What are the
Architectural Woodwork Standards?

The Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS) are produced by the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) for the specification, construction, and installation of interior architectural woodwork.

The AWS is the definitive reference manual aimed at simplifying and clarifying guidelines, information and principles required for the fabrication, finishing, and installation of architectural woodwork. The Standards set industry best practices, provide technical and design illustrations, and address all facets of architectural woodwork from raw lumber and veneer through factory finishing and installation.

The standards deliver comprehensive guidance and support to:

  • Woodworkers – in delivering compliance, consistency and quality
  • Architects – in comprehensively specifying interior woodwork elements
  • Installers, manufacturers, and suppliers – in choosing from a broad range of options that meet client needs while maintaining the integrity of workmanship
  • Drafters – in ensuring consistency and industry best practices from the first stages of a project

The AWI Standards focus on the structural integrity of architectural woodwork and related interior finishes rather than presenting prescriptive requirements. They allow for flexibility in following specific criteria for performance and quality when purchasing, manufacturing, or installing architectural woodwork.

In this article, we’ll explore the different sections of the standards in an end-to-end overview of how they work in a practical context.

AWI and the Quality Certification Program

AWI’s Quality Certification Program (QCP) enforces the Architectural Woodwork Standards and the guidelines and expectations they contain. QCP’s goal is to give helpful insight into the Standards and provide resources that support woodworkers, architects, contractors, and design professionals to meet the Standards in interior architectural woodwork.

QCP ensures a smooth experience when registering a project for certification against the Standards. We also offer virtual inspections and review specifications to make sure projects stay on time, on budget, and maintain a level of quality that stands out within the industry.

While the AWI Quality Certification Program certification is not a legal requirement for architectural projects, it is the industry standard in quality assurance. QCP not only provides a strong foundation, but it also allows architects and design professionals, woodworkers, drafters, and others in the construction industry to deliver compliance, consistency, and quality to their clients.

Earning QCP’s credentials demonstrates the technical skill and knowledge of expert woodworkers working on commercial spaces with interior architectural woodwork. Quality assurance is guaranteed through an extensive collaboration of inspectors who serve as extensions of construction, architectural, or woodworking firms, to verify, consult on and report compliance with the Standards.

Endorsed by The American Subcontractors Association (ASA), QCP gives industry professionals the edge they need to build confidence in clients, deliver better products and attract more business.

Architectural Woodwork Institue Standards 100 – Submittals

How to Submit a Woodworking Project

The first section of the Standards covers the submittal process. At the beginning of every woodwork project is the submittal stage. This section deals with the various items and specifications that are the foundation of every project – shop drawings, approvals, samples and scheduling.

It’s so important to have high-quality woodwork and architectural specifications as it means that everyone is working to the same high standards, and with open communication, there is less margin for error. This section of the standards goes in detail through the series of steps you need to take in order to ensure a successful woodwork project – and how to overcome any challenges.

By submitting a woodworking project under the AWS, you will achieve quality assurance, be able to provide a quality product at competitive pricing, ensure the end result meets the design professional’s creative vision, and you will be able to rely on QCP to review the architectural woodwork specifications and resolve any problems – it’s one of the best insurance policies on the market.

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Shop Drawing Policies

Architectural Woodwork Institue Standards 200 – Care and Storage

Care and Storage of Architectural Woodwork

Section 2 of the Standards handles one of the most important aspects of preserving a good woodworking installation. The goal behind this section is to ensure that proper storage, jobsite conditions and relative humidity requirements before, during and after installation are covered, along with proper design, care and storage to avoid and/or lessen any negative effects of temperature and humidity.

The Standards provide requirements that will help you to understand the effects of heat on architectural woodwork and how to avoid negative effects such as humidity and localized heat, how to maintain the wood finish, and more. Once your materials are on the job site are you storing them correctly? This section will provide you with requirements to ensure your materials are properly maintained through installation and reduce waste or defects once completed.

Ensure Proper Care and Storage

For More Information and Detail, Check Out Our Overview of Wood Veneers.

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Architectural Woodwork Institute Standards 300 – Materials

Identifying Sheet Products and Goods

In this section of the Standards includes a wide range of sheet goods, hardwood and softwood veneers, high-pressure decorative laminate, overlays, backers, solid surface, solid phenolic, epoxy resin, and natural and manufactured stone. It identifies common panel cores and panel surfaces referred to in subsequent product sections and contains material rules specific to all of the sheet products the section covers.

Many architectural woodworking projects which require wood veneer are purely functional and therefore don’t need complex specifications. However, if a project requires decorative elements it can get very complex very quickly – even if the final appearance is simple and elegant.
Detailed wood veneer specifications should not be neglected otherwise panels may not match, sequenced panels may get damaged and the resulting fixes can be time-consuming and costly.

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Architectural Woodwork Standards – Section 5

Considerations and Techniques for Wood Finishing

Section 5 of the Standards pertains to shop and field finishing of architectural woodwork, all of which provide protection for the wood as well as points to consider when you’re selecting a finishing system. Thirteen finishing systems are outlined, along with detailed considerations and techniques, compliance requirements, application rules, and methods of testing.

An architectural woodworking finish is traditionally used as a way of enhancing or changing the natural beauty of the wood. Another clear purpose and benefit is that a good quality finish provides protection from damage to the wood by moisture, contaminants and general handling. Woodworkers will know that woodworking finishes are more than just the general perception of a quick final polish. But do you know what all your options are for types of finish, and how to explain the perception of woodworking finishes versus the reality?

Woodworker's Options

Changes to the Architectural Woodwork Standards (2019)

The Architectural Woodwork Standards for 2019 have been updated and enhanced to include a new section entitled “AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation”. This section includes the installation requirements previously under “Compliance Requirements” in the below sections: 

Find More on End-to-End Matching vs Sequence Matching in Wood Veneers.

Learn About Matching

Architectural Woodwork Standards – Section 6: Millwork

Millwork Specifications and Requirements

This Standards includes information on standing and running trim, door frames, window frames, sashes, blinds and shutters, screens, and ornamental and miscellaneous millwork composed of solid wood and/or sheet products and their related parts. It covers millwork specifications in detail, as well as compliance requirements.

Wood veneer matching, in particular, is a richly complex area, so there are numerous veneer match defaults in the Standards to support and guide woodworkers and design professionals. With wood veneer matching, it’s possible to achieve various visual effects and alter the appearance of a panel or even of a whole room. There is an art to matching, using the natural repeat of the grain from leaf to leaf and arranging the leaves to create a variety of decorative patterns and effects on each panel, and then matching the panels together.

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Architectural Woodwork Standards – Section 8: Wall/Ceiling Surfacing and Partitions

Wall/Ceiling Surfacing and Partitions to Meet Architectural Woodwork Standards

The AWI Standards includes information on wood veneer, solid wood, stile and rail wood, decorative laminate, solid surface and solid phenolic products and their related parts.

Architectural wall panels are used in many woodworking projects, and paneling is an important part of the Architectural Woodwork Standards. It looks beautiful and has a huge aesthetic impact on any architectural woodwork project. But while they look great, it is often challenging to build architectural wall panels that meet both design specifications and the Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS).

There are complexities throughout a wall paneling project; in the layout fabrication, in the finishing, and in the installation of the wall panel design. The standards mean that these complexities are addressed up front and before the woodworking project begins.

Importance of Paneling

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Architectural Woodwork Standards – Section 10: Casework

Casework Details for Woodworkers and Design Professionals

In the Standards, it includes information on wood, decorative laminate, and solid phenolic faced casework and their related parts. Let’s look in a little more detail about what this means both for woodworkers and for design professionals.

AWI’s casework surface finish requirements for woodworkers apply to custom, semi-custom or stock casework and can be categorized into four sections: exposed exterior surfaces, exposed interior surfaces, semi-exposed surfaces, and concealed surfaces. There are also wood casework aesthetics to consider. Because of changes to local legislation, environmental regulations, and new finishing technologies, it’s important to discuss different finishing options with the design professional and/or manufacturer.

While residential or commercial users of a building may not see or understand the skill and technique that goes into casework as it’s hidden by the very nature of the cabinetry, a well-constructed piece will still adhere to wood casework aesthetics. That means it’s important for design professionals to adhere to AWI standards, as an architect’s drawings include the information necessary to create a better built product. It also means that the end result is more likely to exceed client expectations, and the three classifications of grades for casework (economy, custom, and premium) mean it will be built to the specified standard.

Read our more detailed articles on casework for woodworkers and design professionals.

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