Clearly the Judge in California thinks the old building term that is alive and well today is misleading. Today I looked at the Lowe’s website and the lumber description now reads “Common 2 by 4 by 8: Actual 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches by 96 inches”. Home Depot has a similar description of the dimensions as well.
There is a long list of other lumberyard products that have this same difference in nominal measurement and actual measurement. In fact most all of them. Common 1/2 inch plywood can be either 7/16th or 15/32nds depending if the manufacturer is Werehaeuser or Louisiana Pacific.
30 lb Felt is not 30 Pounds !
Old school common building products are not limited to lumber. One of the most common in roofing are underlayments called 30lb and 15lb felt. Ages ago it was said that 30lb felt had a weight of 30 pounds per 100 sq ft. The tremendous increases in asphalt and other oil and gas products have lead to a change in the formulas in which underpayments are made. Today the 30lb has nothing to do with the actual weight of the product and in fact many products no longer label it as 30lb felt but rather #30 felt.
Rewording contracts in construction.
It is possible that Lowe’s decided paying California off was easier than fighting, but going forward it seems obvious that being more precise with work orders in constructions may be necessary. Every house in America is built with some 2 by 4s in them. If California will challenge Lowe’s Ad it is only a matter of time until many other aspects of construction are challenged as well. Generally Bert Roofing uses high end felts such as GAF’s ShingleMate or CertainTeed’s Roofer’s Select. Since there is 30lb felt and #30 felt if you use those products it is very important to be specific.
There are many many more building products with historic names that have the potential to be misleading or ambiguous. If you know some please add you comments below. We would love to have some discussions.