Diving into ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops with Hunter Morrison

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In our recent podcast, Jeff Brown, Director of Education at the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), spoke with Hunter Morrison, Technical Director at AWI, about the new AWI Standard ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops.

In this accompanying blog post, we provide an overview of ANSI/AWI 1236, discuss its requirements, and explore why the standard follows the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process.

About ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops

As part of the new AWI Standards, ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops replaces, supplants, and succeeds AWS 2nd Edition Section 11 – Countertops. “The Standard became effective on August 15th 2022,” says Hunter. “So if you’re bidding any project after August 15th for countertops, this is the Standard you’ll need to reference. That is, unless that spec and contract document is very specific as to which edition of the Standards you need to be looking at.”

ANSI/AWI 1236 provides specific definitions for both countertops and work surfaces:

  • Countertop: The assembly of components used to create a horizontal work surface. This may or may not include a splash. It excludes independent sub tops.
  • Work surface: A flat surface – typically horizontal – for supporting objects used in working.

The Standard provides aesthetic and performance standards for various countertop materials, including:

  • Plastic laminate
  • Decorative laminate
  • Solid surface
  • Epoxy resin
  • Natural and engineered stone
  • Solid and veneered wood
  • Solid phenolic

What is and isn’t included in ANSI/AWI 1236?

The Standard covers:

  • Countertops specified under CSI MasterFormat Division 123600.
  • Countertops that may have been specified under Division 6 or Division 1 of a project contract.
  • The factory attachment of specified integral sink bowls.

It doesn’t include:

  • Anything in reference to installation, as this is covered by ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation.
  • Furnishing of sink rims and sink rims not included in the section.
  • Anchorage of countertops.

Aesthetic and structural grade requirements

Aesthetic grades

ANSI/AWI 1236 continues to use premium, custom, and economy grades. In the absence of specification, the default grade is custom.

Structural grades

With ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework, structural performance was very specific to performance Duty Levels. A testing component was also included. Therefore, many people assume that every ANSI Standard requires testing of some sort. But this isn’t the case.

This Standard doesn’t require specific performance Duty Levels, and lab testing isn’t a component. However, countertops must be constructed to resist 50lbs for every 144 square inches and not deflect in excess of a quarter inch under that load. It also can’t crack or be permanently deformed under that load – a requirement that was also present in AWS Section 11.

“The weight load and size requirement were designed with the idea of a five-gallon bucket,” Hunter explains. “On a jobsite, a five-gallon bucket is easy to come by. Loading that with 50lbs of drywall, mud, or concrete lets you verify the requirement in the field.”

Have there been any major changes from AWS Section 11?

Unlike ANSI/AWI 0641, this new Standard doesn’t feature major changes such as testing requirements. But a few minor adjustments have been made.

“The technical committee used Section 11 as a starting point and guide,” Hunter told us. “They went through and updated the requirement language to add additional clarity to requirements that might have been unclear or confusing. And in some cases they might have tightened or relaxed the requirements to aid the manufacturer, design professional, or installer in identifying their responsibilities.”

Who does the ANSI/AWI 1236 affect?

This Standard affects any party on a project who’s going to be impacted by the installed product. This includes:

  • Design professionals, such as the architect, specifier, or interior designer.
  • The manufacturer or supplier of the countertop.
  • The general contractor, as they oversee the schedule and implementation of a project.
  • The installer, who will also need to follow ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation.

What are the design professional’s responsibilities?

As with all AWI Standards, ANSI/AWI 1236 is meant to exist and function in the absence of specifications. In Hunter’s own words, “An architect could specify an AWI Standard and not provide any further information, and they should still receive a well-produced, well-manufactured product that’s installed according to the Standards.”

Instead, the design professional’s responsibilities begin when they have additional requirements for the project. These might include:

  • Specific finishes
  • Pattern and grain directions
  • Materials
  • Flame spread
  • Clearance
  • Moisture resistance
  • Specific hardware

“I would recommend looking over the 5.0 Supplemental Information section for a more complete, but not necessarily exhaustive, list of design professional responsibilities,” Hunter advises. “But remember that any architect specification supersede the Standard.”

Why is AWI using the ANSI process?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredits the procedure of a Standards Developing Organization (SDO) and approves their documents as American National Standards. As an ANSI-accredited SDO, AWI’s procedures for Standards development are in line with ANSI’s essential requirement documents.

As part of the ANSI process, ANSI/AWI 1236 went through a ballot body for review and a public comment process. The ballot body voted on the Standard for approvaland the public comment process gave anyone in the public the chance to review and suggest improvements to the Standard before it was published.

In other words, this process gives manufacturers, architects, general interest parties, educators, and others with a vested interest the opportunity to participate in Standards development. Doing so ensures that the Standard is better fit for purpose across the industry.

In comparison, the AWS 2nd Edition wasn’t a public consensus document. As Jeff puts it, “Before, there were a few people in a room deciding what they felt was best for the industry. But this new process gives the opportunity for everyone to be involved and have their voice heard.”

As an ANSI Standard, ANSI/AWI 1236 will go through a revision process every five years. During this process, the standard will be reviewed and updated by the AWI Technical Committee, and then be re-circulated through the ballot and public comment processes.

Jeff sums up the decision like so, “The intention behind updating the Standards using ANSI methodology was to improve collaboration, improve input from other sources, and really refine the Standard. That way, it works for more people and provides a better end product.”

Read our guide to the AWI Standards of Architectural Woodwork to find out more about ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops and other woodworking Standards.

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