Architectural Wood Casework: A Guide for Design Professionals

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Architectural casework, as we’re discussing it in this article, refers either to the separate parts a wood cabinet or case is made up of, or to the techniques used to build a cabinet or case.

While residential or commercial users of a building may not see or understand the skill and technique that goes into architectural wood casework as it’s hidden by the very nature of the cabinetry, a well-constructed piece will still adhere to wood casework aesthetics, and, hopefully, to the AWI Standards.

Architectural Wood Casework Aesthetics

It’s important for design professionals to adhere to AWI Standards for aesthetics in architectural cabinets for various reasons:

  • Design professionals’ drawings include the information necessary to create a better-built product
  • The end result is more likely to meet or exceed client expectations
  • The performance duty level that has been specified for the architectural casework provides assurance that the piece will perform as intended, ensuring that you get exactly what you have specified


As Bob Borson says in his excellent blog, Life of an Architect:

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The Types of AWI Architectural Wood Casework

There are three categories of AWI architectural wood casework that are based on the exterior exposed face:

  • Wood casework, with wood faces for a transparent or opaque finish
  • Decorative laminate casework, with HPDL or LPDL faces
  • Solid phenolic casework, with solid phenolic faces

Architectural Casework & AWI Standards

Casework has long been covered by Section 10 of the Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS), which incorporates wood, decorative laminate, solid phenolic-faced casework, and their related parts. A new AWI standard, introduced in 2019 and created in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (AWI-0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation), now covers compliance requirements for installation and finishing in this section of the AWS.

Additionally, as of June 1, 2020, interior woodwork projects registered on or after this date, which include architectural wood casework, will be subject to the newly-released ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework, the new ANSI/AWI standard covering casework.

ANSI/AWI 0641 provides standards and tolerances for the quality, aesthetics, and fit of architectural wood casework, as well as related interior finishes. It encompasses a variety of wood casework, including wood veneer-faced architectural cabinets, plastic-laminate-clad architectural cabinets, and cabinet and drawer hardware as specified under CSI MasterFormat Division 6.

How Design Professionals Can Ensure Projects Including Architectural Wood Casework Are Built as Expected

There is a certain amount of effort required of a design professional in the detail and execution of their drawings. A high level of detail and accuracy, and adherence to the AWI Standards all contribute to enabling the woodworker to execute a project as the design professional has envisioned. 

If the drawings are accurate and detailed, and reference the well-known and accepted AWI Standards, this will ensure everyone working from these drawings has clear information. There will also be open communication and less margin for error.

But it’s not just about the drawings themselves – it’s also about the woodworker who’s building the casework. Working with a QCP-licensed woodworking firm is essential as they will have a deep understanding of the Architectural Woodwork Standards specifications.

It’s also critical to undergo a QCP inspection once the casework is installed. This will double check that the drawings match the results and that the result meets the AWI wood casework standards.

QCP Advice For Meeting AWI Wood Casework Standards 

One area design professionals sometimes overlook in specifying standards is the correct duty level needed for the casework, whether that’s the default duty level 3 for casework with industrial applications, or duty level 4, which ensures the highest level of quality and compliance. It’s important to ensure that your own specifications for architectural wood casework don’t contradict the performance level you’ve specified. 

It’s important to note that the level you’ve specified is the level the piece will be tested to. If, for example, you require performance testing at duty level 4, but the casework fails, you will have to make the necessary adjustments and then resubmit the casework for testing. You will not simply be awarded the next highest duty level.

The Importance of Inspection

When working with QCP-licensed woodworkers, the importance of inspection is paramount. Inspection ensures that the shop drawings match the end result and that the wood casework meets the AWI standards. After all, a project is only as good as its execution.

It’s also true to say that knowing there’ll be an inspection is a fair way of ensuring that the woodworker will provide their very best work. 

You will find a lot of handy information and guidance about architectural wood casework in the new ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework standard.

Elevate your portfolio of work with well-executed interior architectural woodwork projects installed by QCP-licensed certified woodworkers. Find out more.

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