What are the
Architectural Woodwork Standards?

The Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS) were first produced jointly by the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), the Woodwork Institute (WI), and the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers’ Association of Canada (AWMAC) in 2009. They were written for the specification, construction, and installation of interior architectural woodwork.

The AWS remains 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
  • General contractors – in identifying the industry standards that the delivery and installation of millwork should meet
  • 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 latest version of the AWS is Edition 2 (2014), and various institutions have since created publications that address their individual standards as an association. AWI specifically has created AWI 100, AWI 200, AWI 300, and ANSI/AWI 0621.

AWI is now focusing on the structural integrity of architectural woodwork and related interior finishes rather than presenting prescriptive requirements. Their intent is to allow for flexibility in following specific criteria for performance and quality when purchasing, manufacturing, or installing architectural woodwork.

Architectural Woodwork Standards

In this article, we’ll explore the different sections of the latest Architectural Woodwork Standards in an end-to-end overview of how they work in a practical context, as well as how to navigate these Standards based on AWI’s own sub-sections.

AWI and the Quality Certification Program

AWI’s Quality Certification Program (QCP) enforces the latest edition of the Architectural Woodwork Standards and the guidelines and expectations they contain based on AWI-recognized standards. QCP’s goal is to give helpful insight into the Standards and provide resources that support woodworkers, architects, contractors, and design professionals to meet industry 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 project certification from the AWI Quality Certification Program 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 licensed 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 100 – Submittals

How to Submit a Woodworking Project

The first section of the AWI-recognized 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 AWI 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 QCP, 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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Architectural Woodwork Institue 200 – Care and Storage

Care and Storage of Architectural Woodwork

AWI 200 handles one of the most important aspects of preserving a good woodworking installation. The goal behind this section is to ensure that proper storage, job-site 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.

AWI 200 provides 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

Architectural Woodwork Institute 300 – Materials

Identifying Sheet Products and Goods

AWI 300 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.

What Type of Wood Is Best For Your Architectural Woodwork Project?

AWI has taken standards from Section 4 of the AWS, titled Sheet Products, and combined them into AWI 300 - Materials.

The wide variety of types of wood are also covered in the AWI 300 section on Materials. There are usually many factors and conditions which contribute to the selection of the appropriate type of wood for an interior architectural design project. This might include the intended use of the space, cost, hardwood or softwood, relative stability, local and environmental factors, and legislation.

This section of the AWI-recognized standard provides comprehensive guidance and information on the characteristics of wood, and we look specifically at the types of wood to consider for your architectural woodwork project.

Different Types of Wood

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Architectural Woodwork Standards | Section 5 – Finishing

Considerations and Techniques for Wood Finishing

AWI continues to recognize Section 5 of the Architectural Woodwork Standards as it 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 in the way AWI recognizes the Architectural Woodwork Standards

In 2019 the Architectural Woodwork Institute changed the way it recognizes the Architectural Woodwork Standards and has developed a subset section entitledANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation”. This section includes the installation requirements under “Compliance Requirements” in the following sections of the current 2nd Edition of AWS (2014):

You can find in-depth details about the new AWI sections by clicking the link below.

ANSI/AWI 0620 Indepth

Roadmap to the AWI Standards

This Roadmap creates a visual representation of how the new AWI Standards supplant sections of the Architectural Woodwork Standards.

View the Roadmap

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 section of the 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.

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 7 – Stairwork and Rails

An Overview of Wooden Staircases for Design Professionals

This section of the Standards includes information on wood stairs, integral trim, handrails, and guardrails and their related parts.

In homes, commercial, and public buildings on one or more levels, a wooden staircase frequently becomes a central part of the décor, used as an aesthetic focal piece to shape the design and enhance the whole look of the space. Along with the plethora of shapes and designs that can be used for wooden staircases, the material itself adds warmth and texture.

For design professionals working on projects where a main interior focal point is a wooden staircase, there are some critical steps to take in stair design.

More Architectural Woodworking Resources

Are you looking for further information, resources, and publications on interior architectural woodworking?

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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 Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS) 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 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 (note: the compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS are now recognized by AWI in ANSI/AWI 0620). The standards mean that these complexities are addressed upfront and before the woodworking project begins.

Importance of Paneling

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Architectural Woodwork Standards | Section 9 – Doors

Selecting the Best Finish for Interior Wooden Doors

This section of the Standards includes information on doors using flush and stile & rail construction with wood or HPDL faces and their related parts.

Over the last ten years or so the concealed material composition and construction details of interior wood doors have gone through significant change. Solid wood, once the only option for door construction, is often replaced by MDF, agrifiber, fire-resistant composite, honeycomb or expandable paper core. These engineered wood products are beneficial for reducing cost, improving production efficiency, and enabling manufacturers to provide better doors.

However, when it comes to the visible face of an interior door, we typically still want a high-quality transparent wood finish. Attributes such as color and light and dark values are an important part of a door face’s overall appearance, but it’s the grain and veneer characteristics which are often the most important features of transparently finished wooden doors. (Note: the compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS are now recognized by AWI in ANSI/AWI 0620)

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Architectural Woodwork Standards | Section 10 – Casework

Casework Details for Woodworkers and Design Professionals

The Standards include 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. (Note: the compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS are now recognized by AWI in ANSI/AWI 0620)

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 industry 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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Find out how to avoid common problems with countertops

Problems with Countertops

Architectural Woodwork Standards | Section 11 – Countertops

Common Problems with Countertops and How to Avoid Them

This section of the Standards includes information on countertops and window sills manufactured from wood, high-pressure decorative laminate (HPDL), solid surface, engineered stone, epoxy resin, solid phenolic and natural stone products and their related parts. (Note: the compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS are now recognized by AWI in ANSI/AWI 0620)

Countertops are amongst the most utilized surfaces in a home or commercial building and therefore need to be strong and robust enough to withstand frequent use. If they are not fabricated or installed correctly, this can lead to a number of problems such as:

  • Cracking and rupturing
  • Chemical stains
  • Water damage
  • Scratches

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Architectural Woodwork Standards | Section 12 – Historic Restoration Work

What Does Historic Restoration Work Cover Under QCP?

This section of the Standards assists in compliance with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards For The Treatment Of Historic Properties, its guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitation, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings, and the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

The historic restoration work section of the Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS) is one of its more unusual sections. That’s because it simply cannot be as in-depth or technical as the previous sections due to the fact that historic restoration work is unique – and it can also be very subjective. (Note: the compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS are now recognized by AWI in ANSI/AWI 0620)

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