California Takes On 2″ X 4″‘s.

Wood-pileBecause California has solved all of its problems, Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian decided to sue Lowes for deceptive product labeling practices.

The main issue was that non-dimensional 2″ X 4″ pieces of lumber were not 2″ X 4″ but instead are 1.5″ X 3.5″.

The key wording in that statement is “non dimensional” as 2″ X 4″‘s are cut from freshly cut timber.

Lumber manufacturers typically cut a tree into dimensional

lumber very shortly after the tree is felled. Then, the newly-sawn (but soaking wet) lumber is kiln-dried until it reaches the desired moisture level. As lumber dries, it shrinks (as the moisture in the wood is reduced, the wood cells shrink, particularly across the grain). While the 8′ length won’t change much as the wood dries, the 2″ width and 4″ height (cross-section of the grain) will shrink considerably.

Because of this shrinkage, a typical 2×4 will usually measure out to around 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″. These numbers can vary slightly, but modern lumber manufacturers are pretty adept at delivering consistently-sized supplies of dimensional lumber.

In short, manufacturers cut the lumber into 2″ X 4″ pieces of wood, but as the wood dries it shrinks. Add to that the companies plane the wood to make sure it is somewhat smooth and you get a smaller, on-dimensional 2″ X 4″ piece of wood.

Amazingly, (well, maybe not as this is California) a California Superior Court Judge Judge Paul M. Haakenson agreed with District Attorney Berberian and issued an order requiring Lowes to do three things when it comes to labeling products such as 2″ X 4″‘s:

    Common descriptions” must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2×4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to “actual dimensions.”

    “Popular or common product description,” like the word 2×4, must be “clearly described as ‘popular name,’ ‘popular description,’ or ‘commonly called.'”

    Dimension descriptions are required to use the “inch-pound unit,” meaning they must include abbreviations such as “in., ft., or yd.,” and can’t use symbols like ‘ or ” to denote measurements.

Lowes was also ordered to pay $1.47 million dollars in civil penalties and costs of the investigation, and an additional $150,000 to fund further consumer protection-related activities.

This is the type of thing where a so called “public servant” is looking for a problem where none exists. In order to make a name for himself and to get money for the state, he sues a company blaming the company for his and customer’s ignorance.

In the end, consumers will be charged slightly more to pay for the fine but at the same time Berberian gets more money to come after other businesses.

California has lots of problems but 2″ X 4″‘s isn’t one of them.

3 Responses to “California Takes On 2″ X 4″‘s.”

  1. Lee says:

    Oh. My. God. I, like, learned 2×4’s weren’t actually 2×4, like, uh, when I was eleven…

    Lowe’s is seriously being done for this? Cripes. I can kiss redecking the back deck goodbye. Hello, increase in like prices! Thank you, idiots!

    • AAfterwit says:


      For us, not only is the dimension issue nuts, but also the fact that Lowes (and we suppose all lumber retailers) will have to write out “in.” or “ft” as compared to ” ” ” and ” ‘ .”

      People that don’t know that an inch is ” ” ” shouldn’t have a hammer in their hand to begin with in our opinion.

      Thanks for the comment.

      A. Afterwit.

  2. Lee says:

    As “Lee” is a rather androgynous name, I should point out that I learned the 2×4 lesson as an eleven year old GIRL.

    Of course they’ll have to write out “in” and “ft”–have you not seen “Spinal Tap”?