Bill clears path for rough-sawn lumber

May 4, 2023 at 2:45 p.m.

By Ray Gronberg
NC Tribune



As for sawmills, House Bill 295 would set up a framework for the use of what’s called “rough-sawn lumber” processed by small local sawmills, Gillespie told the House Regulatory Reform Committee.


Currently, the state residential building code requires any lumber destined for load-bearing uses in home construction to bear a grade mark or certification of inspection that attests to its quality and allows even a 2x4 to be traced back to its source.


Sawmills can do their own grading, but their staff has to provide they’re competent at that following a training and certification process overseen by regional grading bureaus. It’s part of a national standardization process that dates back to 1970s to ensure that all lumber meets the same specifications, no matter where it’s harvest, sawn and sold, said John Hatcher, executive director of the N.C. Forestry Association.


H295 would require the state Building Code Council to change the residential code — which currently applies to just one- and two-family homes — to allow the use of lumber that hasn’t been grade-stamped if it’s sold directly to the future owner of a new house, if it meets code requirement save for bearing the stamp, if the mill is certified from a state- approved training program and marks its lumber accordingly, and the new home’s framing otherwise passes code inspection.


Gillespie noted the bill also includes a provision that would exempt code inspectors from liability if anything goes wrong because of a home’s use of rough-sawn wood.


Related proposals have come up in prior sessions, and supporters of H295 argue the grading system is a mite bureaucratic.


“The biggest part of grading lumber is identifying [the] species” of tree a plank comes from, “which is relatively easy to train for,” said Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, one of the bill’s primary sponsors.


But Hatcher said the Forestry Association believes the bill will “circumvent the long- standing lumber grading system used across the country and create a state-specific, less- stringent system.” It opposes the bill.